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JOHN VARGAS

A Mad Man and a Liar

Cops Like My Profile

It was so long ago. It feels like a history lesson that I never could have witnessed because I simply wasn’t alive when it happened. But I was. I remember it. The grainy video. The silence on the soundtrack. The barely discernible subjects. I remember only being able to see lights with absolute certainty. Red. Blue. White. The lights of america. And the beating. The incessant beating of a man none of us knew. He laid there on the ground most of the time. The men in black – the cops – stomping on him. Swinging little metal bats they called batons at him. Rodney King. The man that brought police brutality into white suburban homes across the country. Across the the world, really.

I always considered him a bit of a martyr. His pain and torment shined a blinding light into a room that was darkened for too long. We all saw cops as they really were. Not the “Officer Friendly” that came to elementary schools to talk about staying away from drugs. The pig. The man who used his power, his position, his tools of death and destruction, to do anything he wanted. Including murder. If you were a serial killer, the best job you could ever have would be a police officer. You can beat and torture and kill and you would most likely never be found out. Because cops have a code. They never “rat” out each other.

This is why I consider almost ALL cops bad. Not because I believe they all beat and torture and kill, but because those who know the ones that do, do nothing about it. A crime that you and I could easily go to prison for: complicity. If I was a killer and you knew it for a fact, even saw me do it, and did not “rat” me out, guess what? You get to go to prison as well! But then, there are many laws for us, and few for them.

More than two decades later, and the visuals of cops doing awful, terrible things has only multiplied. Our outrage, however, has been subtracted. Maybe it’s the proliferation of it all, maybe the internet has made it all to easy for us to find any video of any terrible act upon humanity, killing us inside. Suffocating our outrage. Callousing our hearts. I don’t know.

All I know is that I’ve seen too many videos of too many cops doing too many awful

things to too many people. Black. Brown. Yes, even white. But, let’s be honest: white people are often the ones who get to walk the next day. I’m sorry if that upsets your bullshit “reverse racism” stance, but it’s true. I could link several unimpeachable studies, but then, if I did, and you believed otherwise, you could find differing studies from questionable sources.

But that’s not what this is about. Like most things, this is about me.

I ride a bicycle to work. Not a fixie. Come on, I’m a grown ass Mexican! I could drive to work. Indeed, I own two cars. One is a beautiful old classic: 1965 Imperial LeBaron. It doesn’t run. Like I said: I’m Mexican. It’s a huge part of my culture to own a car that doesn’t run, that you’re constantly working on. I can easily drive to work, but I choose to ride a bike. Mostly for vanity, since it keeps the fat off, for the most part (though my penchant for fast food and pizza will always keep my fat friend around).

The rides are always interesting and a tiny bit dangerous. I try to bring the danger level down by riding mostly side streets. Oh, and let it be known here and in perpetuity that I am NOT one of these despicable entitled assholes that rides a bicycle on the street and takes up an entire lane, holding traffic behind me to 15mph. That guy’s a dick. I get out of the way, I ride out of the lane as much as possible and I try my best to keep up with the current flow of traffic. I also drive a car, and I fucking hate these little pricks that somehow believe their vehicle is the only one that matters. It isn’t. Quit being a douche, you’ll only get more people to hate you and run you off the road that way.

I digress. Apologies.

This is about cops. And why they’re fuckjobs.

I’m about a mile away from home in Los Feliz, which is a very nice area of Hollywood. Actually, perhaps too nice for someone that cops immediately take as a criminal. But then, I’m an actor, and I know the roles I’ll be offered in the vaguely racist industry of film. Fine. I’ll play into your fears/fantasies. For now.

Los Feliz is a very white neighborhood of apartment buildings and exceedingly expensive tiny houses. Ironic, considering its Spanish moniker named after a Mexican family that owned most of the area. Conceivably before america took it over and probably deported them. Frankly, the only other Mexicans I see are cutting grass or cleaning pools or reporting for house cleaning duty at some yuppie’s apartment.

So, needless to say, when a cop sees me, he of course sees a criminal. On a bicycle. Not a person with a job. A humanoid animal to be stripped of rights and accused of crimes.

The cop car pulled over. The cop gets out of the “shotgun” side of the car and he puts a hand up, motioning me to stop. I’m currently listening to Kyuss, most likely, so I don’t hear him. I stop and pull out my ear buds. Then I hear the most enraging opening question:

“Are you on probation?”
Instantly, I’m angered.
“What?!,” I spit back at him like a cobra spitting venom. “Get off the bike, put your hands on your head!”

At this point, I have only tunnel vision. My periphery is blurred because of the rage I feel. The need to speak out and and tell this cop exactly how I feel is more important to me than anything in the world right now. Even a beating. So, the rest of this exchange is put down as best as I can remember it.

