All My Police Interactions
A brief history of my life when it comes to the cops
My first ever interaction with the police happened while I was pooping in a library bathroom in third grade. I left my backpack outside the stall. The librarian came in, saw my backpack but not my feet under the stall door. She had a meltdown thinking it was a bomb and called an officer who happened to be nearby. The cop talked her down until I finally had the nerve to speak up and tell them I was right there listening to them.
That was my first interaction with a police officer. It didn’t go so bad. Just a funny story. But as my life went on, things got more and more dramatic.
So these are my cop stories, in chronological order. These are the personal stories that make this wealthy white guy support Black Lives Matter and the movement to defund the police.
A kid in my neighborhood had been talking for a long time about how he dreamed of being a cop. One day we got in a fight over a bet that he had lost and refused to pay. He threw me against the wall, spat in my face, choked me, slammed my head against the wall, held a hammer over my head and made me beg for my life. He gave me a big speech about how he would kill me if I ever talked about this. He is a police officer now, just like he said he would be.
I started having fantasies of becoming a police officer myself. Most of my fantasies involved locking up and torturing drug dealers. I would kidnap their wives and children and cut off their fingers and let them bleed to death. I felt this was totally justifiable because I had been taught that drug dealers were evil and their families were complicit in that evil.
In sixth grade I took DARE. I really admired the police officer and wanted to be just like him. But I remember him telling this story about how he had lied to a child to get him to turn his parents in for marijuana then he destroyed their family and the kid was sent to a foster home. He just laughed about it when he told us.
In seventh grade a security guard at a hardware store tried to frame me for shoplifting. The cashier remembered me, thank God. He made her dig through the garbage for my receipt.
In high school I got busted for malicious mischief, for bashing mailboxes with baseball bats. Teen angst shit. Not stuff I’m proud of but I’m not particularly proud of anything I did before I was 18 and started smoking pot. An officer came to my house and talked to me about it. To be fair, he was totally reasonable. I went through a youth diversion thing so I didn’t actually go through “the system” and instead had the luxury of actual social workers steering me toward a more ethical lifestyle instead of law enforcement. The experience didn’t exactly make me more law-abiding but it definitely made me more ethical and moral. It taught me very early that there are alternatives to police and prisons that are cheaper, more effective, and more ethical.
Shortly after high school, one of my first roommates was a police brutality survivor who had serious PTSD. He had been sexually abused by his step-dad. He had reported it but the police ignored him so he ran away from home and was picked up by some cops for selling a sack of weed. They dragged him into an alley and beat the shit out of him. Then they sent him to juvenile detention for 90 days before forcing him to go back to getting molested by his step-dad. He was 14 years old. I still thought cops were the good guys so I blindly assumed he had made all this up.
My roommate one day went crazy and pulled a knife on our friend, a 95-pound single mother. He held it to her throat and screamed in her face that he was going to kill her but she held her ground and called his bluff. A few minutes he had left, I asked her if she was going to report this to the police and she looked at me in shock and said, “Are you out of your mind? I’m terrified of the police. Your roommate is a kindergarten teacher compared to those psychos.” Instead she forgave him and communicated with him about the incident like a human being and a few years later they became friends on Facebook. He told me that her handling of that situation had changed him profoundly and made him a fundamentally more peaceful person.
One day another friend showed up at my house, his face all battered and mangled. He had tourettes syndrome and was unable to stop swearing. Two police officers had found him, knowing he had a disease and a medical marijuana prescription. They intended to destroy the prescription and arrest him for marijuana but he didn’t have any on him so instead they beat him within inches of his life and left him in a ditch for dead. He said they kept telling him that all he had to do to live was stop swearing.
I was arrested for marijuana distribution in 1998. I remember staring down the barrel of a gun to see a trembling trigger finger. The officers lied to me about the charges I was facing and a whole list of other things. They bullied and threatened me into flipping, relentlessly exploiting my trusting nature and ignorance of the law.
