Something Is Happening Here, But You Don’t Know What It Is…

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Seems to me the media accounts of this story are missing the point. Yes, it’s amusing and a bit surreal to picture Bob Dylan wandering around a local neighborhood near where he’s giving a concert. But now everyone’s having a good laugh about how two local police officers had no idea who Dylan was when they stopped and detained him after some residents reported an elderly man acting “suspiciously.”

I don’t know.  I find it pretty depressing. There was a time when we condescendingly used the term “your papers, please” to distinguish ourselves from Eastern Block countries and other authoritarian states. Post-Hiibel, America has become a place where a harmless, 68-year-old man out on a stroll can be stopped, interrogated, detained, and forced to produce proof of identification to state authorities, despite having committed no crime.

I guess I just don’t see the punchline.

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93 Responses to “Something Is Happening Here, But You Don’t Know What It Is…”

  1. #1 |  Mattocracy | 

    We need a new breed of sixties beatniks to inspire us to fight the man. Something tells me Jacob Dylan isn’t up to the task.

  2. #2 |  JS | 

    Totally agree Radley. Especially about the “Papers please” thing. We’ve become, by subtle degrees, what we hated and feared. People have got to stop being afraid to call a spade a spade. We live in a police state. Maybe the early stages, maybe a milder form (so far) but all the signs are there. It’s not going to get better either because more people find this story amusing than frightening.

  3. #3 |  Joe Strummer | 

    How is it that it’s suddenly the “end of America” when a 68 year old white guy gets stopped by cops and asked where he is? Hasn’t this been a feature of the African-American experience since… whenever? Welcome to the party, folks.

  4. #4 |  primus | 

    What strikes me as most significant is that a citizen, viewing another citizen innocently walking around perceives a threat which must be immediately reported to the authoritahs. Why is this person so fearful? A study several years ago showed that people who watch lots of TV perceive the world as a much more dangerous place than it actually is. This person should watch less TV and perhaps get a life?

  5. #5 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Who the fuck does he think he is, just walkin’ around like he owns the place? You can’t tell me he wasn’t asking for trouble. I mean, just the fact that he wasn’t going somewhere is suspicious. When you’re in a neighborhood (a neighborhood, for Christ sake!) you had better be on your way to someplace. If you’re loitering, you can be only be up to something like stalking someone, looking for rape victims, selling sex, dealing drugs, or casing terrorist targets (assuming he had a camera or a sketch pad).

    The mere fact that he didn’t have an ID is a sure sign of a crime, no less than running is clearly an indication that someone just committed a felony. Anyone with any regard for law enforcement knows enough to carry an ID. Not having one can only be taken to be an intentional insult to any cop who asks for it. The fact that the cops didn’t tase him, pummel him into s gelatinous goo, and then rape him with a rusty chain-link fence post shows the heroic self control of our Boys in Blue when faced with a torturous degree of disrespect.

    The only good that can be said of Mr Dylan’s irresponsible behavior is that at least he didn’t have a dog with him at the time, thereby relieving the cops of any need to shoot any creatures that might have been fleeing the scene. If an innocent bystander had been injured or killed from stray bullets, Dylan would have had that on his conscience for the rest of his life.

    This entire incident is just more proof that we need laws that don’t allow old people out on the streets unaccompanied by an escort who is more familiar with modern demands for homage to law enforcement. These friggin’ old timers think they’re still living back in the days when you were just allowed to go anywhere.

    We pay for medicare for these people. They should at least have the decency to stay in the hospice where they belong, so the rest of us aren’t constantly saddled with the job of having to babysit them.

  6. #6 |  billy-jay | 

    Americans: are there any left?

  7. #7 |  michael | 

    From the ABC news story

    “He was acting very suspicious,” Buble said. “Not delusional, just suspicious. You know, it was pouring rain and everything.”

    Suspicious for being out in the rain (he was wearing a rain jacket even!!!)

    There was a time when the nation celebrated “singing in the rain” and some of us still enjoy a leisurely walk in the rain.

    What a disheartening story this is

  8. #8 |  David Chesler | 

    Am I the only one who recognizes that THIS was racial profiling?

  9. #9 |  Henry | 

    To be fair to the police, they saw an older man wandering the streets aimlessly. They might have been worried about a mild stroke or dementia. (The story seems consistent with that, and Dylan’s answers, as described there, would still be consistent with that possibility.)

  10. #10 |  CEH | 

    “some residents reported an elderly man acting “suspiciously.”

    He wasn’t, but the police did not happen across Bob on their own, they were called….it is obvious to everyone here they should have ignored the call.

    From the article: “wandering around a low-income, predominantly minority neighborhood several blocks from the oceanfront looking at houses.”

