It seems that we have been hearing an awful lot in the news over the last few years about bullying. Sadly, there are very few of us who have not experienced bullying at some point in our lives – sometimes we are the one who gets bullied and sometimes we are the one who is committing the acts of persecution. This aggressive action almost always involves an imbalance of power. Sometimes that imbalance is concrete, such as picking on someone smaller and weaker. In other circumstances, it is simply the perception of someone having more power such as feeling intimidated by those you perceive as more popular than you. Bullying can be manifested through the use of force, threats, or coercion, but no matter how it is conveyed, the outcome leads to abuse and/or intimidation.
Bullying is usually repeated or the threat of its repetition is nearly constant, thereby, affecting the psyche of the person who is bullied. The reasons for it are plentiful, although never justifiable. Many times it results from the threat of physical confrontation, but more often, it is a series of psychological attacks that ultimately impact the person who is bullied. Some specific examples of psychological bullying are intentional alienation from a group, spreading rumors, and verbal assaults, but these are just a few methods employed by bullies.
Of course, along with the arrival of the 21st century came cyber-bullying, especially through the means of 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 of some people being bullied by others whom they have never actually met.
Tragically, national attention on the correlation between bullying and teen suicide has been brought to the forefront. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens with 4,400 suicides annually, and a Yale study on bullying revealed that teens who are bullied are 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide as other teens. Too often the parents of bullies consider it just “kids’ stuff,” and the parents of those who are bullied expect them to just shake if off by taking a “Don’t let it get to you” approach. The national statistics regarding bullying and its result would indicate that it is NOT just kids’ stuff, and it has developed to a level where many children can’t just ignore it.
It is regrettable that nearly everyone has been bullied at some point in their lives. It usually happens among children, but that doesn’t preclude 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, the bullying is referred to as rankism which is based upon the concept of a hierarchal system used to mete out abuse based upon one’s position within that system. It boils down to an abuse of power.
One of the most prolific displays of rankism, and the one to which the greatest number of people are exposed, is law enforcement. Anyone who has ever been issued a traffic ticket has probably experienced this firsthand. It starts with the embarrassment of being pulled over – all those other drivers staring as you are sitting on the side of the roadway. It’s akin to all the kids at the lunch table laughing while the 9th grade bully makes fun of your acne.
When the cop starts interrogating you with questions such as, “Do you know how fast you were going?” or “Have you been drinking?” the inequity of power that you experience is reminiscent of a kid bigger than you leaning into your face and hurling threats and nasty comments at you. Even the juxtaposition is the same – you sitting in your vehicle while the police officer stands over you demanding answers.
A parallel can be drawn regarding even physical bullying during a traffic stop. The average person is going to be quite nervous because he or she knows that just one glass of wine or the slightest indication that you are being uncooperative and the cop can place you in handcuffs and toss you in the back of his car. I have been a lawyer for a long time, but I have never met a person who enjoys being taken into custody.
It is my belief that sometimes kids who are bullied grow up to be bullies themselves, and I think this is especially true for cops. They carry a gun which immediately puts most people at a frightening disadvantage and a badge that gives them the power to arrest you if you simply want to question them about why you have been stopped. Simple inquiries can be construed as being “uncooperative” and could result in an arrest. Even those police officers who start out in law enforcement with altruistic intentions can become jaded and forget that they are dealing with human beings who are afforded certain liberties under the Constitution. Once law enforcement starts viewing everyone the same way, like a criminal who is trying to get away with something, it becomes easier in their own minds to justify their legally sanctioned oppression.
This kind of unfairness in our legal system is why I am a traffic ticket attorney. I am a firm believer in standing up for the protection of individual civil liberties. I feel that changes in traffic laws, as well as some other areas of law, over the last several years have occurred which have severely diminished many of our personal freedoms. Although there have always been cops who have behaved as though they are on a power trip, there seems to be a greater sense among law enforcement official these days of an us-against-them mentality.
No matter the mindset of a police officer, it is still a serious infringement of civil liberties to generally harass a citizen due to his race, religion, size, driving habits or perceived driving habits. Consequently, if you feel that you have endured any of the intimidation practices that I have mentioned here when getting a traffic ticket, give our office a call for a free consultation at 954-967-9888.