Persecute or Patrol

Persecute or Patrol

By Katelyn O’Leary.

Are Police Profiling the Pain Community?

Living in Los Angeles, if there is one thing that unites us all, it is our shared hatred for traffic. The bumper to bumper crawl and the idiots who swerve through lanes like they’re in TRON: LEGACY are enough to make us all go nuts. Unfortunately for me, the bad traffic and swerving by another car had me slamming the brakes and I bumped a car. Luckily, no one was hurt and her bumper was barely dented. Despite the minor damage, the she wanted to file a police report and I agreed. We waited about forty minutes. When the California Highway Patrol showed up, she told us both to take the next exit and to park on the side of the road. First she spoke with the other driver and took down her information and her account of what happened.

The officer then came to my car and I gave her my driver’s license, proof of insurance and my registration. She noticed my crutch in the backseat of my car. “What is that for?” She asked. I replied, “Oh I have a nerve disorder in my right leg.” She nodded and told me to hang tight and that she would be back. She finished her business with the other car, which then left. She returned and asked me to exit the car and show her where the damage was on my car. I pointed to my front bumper. She then asked a few questions about where I was driving, how fast, and if I was changing lanes, etc. I answered to the best of my ability. She told me to wait again outside the car. Twenty minutes passed and my hip and leg were starting to hurt. She was still in her car writing or reporting information about the accident. So I went to my car and grabbed my crutch to lean on.

I made a colossal error in judgment thinking I could do that.

The moment I pulled my crutch out of the car, she immediately wanted to conduct a sobriety test. I was flabbergasted. At no point in the previous hour had she suspected or asked me if I was under the influence. I had followed all of her instructions exactly. I reminded her that she had seen the crutch, and that I had told her about my nerve condition. I even offered to give her the names of my doctors and show her my medical ID card (it states what CRPS is). She refused. I was furious and humiliated but I complied. After passing every test, she concluded that I seemed “tired” and “off-balance” (which is pretty funny since the purpose of my crutch is to help with balance) and refused to let me drive my car home.

Let me say that again: I pass a sobriety test initiated by a California Highway Patrol officer because she saw me pull a crutch out of my car almost an hour after dealing with a minor fender-bender, and she refused to let me drive my car home.

My roommate Becca, luckily, was able to pick me up. Later, she and my roommate Laurel (two friends who have been tireless saints throughout the nearly 3 year ordeal of my CRPS diagnosis) picked up my car. When we returned home, I burst into tears. I had never felt so humiliated. The following Monday, I called the California Highway Patrol department headquarters and spoke with a Sergeant about the conduct of his officer. He was appalled. He assured me that what she did and how she behaved was discriminatory and wrong.

After listening to my story, he asked me, “What do you want me to do? Would you like me to file a formal complaint?”

I told him, “I don’t want to get anyone fired. I know you guys deal with drug addicts and drunk drivers on the highways all the time. I get it. But if I had a cast on my left arm, she never would have put me through that test. I want you to tell her that there are people like me, people with disabilities and illnesses that are REAL. We are not drug addicts, we are not lesser, and we are not inferior. Listen to our stories. Believe us. Talk to us. Treat us like human beings.”

The saddest part of that day was the fact that I had left my support group meeting, where one of the many topics we discussed was the discrimination and disbelief we face in the real world. This is why we have to keep fighting and standing up for our rights. Do not sit down and do not accept this behavior if this happens to you.

Katie O’Leary is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report. She works in the entertainment industry when her CRPS lets her.

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Authored by: Katelyn O’Leary

There are 16 comments for this article
  1. Notasheep at 11:20 pm

    JoeDean I cracked up at “they count the animals”to! LOL

    I am horrified to read so many of you have had such horrid treatment, I just can’t imagine how awful it would make y’all feel.

    I live in a place literally named Village of …….. My experiences with our 4 officers are quite simply bessings. They care and after a recent ER visit even called to check on me as did most of the village! (and yes, I am pretty sure they include the cows in population number!)

