Fuck the (transit) police

You cannot be SERIOUS.

You CANNOT be serious.

That bastion of incompetent fuckheads known as Washington's Metro Transit Police have done it again -- and by "it," of course I mean, "over-exerted and abused their authority in a comically excessive manner." We have yet another name to add to the Overbearing Transit Cop Victims Hall of Fame, presented by, I don't know, Pepsi Vanilla spilled all over a bus seat.

You might recall our 2000 inductee, Ansche Hedgepeth. The then-12-year-old's heinous crime: eating Fren... excuse me, eating Freedom Fries on the train. Ahh, but these were the seldom-seen Freedom Fries of Irony... for her freedom was then taken away. As was she... in handcuffs.

Had Ansche and the other juveniles been adults, they simply would have received citations for fines up to $300. But, McDevitt pointed out, juveniles charged with criminal offenses in the District must be taken into custody.

And, he said, it is department policy to handcuff anyone who is arrested, no matter the age. "Anyone taken into custody has to be handcuffed for officer safety," McDevitt said. Youngsters "can kill you, too."
Yes, don't underestimate the dexterity and ruthlessness of 12-year-old girls, in whose hands fried potatoes become a deadly weapon. Remember that little girl in Kill Bill Vol. 1, who watched her mother die at the hands of Uma Thurman? In Vol. 3, she will get her revenge on Uma with ninja tater tots.

Satisfied with meeting the challenge of arresting a harmless 12-year-old girl, in March 2002 the Transit Police turned its attention to the next logical demographic: people in wheelchairs. Jeremiah Hamilton, our next inductee, thought he was being smart. Aiming to catch a George Carlin comedy concert downtown, Hamilton called Metro's hotline to determine whether the elevators would be working at his destination. The hotline reported that, although the elevator at his chosen station was indeed out of service, it was the only one in the entire Metro system that was not working.

Poor, poor Mr. Hamilton took Metro at its word. And doing that, as we know, is a ginormous mistake.

He adjusted his plan to one stop over and set out to enjoy the show.

When he reached his stop, he found a broken elevator and no one who cared to help.

He got back on the train and went another stop, where he found another broken elevator and no one who cared to help.

Still undaunted, he went back to the platform to go several stops in the wrong direction, hoping the elevator there would be working. He learned it wasn't before his train ever arrived.
This is obviously a frustrating situation. Wheelchair-bound riders have no way out of a Metro station without a working elevator, and without knowing where those working elevators are, our hero was trapped at every station he tried, wasting his evening and causing him to miss the concert.

So, of course, Hamilton did what any self-respecting George Carlin fan would do: he started using some of those seven words you can't say on television. A transit cop across the tracks from Hamilton heard the cursing with his bionic ears and verbally warned Hamilton. When Hamilton cursed again, the cop wrote him a $25 citation for using foul language.

What is it about D.C. that bring about these awful runs of luck for decent people? At any rate, after a public outcry, Metro wound up refunding the $25 and reimbursing Hamilton for cab fare.

In fact, both of these cases were public-relations disasters for WMATA, which was starting to develop a reputation as the Dick Cheney of public transportation: thoughtless, passively abusive, completely unable to admit its faults. And, of course, unequivocally telling people to go fuck themselves. Metro's spokespeople defended the citations, claiming that protecting riders from the inconvenience of watching other people eat or having to listen to profanity was justification enough to put the beat down on whomever they fancied.

Then, for a time, things were calm. But now, in July 2004, I can report to you, dear reader, that our newest martyr has been crowned. Her name is Stephanie Willett.

What was this 45-year-old scientists criminal master plan, a scheme so devious that it necessitated her arrest, as well as the presence of not one, not two, but three members of the Transit Police?

She finished eating a Payday candy bar... inside the fare gates.

About 6:30 p.m. July 16, Willett was eating a PayDay candy bar while riding the escalator from 11th Street NW into the Metro Center Station. Metro Transit Police Officer Cherrail Curry-Hagler was riding up.

The police officer warned Willett to finish the candy before entering the station because eating or drinking in the Metro system is illegal.