    Nothing illegal here, no cause for the police to stop an old white guy just walking. Imagine the headline had those two officers drove right on by and “Music Legend Bob Dylan Mugged In Between Shows – Police Were Called Beforehand, But Did Nothing”

    Those 2 officers know that neighborhood better than we do. Low income and minority does not equal bad, but it can and that is unfortunate. Two officers called to a situation, don’t recognize the celebrity “wandering” in a strange neighborhood, who can’t formally ID himself, and now they’re the KGB. I don’t get it.

  11. #11 |  billy-jay | 

    @CEH: I’ll say you don’t.

  12. #12 |  Tomcatshanger | 

    I think you get the punch line, but it’s not funny, and that’s as it should be.

  13. #13 |  Will | 

    Hey whats a white guy doing in our hood? drop a dime on his a$$ and see how he likes it!

  14. #14 |  The Liberty Papers »Blog Archive » Papers Please | 

    […] at the Agitator, Radley Balko asks why people are amused by Bob Dylan’s latest run-in with the law. I find it pretty depressing. There was a time when we condescendingly used the term “your […]

  15. #15 |  Tsu Dho Nihm | 

    “Joe Strummer” has a good point folks. This shit isn’t new. African-Americans have been dealing with this for a long time. I’ve experienced the same kind of crap when I was young, had a mohawk, and wore a black leather jacket.

    The only real difference is that an incident involving a Famous Person gets publicity and the whole thing is treated as an amusing sidenote to the “news of the day”.

  16. #16 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Despite my sarcasm above, I think there are a number of valid points in this thread on both sides of the argument. If this were an example of the worst behavior cops are capable of, this site probably wouldn’t exist in its present form.

    But, the point remains that the cops (apparently supported by the Supreme Court) believe that people on the street are under an obligation to identify themselves under threat of arrest. The only thing that makes this incident noteworthy is that it was Bob Dylan. We don’t even know for sure what would have happened if Dylan would have refused to go with them, but we do know that cops don’t typically react well when their authority is challenged.

    This event may or may not have been influenced by race, but I don’t care to argue from the perspective because it focuses attention on who was mistreated rather than the fact the mistreatment took place at all.

  17. #17 |  Tino | 

    Other versions of the story are a bit different. CNN’s in particular says “According to Long Branch Police Department Sgt. Michael Ahart, Dylan had been peering into a window of a house that was for sale.”

    That’s quite a bit different from wandering down the street ‘looking at houses’. It’s actually trespassing (though you could make the case that a ‘for sale’ sign invites you to make a reasonable inspection of the wares), and certainly a lot more suspicious than just walking down the sidewalk.

  18. #18 |  Bingo! « Oh, My! | 

    […] Blowin’ in the wind . . . […]

  19. #19 |  J sub D | 

    Am I the only one who recognizes that THIS was racial profiling?

    No. I’m white, live in Detroit and engage in what I call urban hiking. I’ve been stopped and questioned 3 times over the last 5 years (patted down once) for, near as I can tell, being a white man walking in a black neighborhood.

    I guess that is suspicious behavior nowadays.

    *sigh*

  20. #20 |  Greg C | 

    I was reading about this on a music message board and it seemed I was the only one who didn’t think it was strange/weird/suspicious that a person could go for a walk without carrying ID.

    To me those people are the weird ones.

  21. #21 |  jb | 

    I just wrote a long posting on my site about our loss of real freedom to the state at every level, about which most have no clue.

    I read this news item as soon as it hit the net, and I laughed at the idiocy of it all.

    It is terribly depressing in reality, but still funny. Political correctness is like HIV–no getting rid of it. But, the more important question is this–like AIDS–

    How long can you live with it?

  22. #22 |  z | 

    Let’s face facts here. Dylan was wandering around a known drug neighborhood looking to score. The police did what they do in Amerika: tried to stop him from getting high and hopefully pad some arrest statistics in the process. Haven’t you ever watched COPS? That type of thing is 90% of what they show.

  23. #23 |  JS | 

    z “Let’s face facts here. Dylan was wandering around a known drug neighborhood looking to score.”

    Nothing indicates that he was looking to score and anyway, do you really think Bob Dylan has to go out in the streets to get his weed?

  24. #24 |  Fluffy | 

    CEH is under the impression that the police were trying to help Dylan.

    What a fucking ultramoron.

  25. #25 |  jb | 

    Time to end this thread, Rad.

    The name-calling is starting. When it goes ad hominem, it’s over.

  26. #26 |  billy-jay | 

    What Fluffy said.

  27. #27 |  billy-jay | 

    @ JS #23:

    Exactly. He left a tour’s worth of musicians and crew looking to score? Unlikely.

  28. #28 |  jb | 

    Rad–

    Do so many folks always miss the point?

    Jes’ wundrin’

  29. #29 |  LibCop | 

    It’s still sad to me to see automatic knee-jerk prejudice from people who call themselves Libertarians JUST because there are cops involved.

    Someone called the police with a concern. The police (being paid to respond to such concerns) investigated and everything turned out to be ok. No arrest. No Taser. No Beating. No SWAT gear. No Dogs Killed. Peaceful resolution, what we SHOULD expect from PEACE OFFICERS.

