Thursday, June 23, 2005

She Said, She Said: Police Abuse Edition

Today I learned yet another life lesson that should be crushingly obvious: don't complain about DC cops to your Turkmen intern.

I told her the story of how I was stuck on V St. behind two cars that were stopped in the middle of the street so that their owners could yell at each other. They wouldn't move out of the road, they ignored my honks, and I couldn't back out. Then, a cop car pulled up in line behind me, also needing to pass along V St. He started his sirens, trying to get the two cars to move out of the way, but they wouldn't. The cop stormed out of his patrol car, and then rather than go and clear out the blockade up ahead, knocked on my window and demanded my driver's license. He ignored me when I asked what I'd done. Then his radio called in a shooting and he had to run, so I never found out what, exactly, I had done wrong in getting stuck behind some short-tempered road hogs. The injustice! The corrupt, bullying arrogance!

She nodded sympathetically, then told me of the time she was robbed of $1200 in a Turkmen market by a cop. She was trying to buy a computer, and the cop got away with enough to live on for months. Indignant, she went to the police station to complain, and they threw her into a cell in the wall that was the size of a dog kennel. She couldn't stand, and it was cold, and she doesn't know how long she was in there. Eventually they took her to an interrogation room and bragged of the things they could do to her as punishment for her wild accusations. Her Dad is a higher-up in the interior ministry, so she replied that she didn't care what they did, they would all be fired and their sons would spend their days in prison, and they could take the money and shove it up their asses.

They figured out whose daughter she was, so they let her return to the capital, where she lived. But not alone. They sent an escort with her, who told her that he had no problem killing her, he'd done it plenty of times before. She knew that when she landed in the capital, the escort would not just let her go happily on her way. He was shadowing her for a reason, and it wasn't to see her safely home. In the small regional airport where she waited her flight to Ashgabat, she noticed a businessman that she'd met once before. She approached him and asked if she could sit with him, while her escort hovered nearby. He was happy to have a pretty young girl to flirt with, and she entertained his overtures in return for what protection he could give. When they landed in Ashgabat, the escort grabbed her arm and tried to drag her bodily away, but the businessman barked and shoved him off and took her home safely. The police started calling her house and leaving threatening messages, and she put on her heaviest coat and laid down on her bed and didn't move for a day and a half. She left the country illegally and she's not sure if she can go back.

So, right. I suppose almost getting a traffic citation unfairly isn't the worst thing that can happen to you.

UPDATE: On the other hand, if the best that DC's finest has to say for themselves is "we're better than Turkmen security services," then we've already lost! Is this the standard we set for ourselves? Seriously. If I told you my V St. story, and didn't tell you that it was perpetrated by DC cops, you would think that this outrage took place on the streets of Tashkent or Kabul, would you not? I mean, if I threw in a line about false imprisonment and death threats, anyway.


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