  2. Jodi at 2:11 am

    My biggest fear is coming home from a friends house or if we go to dinner and my husband has a couple beers. He won’t drive if he drinks any alcohol, even 1 beer. This is because his sister was killed by a drunk driver and at the court case we had to listen to the drunk driver and her lawyers trying to get her out for probation for driving drunk and having 8 kids in her car. 5 kids died. Her lawyer had some points though about the longer they wait to do the blood test the higher the blood alcohol level goes up to a certain point. Anyway, my fear is we are going to get pulled over, and because they may smell alcohol if he’s been drinking with friends, they are going to make me do a sobriety test because I always drive. Do I explain I need my walker to do it? I have the immobilizer on, but what happens if I get a mean cop or something. My husband thinks I’m crazy to worry about something like that. Now that I hear your story, I know it can happen. I feel so bad for you for having to go through that. I’m glad you called to complain.

  3. Maureen Mollico at 8:36 pm

    Hi Katelyn, you sure have had your share of mistreatment! I often think of you and the incident you dealt with at the airport. My heart ached for you then.
    I carry my extra cane in the car at all times, and I just can’t fathom being questioned like that if I were ever in your position.
    This world has truly gone bonkers. Keep strong warrior!

  4. D. I. S. May at 11:09 am

    I work with individuals who have dual-diagnoses. I love my patients. Normally, these individuals have developmental trauma, neglect and abuse of various kinds. According to the ACE study roughly two thirds of the people in this country have an ACE score over 4. (ACE= adverse Childhood experience). This study came into existence due to the findings of a health care professional directing a weight loss program. He became concerned when so many of the paticipants inexplicably dropped out of the program after experiencing significant continuous success. At a certain point, say, after losing 80% of the weight they were supposed to lose, per the plan developed for the individual; many people simply did not return. The professional concerned about this pattern determined to interview the folks that dropped out. To his amazement he learned that many of these people had been sexually molested in childhood. Gaining weight was protective. People who are obese are not considered ‘sexy’ by many people in our society. By gaining weight unwanted advances were deterred.
    In my professional experience, many of my patients as young young children, who knew they were gay by the time they were 6 or 7 years old, gained lots of weight. It was not, per their own reports, a conscious choice to deflect questions regarding sexual identity; but gaining weight was very effective at preventing normal casual conversation and questions among family and friends about who they were dating, who they had a crush on, and so forth. If sufficiently overweight, people simply do not go there, they are embarrassed and do not even ask such questions. Sexuality is not brought up at all: the elephant in the room. When old enough, mature enough and more comfortable with their sexual identity, then they lose the weight; if they acquire better self-esteem. The abuse of substances among the fols I’ve worked with who gained weight as children is another way the stigma regarding homosexuality is introjected. That means, the social stigma is internalized and the folks I worked with held themselves in contempt at least implicitly. The substance use was a self-destructive behavior, expressive of the contempt they had for themselves. That psychoactive substances of abuse alter emotional states plays a role; self-loathing does not promote feelings of self-confidence, self-respect and social ease. By using alcohol or other mood altering substances there is an effective effort underway to remove the painful feelings of being different, of having a compromised identity. Social norms are learned with language. The strongest predictor of class is the pronunciation of specific phonemes (a phoneme is the sound associated with a letter in the alphabet); this has been shown since the 1980s in socio-linguistics studies. Class can be predicted with mathematical accuracy based upon the pronunciation of specific phonemes. Moreover, it is the strongest predictor of class.
    The brain is unable to discriminate between emotional and physical pain in certain parts of the brain. Pain is pain. Of course, speaking of stigma, emotion is stigmatized in this culture. Emotions are treated with drugs. From my perspective this is preposterous. Emotion, for the most part, is a form of data delivery system, like vision, hearing, smell, touch. What is perceived with emotion pertains to the situation of an individual in the world, especially socially. Fear and anger bring information pertaining to a threat to an individual coming from outside the individual; a threat that must be fought or fled. In addition to information pertaining to the threat, energy accompanies the emotion needed to care for the individual threatened. We need energy to fight or to flee. By making emotions socially unacceptable, by judging a person who expresses emotion as in some way defective, ‘overly sensitive’ for instance, human beings come to harm by speaking of their feelings. This is pretty crazy. And of course, for people with strong feelings, valid feelings due to circumstances in their lives such as chronic abuse by ‘caregivers’, some form of coping strategy is clearly needed. Imagine growing up with parents who feel antagonism toward a child, for whatever reason. The child is abused emotionally, socially, physically; what should that child do?
    My work involves helping people to cope. Helping them to love themselves fully, cast off the rejection and brutality of social rejection and abandonment that became chronic in childhood. This is done by grieving; mourning the loss of a childhood with loving parents. Making decisions, with support, to love themselves as adults. And educating people chronically abused and neglected about emotion, how to feel it, manage it, use it to achieve desired outcomes in their lives as adults.
    What is my point here? My point is that pain and emotion are both stigmatized in this society, in our culture. It is a massive problem becoming bigger and the social forces that criminalize pain and emotion are insane. Literally crazy. Like stigmatizing fingernails, hair or teeth. What can possibly be gained from this way of treating people? Well, in a competitive society, plenty can be gained by marginalizing the vulnerable members of the social group.
    Our society is a problematic one; many inconsistencies, abuses and problems of inequality, judgment, stigma, competition for scarce resources, finding ways to put other people at a disadvantage. As P T Barnum said: “A sucker is born every minute.” Finding ways to pray upon human beings is the business of many. I try to help people learn how to take better care of themselves in a civilization which does much to disguise hostility, greed and hatred. As Sun Tzu, the great and revered Chinese warrior said; his strength lay not in great skill with weapons. No, Sun Tzu was a great liar. Lies were the method of disarming his enemies. Lies enabled him to remove the wealth from his enemies, subdue their defenses and take everything he wanted from them. He lived in, what, 800BC. He is widely read today. And new ways of delivering lies have been developed with our technologies. This is a time of great danger. We must learn to discern the truth, to seek the truth and to speak our truth to others. The interventions I use in psychotherapy derive from the syntax of language. Remember, how you pronounce the words of English predicts your class unerringly. For anyone in earshot. Get curious, don’t know so much. Learn what is going on from other people who earn your trust by actions as well as words. Begin to try to understand what is going on beneath the surface. Avoid programming broadcasts that were expensive to deliver to the public. Study the science of implicit cognition. For example, go to the website Project Implicit. Learn about your own implicitly held bias.