I asked one officer if he thought that pulling guns on peaceful, unarmed people such as myself might actually cause so much psychological harm that we are actually more likely to commit crime afterward. He laughed and said, “Sounds like job security to me.”
At one point in my conversations with a different officer, he explained that police only arrest people when they can make a profit. If there’s no money, they won’t go after them. You can basically get away with any crime you want in America as long as you don’t give the police a way to profit off your arrest. The officer told me this point-blank. I started to think about crimes like rape and child molestation and why the police are known for ignoring them. If you look at police behavior with just about any crime and realize police departments are businesses, not public services, suddenly all the dots connect. They will never care about things like rape until they can make a profit.
In another conversation I asked him how he could live with himself arresting people for simple marijuana and he just shouted words that are burned into my memory: “Let me explain something to you, Kalin. Cops don’t care about right and wrong. How could we? We wouldn’t be able to do our jobs if we did.” He went on to tell me about how I would be a miserable failure the rest of my life if I didn’t learn to stop caring about ethics.
I attempted to help them bust a big-time dealer. I did everything they asked but the cops didn’t show up to the deal, putting me in incredible danger. Then they went ahead and charged me with the original crime despite my having fulfilled my end of the deal.
I went to jail for a night. Most of the guards were really nice which surprised me. The inmates were super nice too.
The next day I had my bail set. The defendants were all men while the judge, prosecutor and public defenders were all women. For some reason that fact sticks out in my head. None of them had taken the time to read my file or knew the first thing about me yet they had total power over me, which I felt was a weird metaphor for my life.
But right before that, a man accused of murder also had his bail set. I watched the public defender tear the prosecutor’s story apart and even caught her in the act of lying. Then she accused her of only prosecuting this man because he was a native-american and didn’t speak English very well. The prosecutor just smiled and said, “I’m not doing anything illegal.” The next day this man was on the front page of The Bellingham Herald, where they painted him as a cold-blooded killer, conveniently leaving out the part where the prosecutor had lied.
Since this was my first mention of race, I should say that everyone I talk about in this article is white unless specifically stated otherwise.
As for my crime, I got a good lawyer who used some delay tactics to get me a better deal.
During the delay in my trial, I went to a hippie festival where I just happened to watch a police officer frame a man for resisting arrest and then beat him mercilessly while he begged for his life. This happened less than ten feet in front of me. I have no idea if that man survived. I wrote a more detailed story about it if you’re interested.
A couple months later I was attacked in a bar by another drug dealer. He beat me to the floor and kicked me in the head numerous times. Some frat boys pulled him off me and saved my life. The bouncer told me the only reason he didn’t kick me out along with my assailant, was that I made absolutely no attempt to fight back. So there are advantages to being a pacifist. One of my best friends was also friends with this person, so a week later he got their side of the story. It turned out the police told them all sorts of lies about me in a deliberate attempt to incite this kind of violence.
I decided to test this idea that police only care about profit so I made a marijuana legalization website where I openly admitted that I was a drug dealer who was continuing to deal, but only in tiny quantities that the police could not profit from. I let the police and my prosecutor know about this site. The prosecutor just laughed and made no changes to how she was handling my case. The police didn’t care either.
I bought my way out of my marijuana crime with my high-priced lawyer.
Wanting more attention for my marijuana legalization website, I announced a stunt to further demonstrate the “police only work for profit” theory: I will waltz into the local police department and smoke a bowl. One friend joined me but we didn’t realize the police department was closed to the public on Sundays. We were able to get into the foyer, so we smoked a bowl in there, in front of a security camera. Then we taped some marijuana to a note where we used our full names, explaining what we had done. We asked them to open a dialogue with us about marijuana legalization and stuffed the note in the door of the police station. As I predicted, the police made no attempt whatsoever to arrest or communicate with us.
