Inexplicable Traffic Stop
Tom W. Miller
Dwayne saw the flashing blue lights in his rearview mirror. He slowed and pulled to the right so that the police car would have plenty of room to speed wherever it needed to go. To Dwayne's surprise, the black and white itself reduced speed and pulled close behind him. Shaking his head, Dwayne stopped the car and began fishing through the glove compartment for his registration.
Dwayne was not aware of any driving error he may have committed. He had been running at two miles an hour under the speed limit, and he had maintained a straight course in the middle of his lane. He was not in a rush because he was not going any place in particular. Sometimes he just liked to roll the window down, go for a drive, and feel the power and beauty of the incredible machine under his control. His grandfather had often done the same thing with young Dwayne, and those aimless jaunts were some of the best memories of his life.
After a couple minutes, the officer stepped out of his car. Dwayne sighed as he recognized the type-about six foot two, buff, buzz cut, dark sunglasses. He had probably wanted to be a Navy Seal but could not make the grade, so he joined the local force where he could flaunt his power and take his life's frustrations out on innocent citizens.
Dwayne had his window rolled down, his license and registration ready to present. Instead of walking to the driver's door and pulling out his ticket pad, though, the officer stopped when he reached the back of Dwayne's car.
"Sir, you need to get out of the car," said the officer in his well-developed commanding voice.
Dwayne did not like the tone of aggression that he heard. He imagined himself following orders only to have Officer Psycho start flailing away with his truncheon. "If you could just tell me what I've done, Officer-"
"I said get out of the car now!"
Dwayne understood-authority freak. He remembered the advice Momma had given him on his thirteenth birthday. "Dwayne, don't ever fight the police. Just do what they say, and don't give them any reason to hurt you." Different nuggets of Momma's wisdom had always served Dwayne well, and he had no reason to go astray now. He unbuckled his seat belt, opened the door, and slowly set his left foot on the ground.
"Let me see your hands," said the officer.
In the driver's side mirror, the jarhead wannabe touched the pistol on his hip, as if Dwayne were a suspected mass murderer. Remembering Momma's advice, Dwayne extended both of his arms outside of the car, my hands open and fingers outstretched so that this madman could see that he was unarmed. He swung his right leg around and stepped out of the car, keeping his hands at eye level. "My license and registration are on the passenger seat, Officer," said Dwayne, trying to be helpful.
"Turn around and put your hands on the car," said the rogue policeman. Dwayne did as instructed without comment. Just before he faced the car, he noticed a small camera attached to the front of the officer's clothing. The local force was now required to wear body cameras at all times. Dwayne just hoped it was on and recording this interaction. He tried to infuse his voice with humility. "Officer, would you please tell me what I was doing wrong? Was I going too fast? Did I not come to a complete stop at the last intersection? Did I forget to put on my turn signal?"
Officer Psycho quickly frisked Dwayne and found nothing more dangerous than a tube of lip balm. "Sir," said the officer, "I think you know exactly what you've done, but I'm not going to explain it to you until I've secured the situation." The policeman pulled Dwayne's left arm off the car and slapped a handcuff on his wrist. The officer then rotated Dwayne's body ninety degrees and fastened the other handcuff around Dwayne's steering wheel.
"This is totally unnecessary," said Dwayne. "I have not resisted at all, nor do I plan to."
The officer did not respond with any words or change in facial expression. Dwayne would have expected at least the hint of a sneer from this domineering bully, but the automaton went about his harassment as if it were a routine part of the job.
"Is that camera on that you're wearing?" asked Dwayne. He assumed either it was not, or that the cyborg had forgotten about its existence during all this heady excitement.
"It's on," said the officer, as he walked around the car to the passenger seat. "It's mandatory that I turn it on every time I interact with a citizen. I'm just going to check your license and registration."