  5. Ibin at 2:01 pm

    Debra, is there no fraternity of common decent thinking and respect of the “public”among law enforcement any more? Your law enforcement experience, your family of law enforcement should be recognized by the police. You did not even state that many of your family were in law enforcement, but you had a fraternal order of police sticker or insignia visible! Where is the police state of mind going.? Some, most of us RESPECT “law and order” but they, the police are NOT judges, they are there to “protect and serve” with RESPECT to ALL. There IS a misunderstanding among the “normal”, pain free with exception to minor aches and pains that we all had before pain so severe happened that it is beyond our bodies ability to manage. Whats next from CDC( (corrupt decadents center)? NO ONE, in their right “pattern of thinking” wishes, wants to be chained to ANY thing, beyond control. We all know that every…..single,,,,human being in a state of life time pain, beyond each individuals’ tolerable level WILL seek a pain management method and if medication IS the last resource to free the mind from pain, intolerable pain, anyone, everyone will seek pain relief unfortunately one way or the other. I am sorry, to see what I see, as moral decay. I volunteered to be a firefighter for 14 year in my community.. No “pay”, just the feeling of the fact that I was helping those…..who needed help. I don’t know where this “emotion” of helping has gone.

  6. Sheryl M Donnell at 12:28 pm

    I also beg you to please file a formal complaint. Unless you do, this kind of behavior continues and others may end up with Di’s merely because we cannot walk straight lines, I can’t not because of meds but CRPS. We need you.

  7. Frances Kramer at 9:13 am

    I am so sorry that you were put through this stressful and unnecessary ordeal. I agree with the comments made by “Pain Patient” previously. Please file a written report and submit your story to every news outlet. We have been unfairly discriminated against and held responsible for the behaviors of the rotten apples in the barrel. Educating the public (including physicians) and the police, highway patrol, etc. may be one thing that helps our cause. Thank you for sharing your well written story. ((((hugs)))) for strength!

