Tuesday, May 27, 2014
My Wild, Wild Senior Memorial Day Weekend
The police barged in here Sunday night-early Monday, after midnight, ready to arrest us for domestic violence. That we had been sound asleep for several hours cut no ice with them nor did the fact that our unit was dark and silent when they approached it. The complainant had called up to report us so we must be guilty was their prevailing mantra.
They had the wrong condo unit which we managed to establish after twenty minutes of Q&A. And they went away and some time later left with a woman from a neighboring unit in their squad car.
What worked on getting them out of here? Putting them on the defensive. And I do not mean ranting and swearing at them or threatening them. I mean buzz words which would cause creeping uneasiness in them:
"I am 65 years old. I am a cancer patient, hearing impaired, blind in one eye, arthritic. I am elderly and handicapped and you are making my conditions worse."
"I consider this intrusion as very close to being police harassment."
The next sentence I heard was "We are going to leave now." This was repeated several times as they backed out of our unit and minutes later they found the correct unit. Jim watched the whole thing play out in our front window whereas I was so disgusted that I stayed in bed.
What has stayed with me since then is how certain they were that we were criminals and how their entire mode of behavior was slanted towards we must be guilty, without even a scintilla of doubt in their demeanor. That is what is frightening. I cannot imagine being so certain about anything. The world is rife with human error and human maliciousness. What makes a report over the phone in the middle of the night subject to such unwavering belief in its authenticity, validity and veracity?
While Jim went back to bed, I got onto Google, found the name and email addy of the police chief for our township and sent him an email detailing what had happened. This was not the first call that had been made in our development about this neighbor and I doubted it would be the last. The one thing I could make sure was that the chief would make sure his personnel understood the future consequences of a repeat of this event. Due to the wonder of the internet, I filed a complaint with the police chief within one hour of our police state level intrusion into our private lives and home.
The Chief has investigated and discovered that the numbers were transposed in the dispatch. That does not surprise me but all the more reason the officers should not have taken the report as gospel truth. As I pointed out to the chief:
Your police officers banged on our condo door, waking both my husband and me. We were both asleep. They had the wrong unit for a reported domestic disturbance. They failed to exercise due care to make sure they had the right apartment. They could have verified this with the complainant but they failed to do this. They could have examined the perimeter of the property and noted our unit was both dark and silent. They failed to do this. They could have checked their records and seen that the complainant has called against the neighbor beneath her more than once. It was this neighbor who was the rightful party. They failed to do this. The police found the right apartment after scaring us half to death and being utterly negligent in finding the correct unit.
There are torts, civil wrongs, covering false arrest and false imprisonment. These torts are worth money damages to the injured victims (us). Thus, injured parties can sue the complainant and the police for these torts and be awarded monetary damages for their distress. Fortunately, this event never went that far. But what if I had been carried away in the squad car and then ended up in a jail cell?
Personally, I think it would be a lot smarter to approach the problem from the stance of condominium law. Condominiums are much more restrictive in personal ownership rights, uses and abuses. Extensive documentation in the Declarations and By-Laws cover the numerous ways one can be considered in violation and legal action can be taken against the offender on those bases. By contrast, involving the police rarely solves these domestic problems yet can hugely damage innocent third parties caught in the crossfire.
How would you feel if you were a juror on such a case? I would expect jurors to be thinking this could have happened to me and even more so if they were senior citizen jurors evaluating the ordeal of a fellow senior citizen victim. And they would be right too. If it happened to us, they could well be next. That is why none of us can idly stand by when our rights and protections are in jeopardy.