We seem to have heard a lot in the news over the past few years about bullying. Unfortunately, there are very few of us who have not experienced bullying at some point in our lives; sometimes we are the ones who are harassed and sometimes we are the ones who commit the acts of persecution. This aggressive action almost always involves an imbalance of power. Sometimes that imbalance is concrete, like picking on someone smaller and weaker. In other circumstances, it is simply the perception that someone has more power, such as being intimidated by those you perceive as more popular than you. Harassment can manifest itself through the use of force, threats, or coercion, but no matter how it is conveyed, the result leads to abuse and / or intimidation.
Harassment is usually repeated or the threat of recurrence is almost constant, which affects the psyche of the person who is harassed. The reasons for this are abundant, although never justifiable. Many times it is the result of the threat of a physical confrontation, but more often, it is a series of psychological attacks that ultimately impact the person being bullied. Some specific examples of mobbing are intentional alienation from a group, spreading rumors, and verbal assaults, but these are just some of the methods used by bullies.
Of course, along with the advent of the 21st century came cyberbullying, especially through social media. This form of bullying has made it possible to bully others without even being in their presence. In fact, there are countless cases where some people are bullied by others whom they have never met.
Tragically, national attention on the correlation between bullying and teen suicide has come to the fore. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens with 4,400 suicides a year, and a Yale study on bullying revealed that teens who are bullied are 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide than other teens. Too often, parents of bullies consider it simply “kid stuff,” and parents of those who are bullied expect them to just shake off taking a “Don’t let it get to you” approach. National statistics on bullying and its outcome would indicate that it is NOT just for kids, and it has developed to a level where many kids cannot just ignore it.
It is unfortunate that almost everyone has been a victim of bullying at some point in their life. It usually occurs among children, but that does not prevent adults from being bullied by other adults. We see this a lot with Big Brother, politicians or others who are in positions of power. In such circumstances, bullying is known as rankism, which is based on the concept of a hierarchical system used to distribute abuse based on one’s position within that system. It boils down to an abuse of power.
One of the most prolific manifestations of rancism, and to which the greatest number of people are exposed, is law enforcement. Anyone who has received a traffic ticket has probably experienced this first hand. It starts with the embarrassment of being pulled over, all those other drivers staring at you while you’re sitting on the side of the road. It’s kind of like all the kids at the lunch table laughing as the ninth grade bully makes fun of your acne.
When the cop starts questioning him with questions like, “Do you know how fast you were going?” or “Have you been drinking?” the inequity of power you experience is reminiscent of a child older than you leaning toward your face and making nasty threats and comments at you. Even the juxtaposition is the same: you are sitting in your vehicle while the police officer is next to you demanding answers.
A parallel can be drawn with regard to even physical harassment during a traffic stop. The average person is going to be quite nervous because they know that with just a glass of wine or the slightest indication that you are not cooperating, the cop can put handcuffs on you and throw you in the back of their car. I have been a lawyer for a long time, but I have never met a person who enjoys being in custody.
I think sometimes children who are bullied grow up to be bullies, and I think this is especially true for police officers. They carry a weapon that immediately puts most people at a terrible disadvantage and a badge that gives them the power to arrest you if you simply want to ask them why they detained you. Simple investigations can be construed as “uncooperative” and could result in an arrest. Even those police officers who start law enforcement with altruistic intentions can grow weary and forget that they are dealing with human beings who are granted certain freedoms by the Constitution. Once the police start to see everyone the same way, as a criminal trying to get away with it, it becomes easier on their own minds to justify their legally sanctioned oppression.
This type of injustice in our legal system is why I am a traffic ticket attorney. I firmly believe in defending the protection of individual civil liberties. I feel that there have been changes in traffic laws, as well as in some other areas of the law, over the past few years, which have seriously diminished many of our personal freedoms. While there have always been cops who have behaved as if they were on a power trip, there seems to be a greater sense among law enforcement officials these days of an us versus them mentality.
Regardless of the mindset of a police officer, it is still a serious civil liberties violation to harass a citizen because of their race, religion, size, driving habits, or perceived driving habits. Consequently, if you feel that you have endured any of the bullying practices I mentioned here upon receiving a traffic ticket, please call our office for a free consultation at 954-967-9888.