Friday, March 8, 2013

A letter to the local law enforcement: Witness to car crash weighs in on treatment

by Anna Sieber, Columnist
Dear Local Law Enforcement,

I was a witness to the car crash on 121st Street Friday night (see the page 1 story).

I was on a walk with some friends and we were terrified as the crash unfolded. Two of my friends dove for the holly bushes, screaming that the vehicle was turning toward us. But it was going in the other direction.

We saw how the police cruiser turned onto the street and how the officer got out and collected the girl who had fallen from the car’s backseat.

As more officers showed up, two drivers who had been driving on the road during the crash got out of their cars and approached the scene. The police were receptive to them.

We waited on the other side, assuming one of the many officers would approach us, the closest witnesses to the accident. Yet minutes passed and no one came over.

So we walked over, assuming we were doing our citizenly duty to make ourselves available to the officers after having witnessed the incident.

Apparently, we were wrong.

The policeman essentially said, "let’s walk on the other side of the street, ladies. I mean, really."

We told him we had been standing across the street and had seen the entire thing happen. He curtly told us that if we did not know who the driver was we were useless.

If they would have communicated better with us, we would have felt more comfortable with the situation.

The officers did not take our names. They did not seem to care about what we had seen.

Somehow this felt off — very off. The two witnesses who had been driving other cars were still there, but we were being blown off.

It seemed strange that they would receive such different treatment than us. Then something clicked into place.

We were walking around after midnight on a Friday night. We looked like college students. We looked like we had just come from a party. Because the two drivers seemed to be capable of driving and appeared older than us, they seemed more in command of their actions and were somehow more reliable than us.

But it was actually us who saw the whole thing — the other witnesses were in their cars. And we were completely sober and responsible.

As we walked away, my friends were perturbed and frightened. One of them was still pulling thorns out of her coat from jumping through the holly bush.

I am very concerned about how the police treated us and the lack of precision with which they seemed to be handling the situation.

The fact is, we live in a world where people are inclined to walk away from an unpleasant situation and leave it for the next person who comes along to deal with. My friends and I thought we were doing the right thing by sticking around and trying to talk to the police.

It does not really make me feel good about human nature if we are met with negative responses when we try to take action.

In this Lutedome that we live in, we are told to treat non-Lutes with respect. We are instilled with the idea not to discriminate against anyone who may look like "Parkland Youth" (PY). Yet here we were being discriminated against in just the way we are told not to act ourselves.

I now have an idea of what it feels like to be a PY. I was the Lute outside the Lutedome and it definitely did not feel good.

Do not treat me like I am stupid. Do not treat me like I am some drunk party girl, even if that is what you see most weekends. Until I come stumbling toward you holding a bottle of vodka, please do not assume that I am anything but a good college student walking around with her friends.

Law enforcement needs to scale back the judgment and treat us as citizens first and potential nuisances second.

Sincerely yours and with utmost respect,

Anna Sieber

Anna Sieber is a first-year student at Pacific Lutheran University. She likes to write — which is why you’re reading this.