A “situation” happens, cops are called and they arrive at the scene. At that moment, they have to figure out why they’re there, what is happening, who is at fault. Sure, some instances are pretty obvious, such as one body lying dead on the ground, but the majority of calls are for less significant offenses, more amorphous situations.
This puts a huge amount of discretion and burden on the cop’s plate. He can do two things. The first is engage in the heavy burden of thinking. The second is the far easier task of assumption, going with whatever strikes the cop as the more likely scenario. The former involves investigation and, god forbid, effort. The latter only requires prejudice and the idiot’s love of “common sense,” the knee-jerk adoption of belief without reason.
Gatney Yaw learned this at a gas station in South Houston.
He didn’t want to talk and drive, he said, but just as he was about to finish the call, someone came over to his window and started asking him about money, as KTRK first reported this week. He tried to shoo the person away—but before the woman would leave, another woman came around to his passenger window and sneakily grabbed Yaw’s keys out of the ignition while he wasn’t looking, he said. Yaw got out of the car, chasing the woman, who started essentially playing monkey-in-the-middle with Yaw’s keys with two other people. One of them put the keys in her purse, and Yaw grabbed her, trying to pull her purse away.
And then the police showed up—somebody had called.
Remember monkey-in-the-middle? Not too much fun as a kid. Even less fun as an adult. But when you’re a guy and the other “players” are a couple of women pulling some sort of scam to get a few bucks (apparently?) out of you, not fun at all. What’s Yaw to do?
More importantly, what’s the cop to think when he pulls into the gas station and sees some guy trying to pull a purse from a woman?
Yaw says they questioned both the women and him separately, and he tried to explain to them what was going on. Whatever the women must have said, though, Yaw ended up in handcuffs, accused of trying to steal the woman’s purse and scratching her along the way. They put him in the back of the cop car and took everything out of his pockets while the women watched.
“They didn’t even check to see whether I was telling the truth,” Yaw said.
Certain scenarios lend themselves to various interpretations. These are the ones that require a cop to employ the dreaded thought to get right, such as check to see whether the woman had Yaw’s car keys, which might have been a dead giveaway that he was telling the truth. Or, they can pick a side and go with it. One man, two women, no cup? When the strain of police work becomes so overwhelming, make a collar and let the courts sort it out. Yaw lost the cop lottery.
Yaw’s attorney, Murray Newman*, says that this was all just a case of shoddy police work, and that the second he looked at Yaw’s case, “I knew it was a load of shit.” During Yaw’s first court appearance, Newman simply asked Judge Katherine Cabaniss to revisit whether there was any probable cause to arrest Yaw at all, and she agreed that there wasn’t. The case was dismissed, and Yaw was released.
“The police just assumed he was in the wrong,” Newman said.
But the case was dismissed, with Yaw suffering only the indignity of an arrest and being held in jail, right? And he survived lock-up, which not everyone does. The system worked? Not quite.
Once released, Yaw got a call from the pharmaceutical company where he worked placing orders for hospitals and clinics: He was fired. He was dropped off at the gas station where he left his car—only to find that he lost that too.
He reported his car stolen, and sure enough, police called him yesterday evening with pointless news: They had found the car in a tow yard. They gave him the phone number—but Yaw says they should be the one paying for it, to make up for taking a thief’s word at a gas station.
“If [the tow yard] gives me the car back, how am I going to drive it home?” he said.
And here comes the punch line:
He doesn’t have a spare key.
Boom. There should never have been an issue as to the “situation” upon which the officer stumbled as he arrived at that gas station in response to a call. Who has the car keys? Who are the players in the drama? Or a cop can listen to the stories, indulge his own biases and shrug.
After all, what are the chances that the women are lying? Women don’t lie. Why would they? It’s not as if women have the breadth of motives that men have. It’s not that women don’t engage in nefarious conduct for unsavory reasons. Women are special. Everybody says so. And by special, one might suspect that means weaker, less capable of being responsible for themselves, even if no one wants to say aloud that this is the bias upon which they rely for special treatment, preferring instead to wrap it in empowerment jargon that conceals weakness.
For the cop, a “situation” involving a male and female presents some serious risks. Side with the male, because the evidence supports his claims, and end up the target of the mob for not believing the females. Even when the women are lying or culpable, there will be a mob to support them for reasons that only make sense to people who suffer delusions.
Why take a chance of getting it wrong, back the male and risk a serious headache from engaging in unaccustomed thinking? What’s worse, arresting the innocent guy or finding your face on the internet for misogyny? Nobody ever castigated a cop from making a collar on a case that was “full of shit” because he sided with the women against the man.
So what if the guy doesn’t have a spare key? Not the white knight’s problem.
*Yes, that Murray Newman.