Willett nodded, kept chewing the peanut-and-caramel bar and stuffed the last bit into her mouth before throwing the wrapper into the trash can near the station manager's kiosk, according to both Willett and Curry-Hagler.

Curry-Hagler turned around and followed Willett into the station. Moments after making a remark to the officer, Willett said, she was searched, handcuffed and arrested for chewing the last bite of her candy bar after she passed through the fare gates. She was released several hours later after paying a $10 fine, pending a hearing.
During the course of the arrest, Ms. Willett did what any rational, slightly pissed-off person would do while being harrassed about finishing up a candy bar: she told the cop to go find a real crime.

Willett said she was being unfairly punished because she made fun of the police officer after Curry-Hagler issued a second warning before the arrest.

"Why don't you go and take care of some real crime?" Willett said she told the officer while still swallowing the PayDay bar as she rode a second escalator to catch her Orange Line train home.

The police officer ordered Willett to stop and produce identification. "I said, 'For what?' and kept walking," Willett said.

In a report, Curry-Hagler said she wanted to issue a citation for eating on the Metro but the PayDay lover refused to stop.

"Next thing I knew, she pushed me into the cement wall, calls for backup and puts handcuffs on me," Willett said.

She said Curry-Hagler patted her down, running her hands around Willett's bust, under her bra and around her waist. Two other officers appeared, and the three took Willett to a waiting police cruiser.
Now, if I may, I'd like to address Officer Cherrail Curry-Hagler for a moment here. I know that eating inside Metro is illegal, but nailing a passenger for having the remnants of a candy bar completely inside her mouth just after passing through the fare gates is just a bit fucking overboard. I know your feelings were probably hurt when the candy bar-eater told you to go find some real crime. And I know that you, Hightower, and Tackleberry are trying really, really hard to impress Commandant Lasard. But maybe, just maybe, this would be a good one to just let go. Keep going on up that escalator and just don't worry about it. You don't have to go pursue and arrest every non-threatening middle-aged woman who happens to question your law-enforcement methods. Next time, take a deep breath. Count to 100 if you have to. There's no reason to ruin someone's day, making yourself and an entire transit system a laughing stock, over a simple, delicious, caramel-coated peanut bar.

OK, back to the story! Metro spokeswoman "Lisa Farbstein" (obviously an alias) apologized profusely for the inconvenience experienced by Willett, and assured the Metro-going public that it could safely ride the train without having to worry about being arrested for silly, minor offenses.

Ahh, that was a test! Were you paying attention? Did I set off your bullshit detector? If so, give yourself 10 points. Farbstein, of course, followed Metro's grand tradition of telling the customer to go fuck themselves:

"We've been doing our best to crack down on people who are consuming food and beverages in our stations because we get so many complaints about it," said Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokeswoman. "In this instance, the woman was given a warning, which she ignored, and she jammed the rest of the candy bar into her mouth and continued to chew."


Farbstein said Willett violated the rules. "Chewing is eating," she said.
And, as the entire law enforcement community knows, the only appropriate way to crack down on people who eat in the station is to pounce on them and fucking hog-tie them like it's a rodeo! YEEEE-HAWWWWW!

Ladies and gentlemen, enough joking around. It's time to get tough; time for some good old-fashioned civil disobedience, Gandhi style! In that spirit...

I declare this Monday, August 2, to be EAT WHILE YOU RIDE DAY. I believe it is every Metro-riding citizen's duty to stand up against our oppressors at WMATA by eating or drinking something... anything... on the train or bus on that fateful, delicious day. Bring a candy bar; bring fast food; bring a three-course meal if you like. Bring hors d'oeurves and serve them to fellow passengers. Bring a grape smoothie and spill some on the farecard machine. "Accidentally" drop some linguini on the escalator, thus rendering it inoperable for weeks. If everybody's eating en masse, who can they police hogtie and arrest?

Well, probably a few people. But at least the fine's small. I figure, if they catch you, just tell them "Lisa Farbstein" said it was OK. Then give them a sly wink. They'll have no choice but to let you go.

(In conclusion, I should not have watched that Weather Underground documentary yesterday.)

1 comment:

  1. AnonymousJune 19, 2008

    i know this is old, but a similar thing happened to me with transit police in Cleveland.