Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm what you'd call arrestable

"It's been a long time since 9-11 and I'm wondering, has it been long enough? Is it still too soon, or... can we... go back to hating cops? Because after 9-11 I was like "HERO!" when I'd see a cop. "Call me faggit, arrest me, whatever you like, you've earned it hero." But now I'm realizing, when planes fly into building, cops are awesome, the rest of the time, I don't care for 'em too much."

My darling sister Emily managed to get my mugshots from the last time I was arrested.
Thanks Em! I've had a few more sessions with the city's finest photographers and I'm hoping she can find me those too. In one set my face is covered in blood. Those are the ones I want the most. If I get 'em, I'll give you that story.
But here we are, at a different story.

I was at rehearsal at The Crest Theatre. The Crest sits on K St. which is a pedestrian mall, closed to cars, and bikes are to be walked. Well, I rode mine across the mall, diagonally. It's only a yard or two to 11th St. which is open to bikes. Rehearsal had gone well and it was a beautiful night so I was swerving left and right down 11th singing to myself.

I was surprised to hear a gruff voice say "Pull Over!" I was amazed to find myself being pulled over by a bike cop. I laughed and pulled to the curb. Two cops "parked" their bikes behind mine. The one with the gruff voice approached.

"Do you know why I pulled you over?"

"I imagine it's because I rode on the mall, but I was just crossing..."

"YOU WERE NOT JUST CROSSING!" he yelled, spittle bouncing from his lip.

"WHY ARE YOU YELLING?" I yelled. "If you're gonna give me the ticket give me the ticket. It ain't personal."

"I know it isn't personal!"

"Well why are you getting upset?"

"I need to see your driver's license."

"I'm on a bike."

"Do you have a California ID?"

I handed over my license. "Mr. Jensen have you been arrested before?"

"Do I have to answer that, for a bike riding infraction? Can't you just check me for warrants and give me a ticket?"

"Do you have any priors!"

"Yeah. I've been arrested before."

"For what?"

"Oh c'mon, man..."


"Assault on a peace officer." (Like I said, find me those mug shots, circa 1990, you'll get that story.)

"Why does that not surprise me?"

I started getting really pissed. "I don't know? It should. I'm a nice guy who just rode his bike two yards in the wrong direction and I once had my ass kicked by an asshole cop more than a decade ago."

I don't remember quite where things went from here but I started to be concerned for my safety. So, I pulled out my phone and snapped a quick picture of the little prick cop and his lovely mustache. His partner spoke up for the first time.

"What are you doing?"

"I'm taking your picture." I answered as I snapped one of him too.

I was already closing the phone when he said "You can't do that."

"Like fuck I can't!"

"Give me the phone!"

"Go fuck yourself."

Now dear reader, I am trying to portray my involvement in my arrest accurately. I'm not showing off about behaving flippantly to the pedal-pigs. I actually wish I had kept my cool. Fact is, my cool had long departed and I was being an idiot.

Cop #2 stepped up and grabbed my wrist hard. "Let go of the phone."

"FUCK YOU! This is a bike infraction. You can't take my fucking phone."

"You're now resisting arrest." and with that I was on the ground. They CHiPS wannabes had my phone and were putting the cuffs on me. That's when I really lost control of my mouth and a flood of obscenities came pouring out.

I yelled to passers by to take pictures to document this police abuse. A guy with a really nice camera did indeed take a pic and I asked the cops if they'd arrest him now as well. The guy shook his head at me in the universal gesture for "You sad loser." and he split.

Before long two cops who had passed their driving tests pulled up and loaded my bike into their trunk and me into the back of their car. I'm not that big of a guy and I wonder how the hell they fit anyone bigger than me into the back seat of those cruisers. It is a tight fit.

The cops driving me to jail were pretty cool. They advised me to keep quiet, even if I was right, to make things easier on myself in jail, and I could fight when I got out and was in a better position to do so. I agreed. I told them about my comedy troupe and invited them to come see us. Now THAT my friends is a dedicated promoter. (And by the way, I do have shows coming up. Please check the front page of

I played nice with the two bike cops who beat us to the jail since the car had to stop and drop my bike off at bike jail. I told them I was sorry for losing my temper and I listened to their bullshit story of cell phones that fire bullets. They told me they would make sure I didn't have too bad a time in jail, which I guess meant they had the power to make sure I had a very bad time in jail also. By this time I'd achieved the cool that alluded me earlier and I was actually excited at having an experience that I would likely come out the other end of relatively unscathed and with a good story.