One night I was walking home from a party and a cop stalked me for a couple blocks, then pulled a gun on me because I sort of looked like another white guy who may or may not have stolen a DVD player. Again, I stared down the barrel of a gun to see a trembling trigger finger. I was forced to lay in the grass as the officer checked my ID. After he realized I was innocent I was so traumatized that I couldn’t move. All I could do was sit there trembling. To get me moving the officer threatened to beat the shit out of me. I wrote a story about this. And one of the only poems I have ever written.
This is where my police brutality PTSD really started to take its toll on my long-term mental health.
However, I have always believed in taking negative emotions and channeling them into something positive so I focused much of my rage into my career and became a web developer. Nothing in life has done more to motivate me to make a positive difference in my community and my career than my belief in massive criminal justice reform.
My distaste for the police hit a breaking point so I deliberately sought out books that would tell the other side of the story. I picked Ted Bundy, assuming that the police just had to be the good guys when dealing with someone like him. Then in studying Ted Bundy, I learned that he had been obsessed with police work as a child just as I had. The concept of police and law enforcement was what originally inspired his murders. Also, did you know that Ted Bundy’s girlfriend kept a spreadsheet of his every move while he was committing his murders? She repeatedly contacted the police to give them this information but they ignored her. She begged her friends and family to help her but they all insisted the police knew her boyfriend better than she did. One time she called the cops she was absolutely certain that Ted was the killer so she screamed at the police, demanding they look at her evidence. They refused, threatening to charge her with harassment. He didn’t “fit the profile”. In other words, he was white. And that’s only part of the story. If you think police do good work for our communities, just study Ted Bundy. The levels of police incompetence and corruption are absolutely mind boggling. Ted Bundy got away with his crimes because of the police, not despite them.
But then a less-scary police interaction happened to me. It wasn’t “good” but it was less scary. A mix-up with my job caused my co-worker in the Ukraine to have a phone number registered to my home address. He called 911, thinking it was like calling information. The cops showed up to my house. I did not give my consent for them to enter my home but they forced their way in anyway and searched my house for a kidnapping victim. I had large quantities of marijuana sitting out on a table with a drug dealer’s scale. They stepped over my bong to look under my bed and ignored all my pot. They were annoyed with me but not unreasonable.
Some might say that was a “good” police interaction because they didn’t bust me for marijuana, but let’s think about that. I hear so often people defending the police by using examples of cops letting them get away with crimes as though that’s a good thing. Police work is the only career field where not doing your job somehow makes you an example of a better employee.
The point I’m trying to get at here is that the whole system is fundamentally flawed. The entire way society views this is broken. It’s not just about racism. Criminal justice is flawed and counter-productive to the very core.
One day a police officer hit me with his car. He thought he was in drive when he was actually in reverse as I walked behind him. To be fair, the officer was genuinely concerned about my well-being and fully owned up to his mistake.
My career started taking off and I moved to Seattle. Shortly after this, one of my childhood friends named Isaac Zamora, went on a killing spree, murdering six people including a sheriff’s deputy in the name of Jesus. He was a white Christian terrorist, but I’m the only one with the honesty to call it that. As a kid he had been one of the sweetest and most innocent people I knew. It turned out he was now a methamphetamine addict who’d had approximately 50 different confrontations with the police. He had repeatedly complained of brutal police violence and was ignored until he finally had a mental breakdown.
At this point I was still convinced that police were just violent and dishonest but not truly racist. I had moved to one of the most violent parts of Seattle to save money on rent after living my entire life in a basically all-white town. One night I heard from the bar across the street some people screaming the n-word. I heard gunshots so I ran to my living room window to see one black man repeatedly shooting another black man in the face. I called 911. All I cared about was getting an ambulance for the victim but all the 911 operator cared about was the skin color of the shooters and where they ran.
