Suspect Identification

On a warm, pleasant evening last September, I was asked by Tucson police officers, for no apparent reason, to produce some identification, a request I forcefully rejected. Being a personal privacy advocate--and having lived and traveled in dictatorial countries where showing an ID card is a common requirement--I wasn't about to comply.

Here's the backstory.

After getting home from a nighttime meeting, I parked my car on the street next to my house and ran inside. A few minutes later, I walked by the vehicle on my way to the alley to open the carport gate, which is adjacent to a large garbage can. As I returned to the car, an unmarked police vehicle drove by, something I was unaware of at that time.

Also unknown to me, my movement from street to alley to street had been observed. TPD Officer Musgrave had seen me "standing behind a large trash can in the alley," which struck him as "suspicious and as being consistent with someone who might be looking to rob someone." Working on a detail investigating robberies in the neighborhood, Musgrave contacted other officers about my behavior.

After I drove my automobile into the carport and closed the gate, a police car slowly passed me in the alley. Officer M. Roberts stopped and asked for my identification; he said I had been observed acting suspiciously. Ticked off and insulted that putting my car away for the night was considered "suspicious," I refused to cooperate. With a throbbing in my head, I instead asked Roberts who he was, while wondering if I was going to get arrested for not cooperating. Roberts agreed to identify himself, while several more officers congregated around us.

In his report of the incident, Roberts said I was "very upset" with the police; an Officer Buller later wrote that I appeared to be confrontational and that I'd said they had no right to be talking to me.

To check my identity, an Officer Holubiak went to my house and knocked on the door. He gave my description to my wife, and asked who I was. She stated that I was her husband, and asked him, "What is this; are we living in some kind of police state!?"

Back in the alley, the officers were complaining about my lack of cooperation and telling me I should be supportive of their efforts, since they were just trying to cut down on burglaries in the area. They referred to a recent robbery at gunpoint, an incident which occurred several blocks from my house and about which I knew nothing. Even though our home has been broken into four times in 20 years, I merely responded by saying I would be writing about our get-together for the Tucson Weekly, then left them standing in the alley, still not having identified myself.

Based on my lack of appreciation, Holubiak noted in his report that I was "indignant" and concluded that I "seemed anti-police."

The next day, I wrote to Tucson Police Chief Richard Miranda, expressing my displeasure at what had happened. An officer with Internal Affairs eventually called and asked what I wanted done. I replied that Officer Roberts needed to treat people as innocent when approaching them. In response, I was told that since the tragic killing of Officer Patrick Hardesty last May, there might have been a change in police practices, with TPD officers being more aggressive about asking to see identification.

In retrospect, I should have also asked the officers this question: How could Officer Musgrave, who initially saw me walking next to and behind my house as I put the car away, also not have noticed that the vehicle was no longer parked on the street?

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