Sunday, April 8, 2007

Finding out the hard way (Part 1)

In my last post I mentioned that I found out what was going on "the hard way." The upsetting thing is that it didn't have to be this way. If just one person had taken the time to inform me what was going on my life would be a lot different right now. Even more aggravating is that it appears to have been a clerical error that turned me from victim to criminal in the NCIC (the national criminal database.) I'll address that in another post. This post is about how I found out.

The first clue was revealed to me in the Spring of 2006. Based on evidence I discovered later, that's five years or more after my identity was originally used by the criminal. The clue arrived in a local police cruiser.

As I was walking out to my car one day I noticed the police cruiser parked across the street from my house. In the neighborhood I live in this is not uncommon, so I didn't think much about it at first. In fact, I've seen more police activity since I moved to this part of town than I'd seen in the previous 30+ years of my life. I've seen probably close to a dozen people arrested for who knows what and I've even seen a stun gun used on an old woman who took a swing at a police officer in the street. All this right from my front porch in a span of a little over four years.

When I had just about reached my car I heard someone calling my name. I looked around and sure enough the voice was coming from the police cruiser across the street. My first fear was that something bad had happened to a family member and that the officer had come to deliver the bad news. I never caused any trouble, had a clean driving record, and never had any dealings with the local police department so I couldn't think of any other reason that an officer would even know my name.

The officer asked me if I'd lost anything, and I said that no, I hadn't lost anything that I was aware of. Then he said "Please step over to the vehicle." I started to feel a little uncomfortable because he wasn't being forthcoming about what the problem was, but I approached his vehicle anyway--what else was I supposed to do?

When I got there he asked me again, "Are you sure you didn't lose anything?" I told him again that I wasn't aware that I'd lost anything and then I asked him if he thought I'd lost something. He pulled out my driver's license and told me that the teller at the bank had forgotten to send my ID back through the chute when I had made my deposit. Around here the banks don't have security guards, they have actual police officers in the bank at all times so it was no longer surprising that the police officer had my ID. The uneasiness began to slip away as I realized that no one was hurt and that the police officer was seemingly there to do me favor by returning my ID. It only took a couple seconds before the uneasiness started coming back.

As I reached for my ID the officer pulled it back in the car and set it down somewhere. Then he turned to me and asked me how long I'd lived here. I told him a little over three years. Then he asked where I lived before that. I told him I'd lived on the south side of Jacksonville for about five years. I wasn't sure why he wasn't giving me my ID, and something about his demeanor made me feel like he was fishing for something. So when he again asked where I'd lived before that I politely told him I'd grown up in New Jersey, and that I'd lived there my whole life before moving to Florida. Then I politely asked him why he was asking.

At this point the officer could have saved me a lot of heartache by being honest, but instead he chose to lie to me. He told me that he had been talking to a friend of his from Miami that thought he knew me, and that he was just curious if we knew each other. I told him that I'd never been to Miami so it must be someone else.

He then went on to tell me in an annoyed tone that I needed to sign something before he could give me back my ID and proceeded to get out of the car with a piece of paper. I didn't like the way he was acting at all. Now he was acting like I had been wasting his time for no reason.

He put the piece of paper on the trunk of the car, leaning with his hand on it so it wouldn't blow away, and said "Just sign here." I signed it, and as I tried to see exactly what the paper said he pulled it away, got into his car, and drove away.

I walked back to my car thinking WTF was that about? Did he simply have poor people skills? Or was he just some jerk having a bad day and taking it out on me? Or was he on some kind of fishing expedition looking for trouble in a problem neighborhood? I decided it was probably some combination of the three, but since I hadn't done anything wrong, why should I let it ruin my day?

It wasn't long after that that I noticed a police cruiser parking at the end of my block every weekend. It was a DUI unit from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, not the local police department. I certainly didn't think it was related to the visit I'd received from the local police department. Looking back, it appears I may have been wrong...

(to be continued)

Next post: Finding Out the Hard Way (Part 2)

1 comment:

Michael said...

This isn't very surprising actually. Even without the identity theft. Police assume that wealthy citizens are upstanding citizens and poor citizens are criminals.

Having dealt with numerous officers under various circumstances I can assure you that police are jerks whenever they think they can be. Why else would you take an easy to obtain position with lots of risk and little pay? To help make the world a better place? Forget it, its because the position carries a great deal of practical power with no practical supervision. The people who are drawn to positions like that? Sadists who want to abuse said power of course.