    And STILL you people have a problem with it (as evidenced from the negative Karma of anyone who choose to be even slightly reasonable). But you’ll jump up and down screaming about how cops have a “us v them” mentality. I’m sorry, it takes on to know one, Libertarian Paranoia about all things police is every bit as unreasonable as the Thin Blue line.

    The saddest thing for me as a sympathizer of Liberty is that Fluffy seems flabbergasted at the idea that cops could actually want to help someone. Irrational hatred of the Police isn’t being a Libertarian (although it is being an anarchist…), it’s simply being a bigot.

  30. #30 |  billy-jay | 

    I have a problem with police who show up and can’t find a problem except that the guy isn’t carrying ID. If there’s no problem it doesn’t matter who the guy is.

  31. #31 |  billy-jay | 

    Actually, the more I think about it, the more pissed off I get. How in the hell are you a libertarian cop if you think it’s cool that they held him until they verified his identity? What do you think would’ve happened if he refused to go with them? I really doubt that would’ve been pretty.

  32. #32 |  JS | 

    Libcop “Someone called the police with a concern. The police (being paid to respond to such concerns) investigated and everything turned out to be ok. No arrest. No Taser. No Beating. No SWAT gear. No Dogs Killed. Peaceful resolution, what we SHOULD expect from PEACE OFFICERS.”

    I know you’re a good poster on this site Libcop and I’m not trying to be a smart ass but they ordered him into their squad car and took him back to his hotel, how’s that not an arrest even if only temporarily? Shouldn’t people in America have the freedom to wander around without papers or having to give an account to agents of the government.

  33. #33 |  LibCop | 

    Ordered him? Where did you read that. Post a link please.

    You can ask anyone to do anything, that doesn’t mean they have to. You can speculate that if he hadn’t gone with them they would have forced him (an opinion I’m sure will be popular here), but there is no indication that happened.

    What we know is that cops responded to a citizen’s complaint, found an old man outside in driving rain and ended up giving him a ride to a hotel. No loss of human (or k-9) life involved. And STILL “libertarians” have a problem with it. Jesus.

    I’m to lazy to scroll up, but someone else already said it basically. When the cops don’t respond, people complain (“SEE, the cops aren’t there to protect you!!!!”), when the cops do respond and use force, someone has a problem with it (“SEE, their animals bent on enslaving us!!!!”). …

    …when the cops respond as they are paid to, arrest no one, kill no one, and give an old guy a ride, they’re STILL wrong (“omg they asked him for I.D. omgomgomg”). Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t, and you guys honestly wonder where the Police Bunker mentality comes from. It comes from you.

  34. #34 |  JS | 

    This was the first account I read of it.

    http://www.lewrockwell.com/blog/lewrw/archives/33081.html

    August 14, 2009
    The Times They Are a-Changin’
    Posted by William Grigg on August 14, 2009 03:49 PM
    Bob Dylan is a legendary singer-songwriter and charter member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, but to one culturally untutored 22-year-old police officer in Long Branch, New Jersey, he was just an eccentric, suspicious-looking elderly man.

    After police received a call that an “old, scruffy man” was acting suspiciously in Long Branch’s Latin Quarter, a 22-year-old female officer stopped Dylan and demanded that he identify himself. Dylan complied and explained that he was visiting the seaside community to perform at a concert with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp. Not believing his story, the officer detained Dylan in the back of her car and drove back to his hotel to investigate his story.

    “She took him back to the hotel to check his papers, then she called us to check who Bob Dylan was,” police officer Craig Spencer told the London Daily Mail. “I’m afraid we fell about laughing. If it was me, I’d have been demanding his autograph, not photo ID.”

    “I offered to bring in some of my Dylan albums,” continued Spencer, “but unfortunately [the young officer] didn’t know what vinyl is either.”

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  35. #35 |  JS | 

    “I’m to lazy to scroll up, but someone else already said it basically. When the cops don’t respond, people complain ”

    I promise you I will never complain if cops don’t respond. Nothing personal but I won’t ever call them in the first place.

  36. #36 |  billy-jay | 

    @”Lib”Cop:

    You are really starting to piss me off. Your standard for an incident being something to complain about is loss of life? Fuck you, man.

  37. #37 |  Joe Strummer | 

    Here’s what I get really tired of: the rhetoric of nostalgia for a lost America. There never was that America. Never. I have no interest in returning us to a pre-60s America or, god for-fucking-bid, a pre-Progressive Era America where cops supposedly didn’t think to ask people for their papers. That America never existed. In reality, this country has featured rampant racism – some of it state sponsored, some of it not – meant the systematic harassment and segregation of millions of American citizens, in part at the hands of police.]

    I do have an interest in an America where cops know their place and cops don’t stop people on the street without probable cause. But there are lots of people who fancy themselves libertarians who don’t mind that America, so long as they aren’t stopped at random.

