Good cop. Bad cop.

I was raised in a home in which I was taught to respect police officers and consider them my friends and protectors. I have always viewed our men in uniform in this way, but last night I had an encounter that has shaken my good opinion of policemen to the core.

I left my home last night at 8:25pm to pick up my friend, Madonna Gil, in Monroe, and bring her back for an overnight visit. I arrived at her home at 9:00, and I immediately began driving home, heading north on Hwy. 165. As always, I was minding my speed, my distance between vehicles, traffic lights and traffic signals. I am an excellent driver with a clean record for almost 10 years. As I approached the intersection where you turn off to go to Sterlington High School, I slowed to the appropriate speed, but I noticed some cars preparing to turn right into Frenchman's Bend. I ventured into the left lane to pass them. Because my left turn onto Hwy. 2 was quickly approaching and because I was still traveling faster than the traffic in the right hand lane (my speed was approximately 63 mph), I remained in the left lane. My reasons to be in the left lane are completely legal.

Between the high school and the Mer Rouge Warehouse on the right side of the highway, I noticed a large vehicle quickly approaching. I was unable to get out of his way at the moment, but he continued to gain on my vehicle. He came so close that his headlights were bearing down on me, reflecting in my rear view mirror, and impeding my vision. This startled me, and I became more startled when I could no longer see his headlights due to his close proximity to my vehicle. I was able to recall my Driver’s Education course from several years ago. I remembered that if a vehicle is following too close, the proper course of action is to tap the brakes or slow down to let them pass. I was unable to move, he was unable to pass, so I chose to tap my brakes. At that moment, he turned on his police lights, signaling me to pull over. Before this instance, I was given no indication that was he was a policeman, that I was in his way or impeding police business. Had he signaled me, I would have pulled over into the median out of respect for him and his work.

After allowing traffic to pass, I pulled over onto the right lane shoulder, and waited for the officer to approach my car. I noticed that when he approached my window that his body language was very angry and agitated. At this point, I was unaware that I had done anything wrong or offensive, so I was baffled.

“Do you know why I pulled you over, miss?” he asked briskly.

“No, sir,” I answered respectfully.

“Do you want to know?”

“Sure,” I replied.

“You were driving in the left hand lane, which is illegal, but when you hit your brakes like that,” he raised his voice at the last part, and failed to complete his sentence.

I said, “I was in the left hand lane in order to pass.”

He replied, “You were passing way back.” This was actually not the case, and Madonna told me later that she remembered that I could not get over into the right hand lane.
I began to say something else, but out of respect, I kept my mouth closed.

In anticipation, he pointed at me and said, “That’s right. You better just stop talking!” I thought that strange as I did not say anything.

He took my license and registration, and was gone for a couple of minutes. I thought he would momentarily return with my ticket, but I was wrong.

“Mrs. Keaster, please step out of the vehicle,” I heard from behind.

At this point, I was frightened. I was a woman, pulled over by an angry policeman at night on a dark highway. I had complied with everything, and could not see a reason for me to get out of my car. But out of respect, I did what he asked. I was unprepared for what he said next.

“Have you ever been to jail, Mrs. Keaster?” he huffed.

“No, sir,” I replied, a warning buzzing in my head.

“Do you want to go to jail?”

I thought that was a ridiculous question, but out of respect, I answered it. “No.”
“Do you know what a bullet is capable of?” he asked.

At this point, I became truly frightened. Rape had already crossed my mind more than once. I was truly afraid that this man made crazy by irrational and misplaced anger would indeed take me to jail for driving safely (even though he was the one to make the traffic violation). But now, I began to wonder if he would try to harm me. He certainly seemed angry enough to do it.

I couldn’t answer.

“You car is like an 1100 pound bullet. Do you know how much a bullet weighs?” he asked.

“No,” I answered again.

“Do you want to see one?” he asked, gesturing to his firearm.

I felt threatened at this point, frightened beyond any fear I had ever felt for myself.

“No,” I answered. “Why are we having this conversation?” I thought my question was reasonable. I had never encountered a policeman that behaved anything like this before.

“Because I am trying to decide whether to take you to jail or not,” he answered.
I couldn’t imagine what reason he would have to produce to do so, but I believed he would do it. He was very angry.

“Can you please just write my ticket, let me get in my car, call my husband and go home?” I asked.

He actually stomped. “Fine. Get back in the car,” he answered.

I was so relieved, I couldn’t even begin to feel angry yet.

I got back in the car, and cried to Madonna, “He’s threatening to take me to jail. Call Brandon.”

She couldn’t figure out how to use my phone, so I tried, but I was shaking so severely that it was physically impossible to dial. She called him on her phone, and relayed what was going on. I spoke to him briefly.

The officer came back to my window, and went through protocol. He explained the ticket, citing me for driving in the left hand lane and careless operation of the vehicle. He showed me my court date, the phone number to call if I had questions and asked me to sign.

Then, he said, “If you had just listened back there, I wouldn’t have written the ticket.”

I felt angry then. Why was I called to back of the vehicle if I wasn’t going to be written a ticket? Why did he intentionally frighten me with jail threats if he hadn’t even truly intended to write a ticket? Was it to get a better look at my body? Was it to just have a little fun with a scared woman late at night? Was it because he had a bad day and was taking it out on me? I felt that I had been bullied because of my sex, and I lost my respect for him with that statement.

I said to him, “Well, you were scaring me.”

“I scared you, huh?” he asked with an amused smirk, apparently very satisfied with himself.

“And I think you did it on purpose,” I finished.

At that point, he handed me my ticket, and walked back to his vehicle. I rolled up my window, got back on the road, and cried all the way home.