October 9, 2012
Last night, when I got to Waltham, I was walking to the shelter. A guy on the sidewalk in front of me coughed at me. I took his picture, and then I crossed the street.
I soon heard another cough, and looked over to my right. There was a guy who was half in a car that was parked in a driveway.
I held up my camera to take his picture; sometimes the camera takes a few seconds before it will take the picture. While it was doing that, the guy stood up. I took the picture, he smiled at me and said “Do you like my Prius?”
Because I get abused all the time, and because this has been happening for going on 3 years, as the day wears on, my patience tends to wear thin. I kept walking, and I spit my gum at the bushes that were next to the sidewalk.
When I got to the track that’s a walk of several more minutes from where I took the picture, the man jumped out on the sidewalk in front of me, from the entrance to the parking lot. He said “Why did you take a picture of my car?”
It is legal to take a picture of someone’s car in their driveway, or even of their house, especially if you are on public property when you’re taking the picture. I was on the sidewalk when I took the picture.
I walked past him. He repeated his question and started to follow me. I said “Stop following me.” He said “I’m going to keep following you.”
I said “Do you want me to call the police?”
He said “Go ahead; I’ll call them, too, and tell them that you took a picture of my car.”
I dialed 911 and got the police on the phone. I started to tell them what was going on; then I heard a man’s voice saying “Miss, is this man bothering you?” I looked up and saw that a man on the other side of the street was asking me this. I said “He’s following me and he won’t leave me alone.”
I already had the police on the phone; the guy who had followed me started yelling at the guy who had asked me if I was ok. They continued to talk to each other from each side of the street. While I was on the phone, the guy who had followed me got into his car and drove away.
I said to the police “He’s gone, so that’s fine.”
I ended the phone call and thanked the man who had scared off the guy.
I went to the shelter. Soon, the doorbell rang and I was told that there were police officers there to talk to me.
I was harassed for at least an hour by the two police officers who showed up. I had done absolutely nothing that was illegal or even confrontational, but there they were.
They told me that the guy had called them and that he didn’t want me anywhere near his property, and that if I did he’d get something like a restraining order. I told them that he had followed me, and one of the police officers said that it’s not illegal to do that. I said “Are you going to tell me the guy’s name?” One of the police officers did most of the talking; he said “No.” I said “Are you going to tell me the address?” He said “No.” I said “How can I stay away from the property if you don’t tell me which one it is?” He said “It’s in the vicinity of—“ and gave an address on that street. Then he said “You can figure out which house it is from your picture.”
He told me that I was provoking people by taking pictures of them. I said “I’m not doing that; I’m documenting the fact that they’re abusing me.” I don’t even know how many times he said “You’re provoking people by taking their picture.” He kept repeating it over and over again. The other police officer wiped his finger under his nose.
The shelter staffperson who was there last night, who is the same one who got me restricted from the shelter a few weeks ago, walked out onto the porch. She said “Wasn’t there an incident on the bus yesterday?” She couldn’t have been less helpful; there she was, helping the police who were trying to say that I was imagining that I was being sexually harassed. I said “I could have pressed charges against the woman on the bus because she threatened me.”
She and the police officers tried to tell me “People have the right to cough.” They were all talking at me at once.
It’s true that people have the right to cough; however, they don’t have the right to use or fake their coughing to harass people. The fact is that the coughing and other gestures are being used to imply “Your vagina smells,” and that’s sexual harassment.
The police officer who did most of the talking said “I’m going to have the mental health person at the police station show up at the shelter and talk to you. You don’t have to talk to her, but I’m going to send her here.”
I asked him why he was going to do that. He told me “I don’t think that your thoughts are rational…you’re telling me that you think it’s sexual harassment.” That’s a quote; I wrote down what he said.
Finally, the police officer told me that the man who’d made the phone call to the police that had resulted in them showing up at the shelter had told the police that he’d never left his driveway. He had told them that he hadn’t followed me in his car or on foot on the sidewalk.
I said “I’m sure that my call to the police about him was recorded.”
I also said that, though I doubted that the man who had made the man who had followed me leave me alone was still where he’d been when he’d noticed that the man wouldn’t leave me alone, maybe he was still there and could confirm what had happened. Guests of the shelter can’t leave the shelter once they get there in the afternoon; they can’t even go outside again except every hour for a few minutes to smoke, which I don’t. The shelter staffperson was still on the porch; I asked her if I could go across the street with the officers to see if the man who had helped me was still there. She said that I could.
When I walked across the shelter’s parking lot with the officers, I saw that one of the police cars said “434” on the license plate. The officer who had wiped his finger under his nose cleared his throat a few times.
The man who had helped me was gone.
Walking back to the shelter, I said to the police officers “Can’t you ask to listen to the 911 phone call that I made? You’re saying that you’re going to send the mental health person from the police department to talk to me, and you’ve also told me that the man who made the phone call to the police about me denied that he ever followed me at all.”
The police officer said “You never made that call.”
I said “What?”
He said “You told us when we got here that you started to make the call but that you never talked to anyone.”
I said “No, I didn’t say that. I said that I stopped the phone call because a man helped me and made the other man go away, so I figured the situation was over.”
The police officer said “No, that’s not what you said. Let’s ask the (shelter staffperson) what you said.”
He and the other police officer and I walked up the stairs to the lawn of the shelter. The police officer said to the shelter staffperson “Didn’t she say that she never talked to anyone at 911?” The shelter staffperson said “Yes, that’s what she said.” I said “That ISN’T what I said.”
The police officer said to me “You keep changing your story.”
I said “No, I didn’t.”
I try not to confront police officers too much, and to be as polite as I can be, but they had been antagonistic from the beginning. Within a few minutes of their having first gotten to the shelter and talked to me, I had called 911 again to try to finish what I’d been saying about the guy who had followed me. Officer Amarante, who was the one who talked the most, yelled “Tell them that the police are already here.” Then he said “If you keep calling 911, you can get a fine. It’s only for life and death emergencies.” I was transferred to the Waltham police station, and I asked them what number I could call to make a complaint about how I was being treated by the police officers that were there, and if someone at the police station could get them to leave the shelter. That didn’t work; they harassed me for an hour after that.
By the time they were almost about to leave, we were yelling at each other. I called them liars, and I said “You’re the ones provoking me.” The other police officer, Officer Collins, said “How are we provoking you?” I said “I saw you rub your nose, and I heard you coughing at me.” He said “I have a chronic cough! Thanks for reminding me of it; now you’re the one provoking me!” Officer Amarante said something, too, but I was so angry by then and everything was so out of control that I don’t remember what it was. I called him a jerk. He said “That’s not a nice thing to say.”
They finally left.
Copyright L. Kochman, October 9, 2012 @ 12:24 p.m.