  38. #38 |  billy-jay | 

    Joe Strummer:

    I believe you when you say there never was that America. But everything that was ever good about America is being destroyed. Is your idea that we should all be equally oppressed? That’s how your first comment came across (and I’d guess that’s why you got bombed with negative karma).

  39. #39 |  Ben | 

    LibCop,
    First of all, SEVERAL of the accounts written about this story specifically said that he was “detained.” If he was truly detained, then he had no choice to refuse.

    Let me ask you a question. Do you think that a person (who has not been observed committing a crime) has a right to not identify themself to a police officer? Because if a police officer can detain you for no other reason, then the answer is no.

  40. #40 |  Tsu Dho Nihm | 

    billy-jay,
    That’s certainly not the way I read Joe Strummer’s initial comment. I thought it was more of a “well, perhaps you’ll understand now” kind of comment.

    Also, I thought it was pretty cool to hear from the ghost of a punk legend.

    And to LibCop, some of us are anarcho-capitalists and don’t even agree with the existence of the police to begin with.

  41. #41 |  JS | 

    “There never was that America.”

    There never was an America where every little town had a SWAT team that routinely kicked in innocent people’s doors in the middle of the night either. There never was an America that had 5% of the world’s population and yet 25% of the world’s prisoners either. There never was an America where Americans had to walk around carrying identification papers either. There never was an America where we had such an increase in police beatings, tazorings and killing by the police either.

    Like it or not there has been an increased militarization of domestic police in recent years this country that is something different and unprecedented in American history.

  42. #42 |  billy-jay | 

    @Tsu Dho Nihm:

    That’s cool.

    Also, I’m one of those anarchists.

  43. #43 |  Les | 

    LibCop,

    He was detained, wasn’t he? Either he was or wasn’t. If he wasn’t detained, then this is no big deal. If he was, it is a problem.

    Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t, and you guys honestly wonder where the Police Bunker mentality comes from. It comes from you.

    This is profoundly weak. According to you, the main problem isn’t that every day police officers and police departments violate the rights of citizens and lie to cover up for it, causing citizens to distrust the police. The main problem is that people are quick to blame the police when a citizen is detained for not providing identification. That’s a pathetic attitude.

  44. #44 |  thorn | 

    Libertarian Paranoia about all things police is every bit as unreasonable as the Thin Blue line.

    Agreed.

  45. #45 |  billy-jay | 

    “Libertarian Paranoia about all things police is every bit as unreasonable as the Thin Blue line.”

    No way. Libertarian Paranoia affects nobody. The Thin Blue Line protects criminal cops all the time.

  46. #46 |  thorn | 

    BJ,

    You’re wrong – it DOES affect people. It affects Libertarians who are trying to promote socio-economic Libertarian policies as a rational, reasonable alternative to the status quo in Washington.

    The Dems have PETA and Acorn, the Reps have White Pride and Fred Phelps… don’t those fringe groups HURT the parties they claim to be a part of? Yes, they do.

    Libertarians have the anarcho-capitalists and NAMBLA. Personally, I’d be happy if such people would start their own damned party or STFU.

    As to the story at hand (Bob Dylan) – I am “one of those people” that would call the police. I’ve personally had the experience of walking to my car, and seeing some unfamiliar scruffy old white man walking back and forth down my sidewalk, staring at houses.

    He didn’t look like he was shopping for real estate; the way he was eyeing me as I walked, and continue to look my way as I drove away – made me suspect he was casing the neighborhood. Yes, I called the police. I’ve no idea what the end result was – nor do I care.

    Sorry – there IS crime in American neighborhoods. It DOES happen. You seem to imply that only after I come home and see a broken window should I call the police (or hell, since the police should be eliminated from city budgets, I suppose I just call a friend and whine about my break in).

    Police abuse is one thing, and something I continually speak out about. This story does not rise to that level of abuse of power.

  47. #47 |  billy-jay | 

    How can you possibly lump anarcho-capitalists with NAMBLA? Seriously?

  48. #48 |  Mary | 

    @jb #25:

    What’s with the call for forum police action? We’re libertarians here, for gawd’s sake!

  49. #49 |  ceanf | 

    exactly what i thought when i heard about it radley.

    @thorn, so you agree with the idea that someone has to produce ID (aka ‘papers’) to police whenever they ask for it, and if they do not have their ‘papers’, that the police should be able to detain them, even though that person has broke no law? since when did being ‘scruffy’ and ‘unfamiliar’ become a crime worthy of being detained by the police?

    there is nothing wrong with those people being concerned and calling the police. what IS wrong is the police detaining a man for walking down the street without his papers.

    yes, you are right, that is not police abuse… it is a hallmark of a police state, where everyone is a criminal until they produce their papers and prove themselves otherwise.

  50. #50 |  thorn | 

    From the AP article:

    The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan.

    The officers thanked him for his cooperation.

    “He couldn’t have been any nicer to them,” Woolley added.

