“The police couldn’t put you into their polarization structure. They know how to deal with real criminals, but somebody who puts eggplants on sticks — you’re making a mockery of their social order, and that’s worse than what most criminals are capable of doing.”
— Andrea Juno
The rigidity and humorlessness of cop culture is at once the sniggler’s worst enemy and best friend.
When Canadian potheads learned that drug-sniffing dogs would be prowling about on Vancouver ferries, they took action. They created an alcohol solution of the essence of marijuana, and during events they called “spray days” sprayed the solution all over the ferry boats to confuse the dogs.
In Elm Grove, Wisconsin, teenagers who felt unfairly targeted by cops on the prowl for underage drinkers set up a sting of their own. They had a party at which they gathered to drink root beer. When the cops came and raided the party, the teenagers sued — saying that the police had violated their rights when they stormed the property without either a warrant or reasonable suspicion that a crime was being committed. A federal judge agreed!
George Washington University students suspected that the police were monitoring their social networking websites to determine where and when their parties would be held, so that they could raid them on the pretext of enforcing laws against under-age drinking. They then announced a beer-“themed” party but were careful to have no actual alcohol on-site — “The look on the faces of the cops was priceless.”
A database program called “Crime Tracker” eventually ate up the computer records of the unlucky police departments that purchased it (the hacker has since vanished).
The Quadro QRS 250G, a fancy sounding electromagnetic detective that some departments paid as much as $8,000 for turned out to be pretty much a plastic box with an antenna.
David Bowman, a “budget analyst” for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, analyzed U.S. $6 million out of the budget and into his pockets between 1990 and 1997. David Bowman, synchronistically, is the name of the commander in 2001: A Space Odyssey who has to crawl into the very guts of the out-of-control machinery that controls his life in order to shut it down.
Check this out: A 16-year-old boy impersonated a probation officer after breaking in to the probation department offices and stealing a badge, handcuffs, car keys and other paraphernalia. Then he took a dozen young probationers on a trip to an amusement park in two stolen government cars.
The Black Panthers used an interesting tactic to redirect the police to less authoritarian pursuits. The intersection of 55th and Market in Oakland, California was dangerous, and people were getting killed by the traffic there. Alas, they weren’t white people, so the white-dominated government was in no hurry to put up a traffic light. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale of the Panthers came up with a creative traffic calming plan: They would go out with their guns drawn to direct traffic. When the police showed up, responding to complaints of armed negroes in the streets, Newton and Seale would retreat, whereupon the police would take over as traffic-cops.
The U.S. government’s response to the Black Panthers could be equally creative. The Federal Bureau of Investigation covertly distributed what was purportedly a Black Panther Coloring Book for children full of illustrations of angry black men and children offing the pigs. This book was then sent to liberal supporters of the Panthers’ programs in an attempt to horrify them.
Upset at the way extrajudicial state killings were being covered up in Canada, some Kingston residents made wanted posters for some of the death squad members — and were dragged into court by the government and charged with libel!
Nobody would be so ballsy as to waltz into a police station and bullshit the cops into paying a fraction of their overdue cellphone payments in return for an amnesty on their unpaid bills — would they? Well that’s what the cops thought. Which probably made them ideal marks, when you think about it.
I thought it was funny, but it turned out to be hilarious: a satire about canine junkies amongst law enforcement’s drug-sniffing dogs hit close enough to home that many badges took it seriously when they found it on the web.
A letter, printed on city letterhead and distributed around town, started by saying “The Huntington Beach Police Department is again demanding your compliance on the Fourth of July 1998. To deter traditional holiday behavior on our nation’s birthday, we will again be forced to suspend certain inalienable rights…” None too subtle, you say? Well, former Huntington Beach mayor Wes Bannister read all the way to paragraph three before getting the joke.