The next day I read in the paper the police report about how this was some big gang warfare and how my part of town was rampant with gang violence. This was ridiculous. I walked around at 2AM through the darkest alleyways several times a week for over a year and never witnessed or heard anything about gangs. As a wealthy white-boy, I never felt unsafe in that part of town. This was not “gang warfare”. This was a fight between two people who happened to be black. The police exploited this to strike fear into the hearts of white people.
I went into the bar to get the story from the bartender. She claimed she had been on the phone with the police fifteen minutes before the shooting. She told them there was going to be a shooting. They said they already knew and that they were waiting for the shooting to happen before they moved in. She begged the police to come in and protect her and her customers but they flat-out refused. I think that if the shooter had been white, the police would have moved in before he’d even drawn his weapon. Are police deliberately looking the other way with black-on-black crime until after it happens so they can prove black people are more violent than white people? After this experience I can certainly believe that.
So I have been an atheist for most of my life, and still am, but one day as I was driving to Costco, I “heard” the voice of God telling me to write an article entitled, 12 Ways Criminal Justice is Bad for Humanity. The voice told me I may even think of as many as 16 or 18 different reasons. It took me about a week to write. Here is the final product: 35 Ways Criminal Justice is Counter Productive to Peace on Earth. It hasn’t gained much traction online but I do believe this is one of the most important things I have ever written.
I got a different web development job in Seattle, immediately next door to a homeless shelter. Police were there almost every day so in order to eat lunch I had no choice but to face my fears head-on. This was good for me. But I also paid close attention to who these police were harassing and was really quite shocked to the degree that they paid more attention to the black men. It was actually pretty crazy. There was no specific incident I could point to but it was just this recurring theme where white people could be drunk jackasses all day and never get police attention but the moment a black man made a scene they were all over him.
In 2015 I moved to McKinney, Texas, just a month before the 2015 Texas pool party incident.
But a few weeks before the incident we had massive flooding. I remember driving to a park to watch the flood and I saw on the other side of the freeway some bystanders innocently watching the stream that had overflowed. But soon a cop started screaming at everyone to leave immediately. I got really mad, like what right did he have to tell people they couldn’t hang out and watch the water? I was calling cops names under my breath and letting my rage get away from me.
I got up to leave a few minutes later, drove around a freeway loop and came back the other direction to head home. I drove past the parking lot where the cop had been just ten minutes earlier to see the whole area was clear and was now under water. Like me, many of those people had been completely ignorant to how quickly a flash flood will rise. I don’t think he saved any lives that day but it’s very likely the officer saved several people‘s cars. That’s not nothing.
I’m deeply thankful after all these years I was finally able to see the other side of the issue. So that’s my one positive experience with law enforcement. Maybe I will have another one before I die, but I’m not holding my breath.
I wanted to tell these stories because I so frequently see police brutality survivors who have truly insane, horrific stories to tell about the police but they get into debates with police supporters and just never mention their own psychological trauma. Then the pro-police sees them getting all upset and are never informed that the person they are talking to is dealing with some deep internal trauma.
If you are a supporter of the police, please realize that when you see people who rant about evil cops, giving statistics and examples from the news, we are often channeling our own trauma. What we really want to talk about is how a cop pepper-sprayed our dog or pulled a gun on our grandma. Our personal experiences are what drive us to our political opinions, but then when we argue them, we act as though our personal experiences are irrelevant.
So if you don’t understand how the protesters can be so angry, please remember that most of us have personally experienced things that are too scary or painful to talk about it. But maybe if you ask us about our personal experiences you might get some surprising insight.
We didn’t come to despise cops because we watched them murder a black man on YouTube or because we watched a documentary about the civil rights movement. We came to despise police because of the traumatizing things we’ve seen with our own two eyes.
Kalin Ringkvist is a queer, atheist, web developer, science fiction author, real estate investor, and police brutality survivor. In 2020 he is taking a break from the personal data organizer application he’s building to write about current social issues, particularly the call to defund the police.