    It sounds as if some people here have a much bigger problem with the situation that Dylan did.

  51. #51 |  billy-jay | 

    Maybe some of us value personal freedom more than Mr. Dylan does.

  52. #52 |  billy-jay | 

    Also, that’s the strategy for ensuring the best possible outcome when dealing with police: make sure the think you couldn’t have been any nicer.

  53. #53 |  Les | 

    Yes, I called the police. I’ve no idea what the end result was – nor do I care.

    And what if he’d been mentally ill? Lost and scared? What if the cops tazed and arrested him? What if they merely took him into custody and forgot about him? You apparently have a leftist’s faith in the government and a bureaucrat’s compassion for the individual.

  54. #54 |  aberrant | 

    “Maybe some of us value personal freedom more than Mr. Dylan does.”

    Its probably close to a 100% chance that no one will ever know what Bob Dylan thinks about it.

    That’s why he’s still cool.

  55. #55 |  thorn | 

    You apparently have a leftist’s faith in the government and a bureaucrat’s compassion for the individual.

    And you apparently have no idea what my political beliefs are.

  56. #56 |  Frank | 

    #19 Consider yourself lucky that you were only patted down. I was actually mugged by two DC Police Officers for walking from the Navy Yard to the Orange/Blue line. Pigs took my lunch money for the week, like a pair of schoolyard bullies, because I had enough for 3 rocks of crack.

    And I won’t get into what happened to me after I filed a complaint against the pair of them. Bastards.

  57. #57 |  Joe | 

    You should not have to show ID to walk around.

  58. #58 |  Joe | 

    That said, that particular neighborhood in Long Branch has a fair amount of crime, so the fact neighbors called it in and the cops investigated it is not that terribly strange. But a simple interview should have sufficed.

  59. #59 |  Tim V. | 

    maybe they weren’t afraid of him. maybe they were afraid he might be in trouble, wandering around.

  60. #60 |  Constant | 

    I’m not sure that this is quite the same thing as totalitarian policing. There is no such thing as “the state” in the US, there are different levels of state – a town, a county, a state, a country. Being stopped by the local town police is not the same thing as being stopped by the FBI (an example of a national police force). The reasons for stopping are different.

    Something like this happened to me over a decade ago, in a small town in New England. I don’t recall the details, but the town police stopped me and pointed out that someone had reported my presence. I had been taking a long walk and had sat down to rest for a few minutes. It didn’t strike me as very remarkable at the time.

  61. #61 |  Les | 

    And you apparently have no idea what my political beliefs are.

    You’re probably right. But from this statement:

    Yes, I called the police. I’ve no idea what the end result was – nor do I care.

    It’s reasonable to conclude that you trust the police to deal with “unfamiliar, scruffy old men” (who happen to look at you and the houses in your neighborhood in ways you don’t like) and you don’t care how they do it.

    Whatever your political beliefs are, that kind of trust is typical of leftists and authoritarians. And your lack of compassion speaks for itself.

  62. #62 |  thorn | 

    It’s reasonable to conclude that you trust the police to deal with “unfamiliar, scruffy old men” (who happen to look at you and the houses in your neighborhood in ways you don’t like) and you don’t care how they do it.

    What’s your alternative suggestion, Les?

    If I see an unfamiliar man spend 5 minutes walking slowly back and forth on my sidewalk 10ft from my back door, looking at various windows, and *making sure I’m leaving* when I get in my car – what is the the proper response in your opinion, if any?

    Should I just ignore it? Go back inside, put my gun on my belt, and then go ask him what his business is outside my residence? No, I prefer to give that job to people that I’m paying to do it.

    If he was lost, hopefully he found his way. If he was missing/disabled/mental patient, then hopefully the hospital or his family was alerted that he’d been found. If he was casing my home, then hopefully he was detained and questioned. If he just wandered off into the woods, then so be it.

    I’ve been the victim of more than one crime, and as such have a greater tendency to distrust a stranger outside my back door as I do the average police officer. There certainly are bad officers, who abuse their power. I am not defended this. However, there are certainly bad citizens as well. I don’t know if the man in my case was lost, or a criminal – and as I had no further contact with him, no… I don’t really care. I’m well satisfied enough that when I got home, my dwelling was just as I’d left it.

  63. #63 |  LibCop | 

    “You are really starting to piss me off. Your standard for an incident being something to complain about is loss of life? Fuck you, man.”

    My “standard” is whether or not a Peace Officer is being a peace officer rather than a soldier/warrior, revenuer or code enforcer. If the outcome of an interaction with a private citizen is that no one gets hurt, no private property gets destroyed and no one gets unnecessarily injected into the criminal justice system while the public peace is maintained, well mission accomplished.

    That’s what I see happened with Mr. Dylan.

  64. #64 |  Joe Strummer | 

    LibCop makes plain what we all know: Cops are our enemies. They are not our friends. They don’t make life safer. Sometimes they catch a predator. Often enough they catch the wrong predator. Frequently enough, they lie, cheat, and themselves steal.