While his captor examined the documents on the passenger seat, Dwayne heard an approaching car. He waved with his right hand, trying to get the occupant's attention, and pointed to his left arm cuffed to the steering wheel. As the car passed, Dwayne focused on the license plate and repeated the series of letters and numbers over and over to himself. If he could memorize them, he might later be able to summon a witness to this miscarriage of justice.
"Sir, your license is expired," said the officer. "It's been expired for almost three years."
"Please let me explain, Officer," pleaded Dwayne. "Well before the expiration date, I applied for renewal and the DMV said I was ineligible. It didn't make any sense. I'm sure you pulled up my driving record on your computer and saw that I've never had any moving violations or even a parking ticket. I appealed the DMV's decision and haven't heard back. I figured it was all some kind of bureaucratic glitch, so I waited and kept driving, and time just got away from me."
No hint of empathy softened the patrolman's stony face.
"I've got an uncle I can call who lives nearby," said Dwayne. "He can pick me up, I'll leave my car here, and then tomorrow, I'll go down to the DMV and straighten out this whole thing."
The officer walked back around to where Dwayne was standing and took out his handcuff key. He reached inside the car window and removed the cuff from the steering wheel. Dwayne breathed a sigh of relief. Momma was right. If he remained meek, helpful, and respectful, law enforcement might make assumptions about him based on his appearance, might even harass him to some extent, but in the end, he would be okay
The policeman pulled Dwayne's left arm behind his back. Soon he would be free. He would call his uncle and get GI Joe out of his hair.
Expecting to feel cool air around his free left wrist, Dwayne instead felt his right arm being jerked behind him and a cuff fastened to that wrist as well. The officer squeezed both cuffs until they cut into Dwayne's skin.
"What the heck?" said Dwayne, surprised and shocked.
"You're under arrest, sir," said the officer. Dwayne heard anger creeping back into the policeman's voice.
"For driving on an expired license?" asked Dwayne. "I think that's a bit extreme. I could see a ticket but this-this is ridiculous."
Another car was approaching. Dwayne would not give any witness grounds for saying that he resisted arrest. "I want to see my lawyer," he said.
The officer maneuvered Dwayne to face the oncoming car. "There's something I want you to see first."
As the car's occupant came into view, Dwayne tried to will the person to make eye contact with him. He needed to communicate his fear, his plea for help.
The occupant had his cell phone raised and was clearly texting as he passed the scene. The texter never even looked up from the screen. "Did you see that? You arrest me, but that guy was on his phone, texting."
Another car approached. Dwayne sensed that this was his last chance before he was stuffed into the patrol car on his way to suffering even greater brutality inside the station. This time the occupant was a woman. Her seat was reclined at a forty-five degree angle, and she looked to be dozing. She had a cucumber slice resting on each eye.
"That woman was sleeping at the wheel!" said Dwayne, who was making a last-ditch appeal for public safety.
"There was no wheel," said the officer, slowly, as if talking to someone who did not understand English. "All motor vehicles, except for the approved occasions when they are operated by licensed specialists, are required to be driverless. I'm arresting you for driving, and this is your third offense. This time, you're going to jail for a long time."
Frustration was breaking through Dwayne's previous calm. "It's not fair, Officer! I was driving for nine years before this law came out."
"You'll have to tell it to the judge." As Dwayne continued his rant, the policeman walked his prisoner toward the cruiser, folded him inside the back seat and pushed a button to raise the clear, sound-proofed panel that separated prisoner from driver.
"I can drive better than these-"
The thunk of the closed door cut off the sound of Dwayne's fruitless argument. Then the officer climbed in the front seat, instructed the vehicle's GPS unit to return to the station, and began filling out his report as the car drove away.
Tom W. Miller holds a masterís degree in history from the University of Texas at Austin and now lives in Virginiaís beautiful Shenandoah Valley. When not writing or having to earn a living, he enjoys tennis, pickleball and family adventures. His stories have appeared in various literary magazines including The Writing Disorder, Flyleaf Journal and more.