Paul Mavrides reports:
In the late sixties when I lived in Akron, Ohio, there was a billboard of a white policeman, with tears running down his face, giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a small black boy. The caption underneath read: “Some Call Him Pig.” We drove by this for weeks until finally we couldn’t stand it anymore. A friend of mine climbed up and added two vampire teeth to the policeman’s mouth, and painted blood dripping down the little boy’s cheek.
Those of you in the U.S. will be interested in the Copswatch project. If you’ve been liberated from television, you may not be aware that the police department has become an arm of the entertainment industry. Camera crews for TV shows like “Cops” ride along in police cars and film arrests, car chases and domestic violence — it’s the biggest thing since the Lions vs. the Christians. Copswatch keeps an eye on the show, using the incidents broadcast to teach people “how to protect your privacy and confront illegal police tactics by knowing and invoking your constitutional rights.”
Sometimes, turnabout is the best play. The police in Portland, Oregon were discovered to have been rummaging through people’s trash cans to find evidence — without a search warrant. When city politicians and law enforcement officials defended this invasion of privacy as completely legal and appropriate, a local newsweekly turned the tables on ’em. They raided the trash cans of the mayor, the district attorney and the police chief, and then published a detailed analysis of their findings.
A tip of the hat to Luther Blissett of San Luis Obispo, California, who responded to the first Rodney King trial’s verdict by plastering official-looking fliers around town announcing that police brutality was now legal policy.
A caped crusader calling himself Angle-Grinder Man eagerly destroys the wheel clamps that have been locked onto cars by London’s parking enforcement authorities.
Buffo reports: “June, 1973: As a sign of the ‘truce’ prevailing for the Camden Neighborhood Festival a tug-of-war was organized between a team of squatters and a team of policemen. The squatters were disqualified and victory was awarded to the police bcause when squatters started losing ground, spectators broke through the sidelines and pulled with the squatters…”
“When a street procession reënacting the crucifixion was halted by traffic in west London, a group of local youths surrounded the actor playing Jesus, cut loose his ropes, told him to run for it and said they would cover his getaway.”
A couple of radio DJs pulled a stunt in 2001 that involved dressing up in prison-orange jumpsuits and going door-to-door in neighborhoods in Milbrae, California asking people to help them get out of their handcuffs. In doing so they uncovered an infrequently-used offense in the penal code: falsely causing an emergency to be reported.
Not wanting to appear guilty of learning from experience (or perhaps just the opposite) a San Luis Obispo, California DJ pulled the same damn stunt in 2005.
Andrew Chambers was arrested for assault, forgery and theft, but the charges kept being dismissed because his reputation needed to remain spotless so he could testify for the prosecution as a DEA informant. Chambers earned over two million dollars as an informant, lying on the stand about his lawless activities and about his educational background, to help the prosecution win cases against the other criminals.
Four young Texans spent most of 2002 impersonating federal law enforcement officers — pulling over drivers and then brazenly calling for backup using their real names. Their motive was hard to discern. Despite the fact that the posse did not assault or threaten anyone, but merely engaged in the sort of low-level power-mad harassment that bona fide members of law enforcement participate in when they’re in a good mood, FBI Special Agent Noel Johns wasted no time in saying that “their actions were characteristic of domestic terrorism.”
In San Francisco, California, a man by the name of Brian Anthony Young impersonated a state fish and game warden for three months, checking licenses, issuing citations and confiscating fish. He said that “boredom and drugs” led him to perform the inspections on more than 200 anglers, boats, restaurants and stores.
Jello Biafra sang: “I do my part behind the lines swabbing door handles of cop cars with D.M.S.O mixed with L.S.D.”
In September, 1989, at the height of the Defiance Campaign in South Africa, the police sprayed purple dye on marchers in Cape Town who held placards reading “The People Shall Govern.” Soon after, graffiti artists had marked walls all over Cape Town with a new slogan: “The Purple Shall Govern.”
|On This Day in Snigglery||August 3, 1997: Mary Schmich writes a column expressing bemusement that another column of hers has been circulating widely on the internet impersonating a commencement address by Kurt Vonnegut. (See Forgeries for more of this sort of thing)|