  65. #65 |  Fluffy | 

    If the outcome of an interaction with a private citizen is that no one gets hurt, no private property gets destroyed and no one gets unnecessarily injected into the criminal justice system while the public peace is maintained, well mission accomplished.

    Well, no one got “hurt”, except for the fact that a citizen detained because he had the nerve to walk on a public street without identification has been abased and humiliated and treated like somebody’s jail bitch.

    Dylan doesn’t seem to have felt that way [unless he is just smart enough to smile and cooperate with police, even if they are in the wrong] but that doesn’t change my evaluation of the situation.

    If I had been in Dylan’s situation, if I was feeling brave I would have told the police to go fuck themselves. If I wasn’t feeling brave [which, in all honesty, is most of the time] I would have accepted my detention with a clenched jaw and a bitten tongue and when it was over, and when the police were “satisfied” that they could release me to do more of my dangerous “walking around on a public street”, I would have made it my business to haunt those motherfuckers like Medea’s children for the rest of their motherfucking days.

  66. #66 |  Fluffy | 

    By the way, you know how I tell the difference between police that want to help me and police that don’t?

    The police that want to help me never fucking speak to me. At all. They certainly don’t interrogate me for walking down a public sidewalk.

    If I’m walking down a public sidewalk not doing anything, the police cars that drive by me and don’t stop are full of helpful, nice police officers. I can tell that, by the fact that they don’t stop.

  67. #67 |  Joe Strummer | 

    Incidentally, here again, African Americans learned that cops are enemies of citizens long ago. Now, lots of middle class whites got their panties in a bunch over the Don’t Snitch. But it was prescient.

    When cops racially profile you, pull you over on pretextual stops, search without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, and falsely accuse, you kind of come to the realization that cops are agents of the state and, inasmuch as they make life “safer”, that’s only incidental to their actual aim which is to enforce a certain kind of social order while getting their licks in too.

    Hence, don’t snitch.

  68. #68 |  JS | 

    Joe Strummer, good points but a lot of white folks on this site been practicing don’t snitch for a long time.

  69. #69 |  doubletrouble | 

    Folks are missing the point.

    The title of this post should have been,

    “Something’s Happening Here, What it IS Ain’t Exactly Clear…”

  70. #70 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #67 Joe Strummer: “Hence, don’t snitch”

    Not so fast, Joe Strummer.

    Black neighborhoods that adhere to the “stop snitchin'” philosophy also have phenomenal homicide rates. Is this something we really want to replicate on a national scale? Of course, this carnage is largely thanks to our “drug war.” Still, I think one needs to be nuanced when advocating this idea.

    If you advise those arrested for drug possession not to snitch on others to save themselves, then I don’t have a problem with that. Law enforcement’s reliance on the jail snitch is scandalous, and has done much to destroy lives, as well as the reputation of the criminal justice system. If citizens refuse to call the police about consensual drug use or possession, and remember their responsibilities as jurors (judge the morality of the law, as well as guilt or innocence) then we can starve the drug war beast.

    However, if you carry that “no snitchin'” message over to crimes against persons, or crimes against property, then neighborhoods deteriorate, and people begin to die with shocking regularity. If you are an anarchist, that’s your business. If you think people need to do more to ensure their own safety, I totally agree. But until we have a better system in place, we need to improve the ability of law enforcement to deal with REAL CRIME. Ignoring crime only emboldens criminals.

    Just some constructive criticism Joe. As the old adage goes, ideas have consequences.

  71. #71 |  anarch | 

    Irrational hatred of the Police isn’t being a Libertarian (although it is being an anarchist…)

    No it’s not.

    That is, it’s not irrational.

    And, if it need be said, hatred for an institution can exist without hatred for its particular members.

  72. #72 |  LibCop | 

    Read the last few replys, then come back and question again my thinking on how private citizens contribute to the Us v them mentality…

  73. #73 |  Joe Strummer | 

    Read the last few replys, then come back and question again my thinking on how private citizens contribute to the Us v them mentality…

    The difference is that as a private citizen I have never and will never go up to a cop and ask him what he’s doing driving down my street, and what’s his badge number, and is he really where he belongs, and is he doing his job right.

    But cops do that all the time. Now, if you’re a cop, you know that cops lie, cops arrest without pc, cops make up or exaggerate charges, cops and DAs put people in jail doing “DA time” before they can make bail or get the charges dismissed. Cops plant evidence. Cops taser old ladies. Cops beat people. This is why they became cops, so they could lord power and violence of other human beings. They’re the flip side of criminals.

    If you’re a private citizen, you realize that any interaction with a cop may end up with you spending time in jail if you don’t show due deference. Some private citizens are stupid (or brave enough) to ignore common sense and tell cops where to go. And they pay the price.

