on police

Ph-ph-ag-baltimore-200-assist-jpg-20150505Mark Greif at n+1:

A SURPRISE OF BEING AROUND POLICE is how much they touch you. They touch you without consent and in both seemingly friendly and unfriendly ways. The friendly touch is the first surprise. A policeman allowing protesters to cross the street touches you on the arm or back as you cross. Face to face, police will put a hand on your shoulder, from the front, intimate as a dog putting his paw up. It is unnerving. Women say male police know very well how to touch, even in public sight, in ways that are professional and neutral, and also in ways that are humiliating and sexual, with no demonstrable distinction dividing the two. The police know, and you know. Like a reversal of electric polarity from protective to hostile, this conversion of mood does not only follow the policeman’s individual initiative. It traces something like an atmospheric charge among police in groups, their silent experience of a phenomenon, their habitual tactics in response.

In confrontations on a curb (when you stay on your sidewalk, because the public street is forbidden except to police), they may press lightly on your collarbone, “holding you back,” just measuring out the distance with their arms. You can even be held up in this way, if you relax.

more here.