Recently, the Chula Vista Police Department ran an e-mail forum (a
question and answer exchange) with the topic being, "Community
One of the civilian email participants posed the following question,
"I would like to know how it is possible for police officers to
continually harass people and get away with it?"
From the "other side" (the law enforcement side) Sgt. Bennett,
obviously a cop with a sense of humor replied:
"First of all, let me tell you this...it's not easy. In Chula Vista,
we average one cop for every 600 people. Only about 60% of those cops
are on general duty (or what you might refer to as "patrol") where we
do most of our harassing.
The rest are in non-harassing departments that do not allow them
contact with the day to day innocents. And at any given moment, only
one-fifth of the 60% patrollers are on duty and available for
harassing people while the rest are off duty. So roughly, one cop is
responsible for harassing about 5,000 residents.
When you toss in the commercial business, and tourist locations that
attract people from other areas, sometimes you have a situation where
a single cop is responsible for harassing 10,000 or more people a day.
Now, your average ten-hour shift runs 36,000 seconds long. This gives
a cop one second to harass a person, and then only three-fourths of a
second to eat a donut AND then find a new person to harass. This is
not an easy task. To be honest, most cops are not up to this
challenge day in and day out. It is just too tiring. What we do is
utilize some tools to help us narrow down those people which we can
The tools available to us are as follows:
PHONE: People will call us up and point out things that cause us to
focus on a person for special harassment. "My neighbor is beating his
wife" is a code phrase used often. This means we'll come out and give
somebody some special harassment.
Another popular one is, "There's a guy breaking into a house." The
harassment team is then put into action.
CARS: We have special cops assigned to harass people who drive. They
like to harass the drivers of fast cars, cars with no insurance or no
driver's licenses and the like. It's lots of fun when you pick them
out of traffic for nothing more obvious than running a red light.
Sometimes you get to really heap the harassment on when you find they
have drugs in the car, they are drunk, or have an outstanding warrant
RUNNERS: Some people take off running just at the sight of a police
officer. Nothing is quite as satisfying as running after them like a
beagle on the scent of a bunny. When you catch them you can harass
them for hours.
STATUTES: When we don't have PHONES or CARS and have nothing better to
do, there are actually books that give us ideas for reasons to harass
folks. They are called "Statutes"; Criminal Codes, Motor Vehicle
Codes, etc... They all spell out all sorts of things for which you
can really mess with people.
After you read the statute, you can just drive around for awhile until
you find someone violating one of these listed offenses and harass
them. Just last week I saw a guy trying to steal a car. Well,
there's this book we have that says that's not allowed. That meant I
got permission to harass this guy. It is a really cool system that we
have set up, and it works pretty well.
We seem to have a never-ending supply of folks to harass. And we get
away with it. Why? Because for the good citizens who pay the tab, we
try to keep the streets safe for them, and they pay us to "harass"
Next time you are in my town, give me the old "single finger wave."
That's another one of those codes. It means, "You can't harass me."
It's one of our favorites