  74. #74 |  Travis anarch Bickle | 

    You talkin’ tuh me?!

  75. #75 |  thorn | 

    The difference is that as a private citizen I have never and will never go up to a cop and ask him what he’s doing driving down my street

    You haven’t? Well, I have… on more than one occasion.

    One time was during the riots in Cincinnati; there was a cop parked on our street at 2am in the morning. I walked out and asked him why he was sitting there; he replied “just making sure none of that trouble comes around here”. I thanked him for watching our street, wished him well, and went back inside.

    Another time, several cops were standing on our sidewalk with a obvious unmarked SUV and a couple of squadcars. I walked up, asked what was going on… they had just performed a search (and subsequent arrest) on the heroin dealer who lived upstairs from me – the same guy (who along with 2 friends) was standing outside my bedroom window every night with little baggies to sell to the people driving by with 22″ rims on their Camaros. I was rather glad to see his ass hauled out of the building.

    Then there was the time a car exploded in our parking lot. I didn’t walk out and ask the cops what was going on; the flames, explosion, fireball, and subsequent sirens were self-explanatory.

    Cops do lie sometimes. So do a lot of people that aren’t cops.

  76. #76 |  Helmut O' Hooligan | 

    #72 Joe Strummer: “This is why they became cops, so they could lord power and violence of other human beings”

    A bit of a broad generalization, don’t you think. Are you a clairvoyant? Can you get “in the heads” of police recruits? Even though I disagree with many of LibCop’s points, your rhetoric lends support to his claim.

    For the record, I believe that most abusive and/or corrupt police officers are made, not born. The system encourages a tribal, us v. them outlook more than anything private citizen’s do. And laws that encourage police to overreach, and invade people’s personal lives further damage the police officer, and his or her relationship with the community. Still, taking cheap shots (that you cannot support with evidence) doesnt’ help.

  77. #77 |  JS | 

    thorn “You haven’t? Well, I have… on more than one occasion.

    One time was during the riots in Cincinnati; there was a cop parked on our street at 2am in the morning. I walked out and asked him why he was sitting there; he replied “just making sure none of that trouble comes around here”. I thanked him for watching our street, wished him well, and went back inside.”

    Well you’re braver than I am thorn. Or you just don’t live in Texas, If you had done that here you would have been told to go back in your house right now and shut the fuck up, or you would have been beaten and arrested. So I guess the cops aren’t as brutal in Cincinnati, but they are in a lot of places.

  78. #78 |  Fluffy | 

    Read the last few replys, then come back and question again my thinking on how private citizens contribute to the Us v them mentality…

    Oh boo hoo hoo.

    Look, I don’t see why you would have a problem with my last post. I basically said that any police officer who sees me walking down the street and doesn’t stop to hassle me is a nice and helpful police officer. What problem could you possibly have with that?

    Just don’t insult my intelligence and expect me to believe that a cop who would stop and say, “What are you doing here? Show me some ID!” is trying to help me. Give me a fucking break. Maybe you could argue that they would [mistakenly] think that they were trying to help “society”, but in that situation they definitely, unquestionably aren’t trying to help me.

    And if my next-to-last post strikes you as contributing to an “us vs. them mentality”, tough. Being singled out and approached as “suspicious” in the absence of probable cause, being questioned and detained, and being driven around in the back of a squad car, subordinates and demeans the subject. That’s why it should be reserved for criminals. It’s precisely the fact that you think it’s just routine, no harm no foul, that makes it appropriate for us to adopt an “us. vs. you” mentality.

  79. #79 |  JS | 

    What Fluffy said.

  80. #80 |  johnl | 

    One of the things that alarmed Buble was that Dylan asked to be returned to the spot where he was picked up. Does he have a pregame ritual where he needs to walk so many steps counterclockwise? I wonder if Dylan wasn’t teasing or testing her with that question. It was a form of protest he decided not to push because he had a job to do the next day and he’s pushing 70 and needs his rest.

  81. #81 |  Frank | 

    #78 I kind of wish he had pushed it. I suspect being known as the ignorant pig who arrested Dylan for walking without a license would hardly be career-enhancing.

  82. #82 |  Dave W. | 

    I think the important legal question is whether Dylan consented to be transported by the police.

  83. #83 |  Miggs | 

    I do have an interest in an America where cops know their place and cops don’t stop people on the street without probable cause. But there are lots of people who fancy themselves libertarians who don’t mind that America, so long as they aren’t stopped at random.

    Only the libertarians in your head, dumbass. But let me guess, libertarians are just neo-cons who smoke pot, right?

  84. #84 |  Below The Beltway » Blog Archive » Bob Dylan Meets The Police State | 

    […] Balko makes a similar point: I find it pretty depressing. There was a time when we condescendingly used the term “your papers, […]

  85. #85 |  jonathan livingstone | 

    libcop said:

    “Fluffy seems flabbergasted at the idea that cops could actually want to help someone.”

    Did Bob ask for help?