  8. Occupying Chronic Pain at 9:02 am

    “Do not sit down and do not accept this behavior if this happens to you.”

    Good advice, Katie! Did you take it by filing a complaint?

    Anti-discrimination laws/rules/regs/policies and complaint processes exist for a reason and we can’t assume the sergeant did counseling the officer or that the officer will listen/learn.

    If you didn’t follow through with the complaint process, if there’s a next time there’ll be no record of your negative encounter which could document a pattern of abuse with this officer.

    If we don’t follow thru and file complaints, we almost guarantee there’ll be a next time and given the horrible and sometimes fatal end results of persons with disabilities in their encounters with police, you might save someone’s life by filing a complaint.

  9. JoDawn at 8:53 am

    Oh, my heavens!!
    I hope writing about this experience has helped you, as it has helped everyone by having this discussion.
    You were treated cruely and unfairly. ((((((Hug)))))))

    Since you are in a large city (our town has a population of 800. Personally I think they count the animals, too) maybe you could get someone to speak to some of the departments regarding how chronic pain patients should be treated.
    Stay safe & God bless!

  10. Lisa Hess at 8:17 am

    Hi Katey, I feel for you deeply as the same thing happened to me on September 8. I was side swiped by an F250 and I drive a small car. He cut me off of the right lane and pushed me into an exit lane. The damage to my car was over $3K and barely a scratch at his bumper level. The officer that arrived on the scene was from Russia and was very nasty to me. He could also see my cane in the front seat but made no mention of it. The accident damage pushed something up underneath so my driver’s side door wouldn’t open. When I opened the window he didn’t ask if I was okay, just asked for my credentials. I gave it all to him. I’ve got a destroyed back and suffer from constant muscle spasms that no one would want and I had to climb over the center console and out the passenger side door so I could see the damage. After seeing it, all I remember is walking in circles mumbling and crying. The driver of the truck barely spoke English so they called their boss who was there before the cop was and he’s the one who spoke with the officer. Living in chronic pain and a destroyed spine, I won’t ever know if anything happened from that accident since I was already in pain and I was in shock. A guy happened to stop when he saw my car on the side of the ramp and asked me if I was okay. He was an EMS on his way to work. I said I don’t know because I live in chronic pain. I was leaving for a week’s vacation the next day and had just finished a two year battle of medical bills between Medicare and my no fault insurance from another accident in 2015 (I again, was hit from the back at a stop sign) so I wasn’t about to go to a hospital. When he asked me if i take medication for the chronic pain I put my hand in front of my mouth so no one could read my lips and said that I take Morphine but never said when I took it last. He kept insisting I allow the EMTs to come, just to take my vitals and that “being on that medication could interfere with my judgement while driving.” I kept telling him my driving judgement was just fine. The cop was so nasty to me, the EMS guy went to speak to him and when he came back to me I asked him if he mentioned to the cop about my medication and he said he wasn’t allowed to and I told him he better not have or I’ll sue him. EMTs came, took my blood pressure and I saw how low it was and it’s never gone low like that before (that’s how I knew I was in shock). They kept insisting I go to the hospital, but I wasn’t about to deal with Medicare again, so I said nope, not going I live maybe 3 miles from where the accident occurred I wanted to go home. Then the cop comes out, says that it was my fault cause the guy had the “left arrow” and I made a right on red turn at the light. I told the cop that the accident was not at the light that I was already driving on the highway (110 yards from the light). The driver said I went into his lane on the left. I didn’t hit him. He came into the right lane from the left at some point but was not there when I went onto the highway, it was empty. I must have told the cop this 10 times, but he wouldn’t listen. After 20 minutes the cop finally came out of his car and that’s when he asked me if I was okay. Then he asked me if I was on medication that day. I said yes, and he asked what and I told him antidepressants. He asked me if I took anything else and I said, yes. What? Flexural. I know he had no idea what that was. But because the cop wouldn’t listen that I was the one run off the road not the other guy that I had anxiety my entire vacation because I had a feeling the report was going to show the accident was my fault. The Monday after I got back, first thing I did was get a copy of the accident report, and I was right, he put it was my fault. Not only did I write a retraction on the report so my insurance can go after the other insurance to pay for damages, but I put in a grievance against the cop. Unfortunately, I’m sure nothing will get done about him since Internal Affairs kicked it back to his sergeant. I’m not a fan, nor is any woman in this township where I live, for our police force.

