sterlington cop

Rabbit Heart, Lion Heart

Before reading the following post, I recommend you read this post if you have not already.

I would love to tell you that I'm brave. I would love to be able to truthfully state that I courageously campaign for just and righteous causes without a thought for myself. I would love to identify with the likes of Martin Luther King, Junior and Susan B. Anthony, inspirational people who fought for a worthy cause without much hope of seeing change occur in their lifetimes. However, my only confession is that while I sometimes like to imagine myself to be crusader of all that is good and noble, I am, at my core, a rabbit heart with only a useless dash of lion. I say it's useless because it's rarely enough to thrust me into action, but just enough to cause me to feel a restlessness within.

Since my first court date in July, I've been hyper-aware of the days ticking away one by one, approaching the dreaded date of September 10th. I've been practicing my speech and my defense for two months, but have felt it was inadequate, fearing that I would be stuck with court fees, traffic fines and two moving violations on my driving record regardless of my efforts. I have been afraid. The truth is that I would be a-okay if I never have to see that police officer again. The truth is that the judge sitting in his high seat in his black robe with his judgy demeanor intimidates me. The mere idea of reliving a terrifying experience in front of people that I must count as my enemies intimidates me, as well. I am, at my core, a rabbit heart.

Until recently, my hope has been in the town prosecutor. I have so wanted her to talk the ticket down, and remove the moving violations. It may be disappointing for some of you to read this, but I would have happily paid one of the tickets in order to avoid court. After speaking with the prosecutor last month, I had my doubts about my version of a happy ending, and began bracing myself for what was sure to be a traumatic experience. As August slipped away, I began to feel a little more desperate to find an escape route. That feeling of desperation is what propelled my hope in the correct direction. I began praying that the Lord would either intervene on my behalf, surrendering my hope of justice to Him in order to avoid court, or that He would grant me a spirit of boldness, courage and wisdom as I faced my enemies--that in either circumstance, He would be with me. I know that as long as Jesus stands with me, I can do anything, but without Him, I am only a rabbit heart.

My anxiety came to a climax this weekend. I kept trying to beat it down with prayer. It worked, but I kept slipping back into a pool of dread. Finally, I sent out an email to the strongest prayer warriors I know, asking them to join me in prayer over the issue. I felt compelled to wait until yesterday to call the prosecutor. And I would have forgotten except that two of my dearest friends came to my home for a visit yesterday, and asked about the ticket. I begged their excuse for a moment, and I dialed the prosecutor. She answered.

"Hello," I said, "my name is Melissa Keaster. You asked me to call you a couple of days before court about my traffic ticket issued in May . . . "

She told me that it was her intention to drop the careless operation charge because somehow she had gotten a copy of the blog I posted about the encounter. I don't know who gave it to her. Maybe the lawyer I met with in May? Maybe a friend? I don't know. But she knew the story. She asked me if I had been driving in the left hand lane.

I told her that I had, but that I had been passing vehicles and that I was approaching a left turn. I also told her that I remembered not being able to get out of the vehicle's way when it came bearing down upon me because there was traffic in the right hand lane. I told her that my instincts as a driver are defensive, and that I would have moved if possible.

She paused for a moment. "Okay. How about we drop both charges, and call it even?"

It was my turn to pause . . . incredulously. "Meaning that I don't have to go to court or pay anything?"

"Yes, and thank you for your patience," she finished.

"Thank you," I said.

I hung up in disbelief and utter, blessed relief. I don't have a court date tomorrow. I won't pay anything. I don't have to see the officer again. And I have learned my lesson to never drive through Sterlington alone.

I am absolutely convinced that this was a gift from God. I say that knowing that some of you will disapprove of me for not filing a complaint against the officer, for not writing a letter to the editor and for not contacting KNOE news to do an investigative story on the long time injustices of the Sterlington police. I believe that God acted on my behalf, and that this is His will. I believe that I would have gone to court, and represented myself well had that been His will, but it wasn't. It isn't. My plan of action now is to thank the Lord for this blessing, to pray for the officer when I think of him, and to warn individuals about the danger to women and children driving alone in Sterlington, Louisiana.

I refuse to boast in my own cleverness. I will not boast in the town prosecutor's generosity. I will not thank destiny or fate or the universe. "God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."--Galatians 6:14

Jesus is my deliverer in every plight of body and soul, and He is the only One worthy of worship and gratitude! I hope you know that Jesus, Reader. For truly, He is the only cause worth living and dying for. For and with Him alone, I am a lion heart.

Recommended listening. Forgive the weird photos of the lead singer of the band that pop in:

10 Things I Learned Today

1. I don't really have much of a case against the officer discussed in this post.

2. To file a lawsuit against an officer, I must either be physically assaulted or witness some kind of criminal behavior.

3. My case is a case of ethics and morals, not law.

4. Sterlington is more corrupt than I thought. There are many dirty cops on the squad and they do questionable, amoral and unethical things all the time. There is no accountability for their behavior.

5. The officer would have had every right under law to haul me off to jail if I had in fact had been carelessly operating the vehicle. Tickets are apparently niceties. Any officer can put any driver who commits a moving traffic violation in jail. The ticket is a favor. Most officers don't view tickets in this manner, but the Sterlington police know what they are allowed to do by law, and have no qualms with unethical behavior. I was lucky. And frankly, I think he is, too. Many people would have been very upset had I been put in jail for a violation I did not commit.

6. My lawyer is awesome. He is honest, honorable, blunt, well-connected, well-educated, motivated, smart and has an IPhone that he knows how to operate. What more could I ask of him?

7. Time and money saved are not reason enough for me to drive through Sterlington anymore.

8. The first course of action is to get my ticket toned down or to disappear. The second course of action is to seek to put this incidence on the officer's already long list of bad reports.

9. My attorney (and/or I) will go through the following channels in the following order: town prosecutor, presiding judge (a fair man who does not live in Sterlington, but drives there from Grant parish), D.A., Attorney General. I hope the prosecutor takes care of it. (My lawyer is asking her to reduce the ticket to a seat belt violation.) If not, I will go as far as the D.A., and probably stop there. I don't want to pay my ticket three times over in legal fees.

10. This world is truly an awful, corrupt place. It is ruled by sin, and my outlook would be very bleak indeed if I did not trust that my God is a righteous God, the Judge of all and the Defender of the weak. As I reflected on the rather disappointing news I received this morning, I thought about what a great opportunity this is for some character modification. I am required to be patient. I am required to believe that justice will be served whether I see it served or not. I am required to trust that God is everything He says He is. I am required to follow this thing through even though I may not get the outcome for which I hope. I am required to love this man in spite of what he did to me. To pray for him. To hope for him. Honestly, my pride is a little wounded when I see my condition in the harsh light of the truth. I have no power to help or defend myself. But there is a greater Power that will supply me with the strength I need for all that is required of me. So, I'm a little heartsick (Proverbs 13:12), but never has my pride received a blow from which I have not benefited. Number ten is really this--No matter what happens, I'm going to be okay. I rest in the palm of a Mighty God.

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.