He makes me interlock my fingers on my head.

“Why are you giving me so much attitude?” he petulantly asks. “I should write you up.”

“For WHAT?” I spit again. “For talking? Is that how far your powers as a cop have gone? You can give people tickets for speaking out?”

“For crossing the street illegally.”

I laugh. He clamps his hand around my interlocked fingers. I can feel my knuckles crack.

“When you give me attitude like that, you make it difficult for me not to get aggressive with you.”

“Pretty sure you are being aggressive, officer. Those are my fingers you’re trying to break.”

He then pulls my hands behind my back and cuffs me. Remember: at this point, the worst thing I did was give him “attitude.” And now I’m cuffed. He begins to frisk me. Obviously looking for the contraband he so wants to find to justify absolutely anything that comes after.

“You’re not gonna find anything.” I calmly tell him. He feels my money clip. “That’s my ID and money. If you find anything illegal on me or on my record, you’re welcome to the few bucks I have.”

He snorts a little.

He goes to the car to run my ID. While I wait, I notice his hitherto silent partner standing next to me.

“That’s a nice bike.” He says, appreciatively.

In my head, I think, “Dude! You guys are STILL doing good cop bad cop? Why don’t you hire some new fucking writers?! We all know what you’re doing! That shit has been on every bad cop show since the 70s!”

Out loud, I just say, “Yeah.”

“Was it expensive?” A double edged question, I’m sure. How could a Mexican that looks like me own such a nice bike?

“Not as far as bikes go.”

We share several moments of silence. I don’t respect bad writing.

The “bad” cop comes back. He begins to uncuff me. I guess he realized that I’m not a threat to society.

“Oh! Guess you found out I’m not a criminal, huh?” I’m enraged. I’m upset. I’m humiliated by this whole ordeal.

“You know, you have so much attitude, it just makes me think you’re doing something illegal!”

At this moment, I pause to marvel at how unimaginably stupid cops are.

“That doesn’t make any sense!,” I quip back. “If I WERE doing doing dirt out here, why would it make sense to further antagonize a cop? Wouldn’t It make more sense for me to be obsequious, in the hopes that you would let me go?”

Bill Hicks used to say something to illustrate what an audience looked like when he felt a joke went over their heads, “You’re looking at me like a dog that’s just been showed a card trick.” That’s what this cop looked like. Guess he wasn’t in honors English classes as a youth. “Obsequious” is not in his limited vocabulary. Though, I’m sure that part of his brain now holds much more important information. Like where to hit black and brown people in order to maximize pain and minimize markings.

“Why do you have so much attitude?” he angrily asks, going back to his only ammo.

“What was the first question you asked me when you stopped me?”

“I asked you to get off the bike.”

“No. You TOLD me to get off the bike. The first thing you asked me was if I was on probation. You don’t think that’s gonna piss people off?”

“There’s a lot of crime that happens in this area! I’ve been doing this fifteen years, there’s a lot of crime in this area! I’m sure if you lived here, you’d want us to stop and question people too,” he defended.

Instantly, I say, “NO I wouldn’t! Who are you gonna catch a couple drug dealers? Who cares? If people want to destroy their own body, that should be their own fucking business! Oh, and you know what else happens around here, besides the less than 1% of people breaking the law? People going home from work!”

At this point, he’s talking over me. However I did hear him say, “Why don’t you take off your sunglasses? Show me some respect?”

Now. I’m. Pissed. Sometimes my mouth is faster than my brain. My brain argues, “shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up,” my mouth can’t hear. It has no ears.

“Respect?! Why?! You didn’t show me any respect! Why do you deserve respect and I don’t? Because you’re a cop? See? That’s the problem, that’s why people hate cops: You assume we all have to respect you, yet you treat us all like criminals. That’s why you asked me if I was on probation. You treat us like enemies, and that’s why we see YOU as enemies.”

It falls silent. Now I’m scared. There are two reasons he’s not jumping at me, I assume: we’re on a relatively busy street, and there’s been a whole lot of bad cop press about a young black man being shot while his hands were in the air.

He starts to say something. I, frankly, don’t want to hear it. I reach for my bike, unwilling to hear a word. Something about him doing this fifteen years. Again. As if that’s a justification. Just because you’ve been doing something that long, doesn’t mean you’ve been doing it right.

“You know what? We’re never gonna see eye to eye on this, as you’ve said numerous times, you’ve been doing this fifteen years, and I’ve been thinking like this all my life. If there’s nothing else, I’d like to go home now.”

I get on my bike.
“Be careful,” he intones, rather threateningly. “You too,” I offer back in the same tone.

In case you’re curious, this particular cop was not white. He was Latin. Like me. It doesn’t matter what color or nationality they are, to them, all black, brown and poor people are enemies.

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