I had to see the jail doctor who gave me a TB test. I told her about the medicine I took for my ulcerative colitis and she said she wasn't allowed to let me take it in jail. One of the bike cops aka my new best friend took me to a room where my key chain holding my pills was sitting near a sink. He said he'd turn around for a minute. I took my pills and thought this was some serious cloak and daggers shit.

Then I got a special bracelet that designated me as having a "medical condition." The bike cop handed me over to a giant with a tree trunk for a neck. "What's he in for." the big boy asked.
The cop answered "Resisting arrest but with remorse." The giant repeated "With remorse?"

This must be their secret code for "He doesn't need to be treated extra rough." More cloak and daggers. What a bizarre world these guys inhabit.

Big boy told me I needed to walk down a hallway without stepping on the wrong side of a yellow painted line. The path led straight into a wall which I was to face. Then, while staring straight ahead I had to life one leg and remove my sock, then the other. I have poor balance and this was tough. If I started teetering I'd look away and big boy would scream "I TOLD YOU NOT TO LOOK AWAY FROM THE GOD DAMN WALL!" I'd stare back at the wall until I didn't again. "YOU WANT ME TO TIE YOU TO A GOD DAMN CHAIR!"

"I'm trying! I have poor balance!" I said as calmly but firmly as I could. Big Boy went blank for a minute. I could actually hear the processor in his head spinning for a few seconds like a computer in desperate need of an upgrade. Luckily he a full systems crash was avoided and Big Boy walked me to my cell.

My cell was a tiny room with a raised sidewalk around the perimeter and a metal toilet in one corner with no privacy. Everyone in the room was seriously drunk if not passed out. Seeing the lack of benches I knew immediately where I was being tucked. "Um, I'm sorry but there seems to be a mistake. I'm not drunk. I was popped for riding my bike on the mall."

"Your wristband says you need medical attention. This is where you go if you need medical attention, so we can respond if you start dying."

"In the drunk tank?"

"Yep. Now sit down." and for the first and last time that night I saw Big Boy smile as he shut the door.

I had a seat and immediately the most awake of my cell mates started talking to me. "Oh shit man, I can't stay in here. That bitch is gonna sell my rims. God damn, I gotta get out. She's gonna sell my god damn rims. They cost me $2,000. Bitch!"

Not knowing much about rims accept that they're part of a car I asked my roommate what kind of car it was.

"What? I aint got no car."

"Well then what are the rims for?"

"For when I get a car!" he answered like I'd just asked the stupidest question he'd ever heard.

"Dude! You could buy a full VW Bus with a bed in it for $2,000!" I said, apparently topping myself in stupidity. He went on complaining about his rims and that damn bitch. It seems the landlord knew the stupid bitch was in the wrong and told the cop so but she had to call 'em because that's the rules when there's a disturbance.

Big Boy was back and he had the biggest, buffest man I'd ever seen with him. He stuck Gigantica in the tank, instructed him to sit down and shut the door. Gigantica didn't want to sit down. Gigantica wanted to pace. This brought Big Boy back.

"I told you to SIT DOWN!" he yelled before banging the door shut again. Gigantica still was not ready for sitting and continued pacing. Big Boy opened the cell door once more. "SIT DOWN!"

"I'M FUCKING DRUNK! I CAN'T SIT DOWN! I'LL FUCKING THROW UP!" Gigantica yelled in a voice that surely excited nearby seismologists. Big Boy froze like he had when I couldn't keep me balance. Again his outmoded brain struggled to process the situation. He looked Gigantica up and down and I wondered if any of us would survive these two getting in a brawl. Hell, I wasn't sure the building that housed the jail would survive! Then Big Boy said "Okay." and left. That's how big Gigantica was.

Rims asked Gigantica if he knew what time it was. "It's four o'clock in the god damn morning." This sent Rims into a renewed frenzy.

