After finally finding ourselves free of the constraints typically associated with dorm life, my seven housemates and I decided early this fall that a party was in order. We made the necessary arrangements: the neighbors were invited, the laughably obligatory “You must be at least 21 to drink” signs were hung at key points around the house and the Pabst was procured. Everything was going swimmingly when the guests began to arrive. The DJ managed to move asses on the dance floor with everything from Ray Charles to Boards of Canada, and the pleasantly crisp autumn weather allowed attendees to escape to the side porch for a brief reprieve from the mass chaos inside.
Problems arose when the police arrived around midnight in response to a call from the neighbors. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise, as we were being a bit noisier than one would expect in our normally tranquil Kerrytown neighborhood. Sighing heavily at the sight of illuminated blue and red, I expected a bored policeman to simply go through the motions, writing us a noise violation ticket and ordering us to turn the volume down. Two white Ann Arbor Police Department officers emerged from the car, one female and one male. The male officer singled out one of my housemates who was trying to usher guests off of the front lawn, beckoning him off of the porch with a shout of “You come here!” The officer advanced and placed his arm around the housemate while demanding to see his ID. The housemate opened his wallet and asked to be allowed to go inside to retrieve his license. He barely managed to take one step towards the door before the policeman seized his arm and shoulder, dragged him off of the porch and across the lawn, forced him against the patrol car, cuffed him and threw him in the back seat without any reading of his rights. As he was being led to the car, the policeman ominously emphasized that the housemate had just committed a crime and would be spending the night in jail. He would have to explain to any future employer why he was at one point deemed a menace to society, and he would have to call his parents and have him bailed out of jail.
Dismayed and surprised by the forcefulness of our friend’s sudden arrest, three other housemates and I approached the patrol car to determine why he’d been arrested and how we could get him out. The male police officer did all of the talking, explaining that he could have just as easily arrested any of us for failing to show ID on demand, and that the wide-eyed housemate now sitting in the backseat of the shiny new AAPD patrol car just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This raised a few eyebrows among us, and we wondered if it was truly a coincidence that out of all the supposedly criminal residents to choose from, the white cop managed to single out and arrest the only nonwhite resident in attendance. After about 20 minutes of negotiations (during which our queries were answered with “because it’s the law” or “because I can”) we finally got our housemate out of the car and back inside the house. The remaining four of us tried (in as reasonable tones and words as we could, given our anger and alcohol intake) to determine how we could prevent this from happening again, and I think I was pushing it a little when I found myself inquiring into the intricacies of filing a Freedom of Information Act request for the police report and expediting its release so that we could see it prior to our trial date.
The white male cop tried to commiserate, saying that the parties his frat buddies used to throw at some big southern university were broken up all the time. This elicited a round of eye-rollings and a scream of “fucking racist pigs” from one of our more incensed housemates. The police gave us a noise violation before leaving, and we retreated back to the party to lick our wounds and salvage as much of the party as we could. Despite his cop-induced ripped clothing and bruised shoulders, the previously arrested housemate’s breakdancing prowess elicited cheers of redemption from the remaining attendees.
The AAPD has a reputation for being a laid back police force. The Ann Arbor City Council passed a resolution in 2003 requiring that the AAPD not follow some of the Patriot Act’s more draconian measures, and Ann Arbor folklore has it that the AAPD’s policy on marijuana use places the department just a rung above handing out joints at traffic stops. But this stereotype offered little solace when I actually saw Ann Arbor’s finest in action, keeping the streets safe from socializing youths through patronizing scare tactics and superfluous displays of power.
Mallen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.