Yesterday I went to the Sandy Justice Court to support my friend Fran, who was to be in traffic court (so we thought). Turns out we were wrong, having ASS-U-ME-d that justice would be served quickly and blindly… but no, this is America, land of the pay-ups and home of the bureaucrats… So Fran goes into a little side room while Dale and I sit in the lobby watching people pass by and guessing as to what tools and implements are hidden in the various pouches on the cops’ Batman-like utility belts.
Well, it turns out this was a “meeting” between Fran and one of the prosecutors (probably some Assistant District Attorney). She basically attempted to, in so many words, convince him that he should just pay up the $40 and be on his way. You can read Fran’s account of that on his blog: http://freewest.blogspot.com
Of course “security” at these courts is very high – there were at least eight cops by my count, many of them no doubt “witnesses” to the “crimes” being “tried” that day.
Interestingly, I had to go to the main courthouse downtown (Salt Lake City’s courthouse) a couple of weeks ago. I had to pick up one piece of paper, which cost me a whopping twenty-five cents, so that I could remove a false mark from my wife’s credit report.
The cusp of this story is that my wife and I were denied pre-approval on a home loan thanks to a “pending case” on our credit report. I checked the details and found that this case had been filed by the Utah State Tax Commission and then dismissed and that neither myself nor my wife had been notified that we had a case against us for any reason. Probably some paperwork screwup at the USTC. Nevertheless, it not only blocked our pre-approval, but it caused us no end of stress wondering what this “case” could be and forced me to spend two hours of my day to chase things down. Not to mention we have zero recourse with the Tax Commission…
First, I entered the courthouse (after driving around the block twice to figure out where the @#$#@ you’re supposed to park in this grand, new building they’ve erected). Then I went inside and into the lobby.
It’s a big circular thing bereft of anything but pillars and glass walls. The glass is probably bulletproof, by the way, so it must have cost a fortune to put that much glass (these panels were, like, twelve feet high) in a semi-circle around the lobby. No chairs, no anything. Not even a public restroom. Just a high-security entrance into the rest of the building manned by three or four sheriff’s deputies and a huge metal detector. Great.
So I approach the deputy to ask where I can pick up some paperwork and where the bathroom is. He immediately points to my belt and says, “is that a knife? You cannot enter with a knife.” He’s meaning my Leatherman tool, by the way. I didn’t happen to be carrying any swords, grenades, throwing daggers, spearguns, explosives, or even bricks… Of course, from a security standpoint, I could MacGyver something using the tools on that Leatherman…
I explained I wasn’t going to court or anything, I was just there to get a quick piece of paper (I should have known that “quick” is a relative term to government employees…). He said I couldn’t enter with the “knife” and would have to take it back to my vehicle or find someone to hold it for me outside.
So I got back in the elevator and went all the way back to my truck, stowed the “knife” under the seat (so it wouldn’t get stolen…I know if I were a thief, that parking lot would be prime pickins), considered pissing on the undercover cop car parked three stalls away…figured there were probably cameras in the joint and held it, and hiked back to the elevator.
So I go through security as they scrutinize my long hair, send my wallet through their metal detector (luckily, my cards still work), rifle my keys in case they might become improvised “weapons,” and let me on through. Had they known my name or who I am, I probably wouldn’t have made it past the “is that a knife?” part… Lucky for me (and them), they didn’t ask, so I slipped through their meager defenses [note the dripping sarcasm here].
So I wander the hall for a minute after getting vague hand-waving directions from a cop walking through the security that the restrooms are “that way.” I find ’em, enter, scope it out for cameras (none apparent), lean into the urinal and return some to the city water system, and then wash up and leave.
Then, after wandering in circles for a bit, I figure out where the “civil/divorce” office is and go in there. There are about ten windows for clerks (two of them for “traffic only”) and three clerks on duty (one of them is “traffic only”). There’s a line waiting to speak to one of these two clerks. Great.
Half hour in line and I get to a clerk’s window. She has cool hair. I tell her so. She tells me about her grandparents (that she apparently lives with, pretty typical public employee I guess) and then frowns when she finally finds my “paperwork” in the “system” (meaning on her computer screen) and sees me listed with a wife. Bummer for her I’m taken, I guess. She prints off the sheet and asks for twenty-five cents for the “copy.”
I ask her if that can be paid in installments. I’ve got a dime right now.
She looks at me quizically like I’m serious.
I roll my eyes and hand her the quarter. She smiles and I get my paperwork and leave.
On the way out, I have to pass through the “security checkpoint” again. Or so I thought, anyway.
I moved to walk through the metal detector again (the only obvious exit) and the same deputy who took so much interest in my “knife” puts up his hand to stop me. “The exit is over there,” he points around the “checkpoint” to a glass door which looks exactly like the glass panel it’s set in.
“Oh. It should be more clearly marked,” I nod as I head towards it.
“What was that?” He asked me, giving me that “gimme an excuse to arrest your punk ass” look cops are so good at.
I looked at him with my best “I kill people, don’t beg to be next,” look and said, “I said it should be more clearly marked. Maybe a sign right here or something. That’d help with the confusion some people are no doubt having.”
I kept moving towards the door and pushed it open before he replied.
I have this thing with cops. Wherever I go, I get extra scrutiny from them. I think they know two things instinctively about me: I’m probably doing or recently have done something they don’t like and I’m a smartass who has “problems with authority.” Of course, the generally instinctive fear of the Norsemen most people of any European or North African race seem to have probably doesn’t help.
So… all of this goes to show how our current “justice” system works. Were I a middle-eastern-style terorrist whose sole mission is to blow up some shit and get plastered all over the nightly news for the “cause,” I’d choose targets like the World Trade Center, Tiger Stadium, The Olympics, and so forth. You know, the “big money” spots that really exemplify our “evil capitalist society” and all that. Sock it to the Great Satan and whatnot.
On the other hand, were I a domestic terrorist who wanted to change my own nation’s way of thinking or governing and wanted to point out the tyranny of it all…I’d target courthouses, tax collection points, and other government uber-bureaucracies instead. After all, that would point out not the “evil capitalist empire” – as I probably don’t care about that – but would handily point out the “evil tyrannical empire” instead.
So all these “security measures” aren’t to keep some Jihad-screaming psychopath out of the building. They’re to keep regular people like us (fed up with the bullshit system) from commiting acts of civil unrest.
That should tell you who they are REALLY afraid of here.
For the most part, cops tend to view all citizens they don’t know (i.e. most of us) as suspect. It’s part of their culture and way of thinking about things. Everyone is a potential criminal in their eyes. Ask any cop about this and they’ll deny it, of course, but watch them in action…you’ll see the proof.
The cop who isn’t this way is a rare breed and one of the truly old school peace officers: from back in the day when a policeman kept the peace, knew his neighbors, and was someone you knew (thanks to the uniform) you could always count on to give good directions, happy advice on where to eat, and so forth. Look at the cops now. Their uniform equipment has tripled (at least) and they look more para-military as time goes on…many of them, instead of wearing the traditional blue of peace, wear the black of the night raider…
Next time you’re driving around town, walking down the street, and so forth…consider what you’re seeing around you. Look at the police officers, government workers, the way people react to both, etc. Consider all of this and ask yourself if this is “living free” and if it’s really the “American way”…
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