"Oh shit man, fuck, four o'clock, shit, you know she sold my shit by now. Goddamn, I can't believe it. Four o'clock."

I leaned over and said, softly, "Dude, it wasn't ten yet when the grabbed me. there's no way it's after midnight." Gigantica, I found out too late, possessed super human hearing to go with his super human size.


I've been a nervous laugher since I was a kid. The more trouble I was in the more I'd laugh when my father confronted me about it. Luckily my old man was cool about this little tick of mine. He'd actually say, "I know that you giggle because your scared and you should be scared..." and go on with is threats, knowing that it didn't mean I wasn't taking him seriously. Teachers, school principals, bosses and cops were less understanding. I did not figure Gigantica was going to show super-human compassion and understanding as a smile kept across my face, and then a giggle, and then a laugh, a loud hearty, oh my God I'm going to die, laugh!

I hoped that Big Boy would be on time in responding if I started dying. Gigantica looked at me, confused, and then to my great relief, he smiled. "We got a god damn comedian! Mother fuckin' white boy is being funny! Ha ha! Ha ha! Funny white boy crackin' wise." and with that he had a seat next to me and put his arm around me. I'd made a friend. We laughed together and I resisted the urge to say, "You know, it really isn't four in the morning."

Eventually my BFF returned to pacing and Big Boy decided to give him his own room. From my cell I could see the TV that the guards use to monitor all the cells. I could see Gigantica get his own private cell and I watched as he did push ups, nonstop, for over an hour! Real push ups, done right. The sort that I can barely manage one of. He'd still be doing them when I got out. I was very glad that he thought I was funny.

I told Rims that it was probably just about midnight. Rims calmed down and started talking to me about God. I was wishing he'd go back to the rims and that damn bitch. Remembering that I was at this point in it for the story and forgetting that I'd already almost died once at least I asked Rims, "How do you know that there is really a God. I hear people talk about him, but they're always in the same mess I am. I've never seen God."

Rims stared at me, the only white guy in the cell, the only sober guy in the cell. I was wearing a white shirt, a nice coat, slacks, a shiny pair of shoes, I was clean shaven. I was just one pair of blue eyes away from being quite clearly the devil and I think Rims was willing to over-look this one little detail. He scooted away from me and I got to spend my last half hour in jail in relative peace and quiet.

Then I got out, got my phone back, noticed the cops had deleted the pictures I'd taken of them and I was on the street.

A few weeks later a public defender laughed her ass off reading the cops report. She used the word chicken-shit repeatedly and told me the judge would be glad to not be bothered with "this bullshit." The only crime I was being charged with was resisting arrest, which confused me. I was arrested with resisting being arrested for resisting arrest? What? I signed a form saying that I had indeed rode my bike on the mall and that I didn't have a headlight on my bike. I was not asked to confess on the resisting charge and the public defender told me I was still free to file a complaint. The charge was dropped. And that was that.

I called Stewart Katz, a Sacramento lawyer known for suing cops. He asked me if I planned to continue living in Sacramento. I said that yes, I did plan to. He told me there wasn't enough money in it to be worth putting myself on the Sac PD's "Please fuck with me all the time" list. I took his advice.

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Emily in Exile said...

This makes me regret not getting arrested at least once in my life. I want a story too!


Josh Fernandez said...

That's fucked up. I don't think comedians should be arrested unless they kill people.

Can your sister can instruct me on getting my own mugshots?

Mugshots are the only good part of jail.

Kirk Larsen said...

I remember the 1990 incedent. You were such a bad-ass assaulting that cop with your face.

Tamara said...

I really hope my husband wasn't one of those bike officers. It doesn't sound like him though. So sorry you had such a bad experience. One of the reasons he is no longer on the bike unit is because many of the cops on that team are complete assholes. They gossip worse than preteens and are bullies. At least you got a good story out of it, but it's crap like this that make my husband's job that much harder.

Anonymous said...

And here you are still avoiding Chicago for yourself or the Co-Exist tour coming here, other than the lack of vegan food in Ohare airport?

Anonymous said...

Isn't the police having deleted photos from your phone tampering with evidence? Which is a felony....

Depending on luck, and phone usage those photos are recoverable, btw...