    Hi, I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you. Show me your papers, or you’re under arrest. It’s for your own good! I am trying to HELP YOU, sir! Get in the fucking car NOW!

    One is reminded of the boy scout who “helped” the little old lady to cross the street, even though she didn’t want to cross the street.

    billy-jay said:

    “that’s the strategy for ensuring the best possible outcome when dealing with police: make sure the[y] think you couldn’t have been any nicer”

    Be sure to lick their boots to the highest possible shine. Do WHATEVER THE POLICE TELL YOU TO DO, with a smile on your face, and with plenty of “yes, sirs”. Otherwise, you deserve what’s coming to you. Why do people have any problem with this?

    thorn said:

    “You seem to imply that only after I come home and see a broken window should I call the police”

    Right – why wait until a crime is actually committed? Lock people up, detain them, hassle them PRIOR to their committing any crime, i.e. while they’re still innocent. Isn’t being “unfamiliar” enough? Probable cause? What are you, a card-carrying member of the ACLU? Because strolling around without ID is pre-crime for sure.

    Dave W. said:

    “I think the important legal question is whether Dylan consented to be transported by the police.”

    Consented? Come on! You speak as if he is a citizen with so-called rights, instead of a subject who’d best to keep his damn mouth shut and cooperate fully with the Proper Authorities, who are our rightful Lords and Masters!! The anti-cop mentality on this board is shameful!

    js said:

    “if you had done that here you would have been told to go back in your house right now and shut the fuck up, or you would have been beaten and arrested.”

    Seriously, this is accurate. My father’s friend runs a business in town, and noticed one day that a cop car was parked in the entrance to the business, blocking it to customers. After an hour or so, he ambled up to the car and asked what was going on. The cop immediately arrested him. The charge? “Interfering with police business.” He spent the night in jail and had to bail a hefty bail amount. Part of the incarceration process was a perp walk on the steps of the county courthouse downtown. They had him in leg irons, dressed in an orange suit.

    But the police are only trying to HELP us.

  86. #86 |  johnl | 

    Dave W he agreed to go for a ride to the hotel instead of a ride to the station. And he asked to be returned to where he was picked up, for reasons I hope will be explained someday in song.

  87. #87 |  Fluffy | 

    Oh wait, it’s a bit late to include this in the thread, but I don’t want to leave it out:

    According to Jack Dunphy, if Dylan had aggressively asserted his 4th Amendment rights, he would have deserved to get shot.

  88. #88 |  Marty | 

    ‘Irrational hatred of the Police…’

    my hatred is rational.

  89. #89 |  PA | 

    More coverage of this story, and a similar story involving an Indian actor here (via the comments section):
    http://aaeblog.com/2009/08/15/look-out-kid-its-something-you-did/

  90. #90 |  William | 

    Libcop: you seem to be forgetting that, for many of us, our feelings about police are not some theoretical beef but the product of lived experience. I’ve lived in Chicago my entire life and, outside of a few traffic stops during quota crunch, I’ve had six meaningful interactions with police. I’ve been directly asked for bribes, I’ve been held for six hours because I vaguely matched a description of someone selling drugs, I’ve had my car searched without my consent and without probable cause, and the one time in my life I needed police to do their job my case was dismissed because the detective on it failed to show up for court on an A felony.

    So yeah, my beef with police isn’t irrational, it’s learned. The next time you wonder why so many people treat police like shit, look at the assholes you work with. I’m an upper-middle class white guy from Chicago and my whole life I’ve been told that police are my friend. Still, I wouldn’t piss in your mouth if your lungs were on fire.

  91. #91 |  Charlie O | 

    What William #90 said. My experience with police (and my father was one) is that they are basically cowards. Police reports are amazing works of fiction. Police do not actually know the laws they are paid to enforce (I’ve had more than one ticket dismissed after being cited for violations that existed only in the mind of the cop). Police are arrogant and believe they are entitled to privileges not available to the rest of us.

  92. #92 |  philmon | 

    No, Joe Strummer does not have a point at all, except “white people bad! Stop complaining!”

    It is bad enough that black people have been stopped for walking in the “wrong” place while black — a wrong America has worked hard to overcome (and exacerbated by the fact that many will pull the race card no matter what they were doing … that doesn’t help the innocent at all) …. but when an old white man can’t, either, that is clear evidence that we’re moving in the WRONG direction. It’s gotten WORSE, not better.

    To say “hey, what’s wrong with that, welcome to the club” is absolutely assinine, self-congratulating leftist chest-beating, and illustrates the lowest common denominator mindset of the left. How does it make it better for the black man if we crank up the abuse on everybody. The dial needs to turn the OTHER way.

  93. #93 |  The Agitator » Blog Archive » More on the Bob Dylan Incident | 

    […] this first link isn’t new, it just includes information that wasn’t included in the original story I linked to: According to Long Branch Police Department Sgt. Michael Ahart, Dylan had been peering […]

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