  11. Sherry at 8:07 am

    People think if you don’t look sick or in pain, you must feel fine! Not so, I have severely suffered constant burning pain day and night for many many years! If you don’t live this life, you have no idea what torture is like! Sorry to everyone who have been treated so unfairly! I know what it is like! Even my family don’t understand!

  12. M.Billeaudeaux at 7:53 am

    I am very sorry for your incident. We are prejudged, discriminated against, and gossiped about because of a physical diagnosis. I have had others at work once talk about a certain medication I took behind my back in a very disgusting way. I was appalled when I heard. I was humiliated and I was discriminated against due to something I could not control despite being my personal business and no one else’s. Each one of us has probably dealt with similar situations. All I can say is hold your head high, for you are the better person. In hind site, I should have made a complaint or filed suit against them for making false statements making my job difficult.

  13. Pain patient at 7:08 am

    I am sorry this happened to you. Please file a formal complaint. And submit the story to every major news outlet you can. Currently, the disabled and patients in pain suffer the consequences of others’ discriminatory and criminal behavior. Let those who act reprehensibly suffer the consequences of their actions.

  14. Debra at 6:58 am

    Very well written. The story does not surprise me unfortunately. I know that everyone here is suffering. Katelyn’s story of what she went through was awful.

    I am 65, widowed for 10 years. My Husband, Father, two brothers-in law and my cousin were all police officers. I myself spent 10 years working in the police records bureau. It was not until I moved to Florida that I myself had issues with Sheriffs Deputies and police officers. I know by probably saying this I certainly sound old but the world and yes our country is not the same. I was treated horribly during a traffic stop. I never said my late husband was a police officer but had a FOP (fraternal order of police) shield was visible in the car. I feel I never said anything disrespectful but I tried to make an appointment with the a Sheriff. I was told he was out of the country. A few days later a Sheriffs deputy came to my door. He had rank, don’t know exactly what but it was high rank. I was gracious, he already knew my story because I had told the Sheriffs secretary, she however never told me he was coming. I rented a house in a gated community where unless you call the guard house to tell them a particular person was coming they did not get in if they call and you don’t answer the phone. Police however is a different matter they are just let in. I do understand that but it was not an emergency and I was not under arrest. Again, different world now.

    I realize I’m going on and on, it was a very short visit however because when I asked him to sit on a love seat across from the sofa I was sitting on, he refused.
    He was tall and very stern, I had to look up pretty high to look at him. He knew I was from a police officer family, I asked him again, can you please sit down across from me, again he refused.

    I politely asked him to leave and cried my eyes out. Police officers were my life, personally and professionally.

    That was ten years ago and I am still not over it. I never remarried by choice but had the love of Spike and now Jake, my beloved dogs.

    I have a son and he fortunately was able to go to college. It’s a hard job being a cop, I do understand that. Stories heard over the course of the first 55 years of my life from my Father, my Husband, what I saw and read in the police department as a civilian. My son is not a police officer.

    I know that the country changed when police officers, firemen were able to live in different towns. I’m not saying they did not care, they did, they were my Heros.

    They are still Heros but reality is there are people who treat you good and the ones that are so much less that treat you badly.

    Katelyn, try to think about the good, especially when you are hurting.

  15. Ibin at 4:23 am

    Pretty outrageous! I would probably NOT handle the situation….as well. I am tired of putting forth so much effort with enduring so much pain, into be accepted. as not seeking the “high”. That feeling has not been a factor for 20 years. When seeking pain relief and using opioid medication, “authority” will, is, going to automatically ass- ume that the person is some how “under the influence”. .I am sorry to see people, patients treated this way

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