Early the next year I was already a keyholder at my job. As such, I was tasked in part with helping take the store inventory. Due to staffing issues we were way behind, so I spent a lot of time at the store. Some nights I did not go home. Those that I did were in the dark hours of the morning.
One of the nights I had an earlier release followed by a “day off”, meaning I could come run counts whenever I wished, I walked home.
I chose to stay on the main streets. It would lengthen my trip a little bit, but from my prior experience I did not want to be spotted walking a quiet neighborhood. I had casual clothes for the after hours work, so I was back in my all black attire. Anything (besides a change of clothes) that I could do to lessen suspicion the better. As the grocery store closed many hours prior, I chose to content myself with a can of tea.
Again, I was stopped. This time I was not as shocked considering the circumstances.
The script was much the same…
“What are you doing?”
“Heading home from work.”
“Where is work?”
“[indicates strip mall]”
“Where is home?”
“[gives address a block and a half away]”
“Are you drinking?” he asked, motioning to my can.
“Only as a literal teetoteler” I replied, showing him the branding and inverting it to show him that it was still sealed.
“Do you have any ID?”
“[hands over ID, bearing my now-current, in neighborhood address]
The officer departed to his vehicle to run my information. I started drinking my tea.
“It’s a little odd to see someone just walking around this time of night” the officer told me upon his return.
“As you could see that is a state ID, not a drivers’ license. Legally, I am limited to walking.”
“Why wouldn’t your co-workers give you a ride?”
“Because I insisted. I walk to and from work everyday. They are still running inventory. Plus it’s a nice night.”
“And you walk around without worrying about anything happening to you?”
“Is there a reason I should worry?”
The officer and I kept our gazes trained on one another for a few beats.
I continued. “Most people look at me and assume I am a threat based on stereotypes. Folks cross to the opposite sidewalk to avoid being in arms’ reach of me. I have nothing to worry about from people around here.” I paused, considering my own words. “Was I stopped because I was out of place?”
“Not specifically” the officer replied. “A call came in about someone walking around and you fit the description…”
“…which is strange because when I got stopped at two in the afternoon just down the street I was told the same thing” I threw in. With the officer having run my information I did not feel the need to mince words. At that moment someone came from around the corner walking their dog. “What about them?” I asked in a raised voice.
The officer took a step back from me to look where I motioned. The man wore a hat and jacket, the collar of which was raised. It kept his face obscured. He panicked so completely at being pointed out that he did not pick up after his dogs’ mess.
The officer watched him leave.
“Isn’t there a local ordinance about not cleaning up after your dogs when they do that?”
The officer met me with an empty stare and handed my ID back to me. He then drove off in the opposite direction as the dog walker.
Funny bit. After this encounter, I stuck to residential streets and never saw the police.
Part of the humor in this comes from my original intention: “I will walk the main streets to avoid suspicion”, which is exactly why I was stopped. Yes, I am wearing all black and it was in the middle of the night. And so came and went my third interaction with the police while I was on foot.
I can phrase this and make it sound better or worse. On the one hand, walking between home and work 4~5 days a week and being stopped only three times is not high a number. Conversely, if I add in the factor that these three stops occured in a four month time period it may change your thinking.
I want you to ask yourself something. In your life how often have you been stopped by the police when the only apparent action you are engaging in is walking? Of those times how many of those were due to your “matching a description”?