[Disclaimer: Before I will say what I want to say, I have to note that the event I will be telling about has happened in the recent past. The reason for not sharing the exact date is to protect the identity of the police officers in question. This share is with the permission of these police officers, especially as the intention is to educate not only the general society, but also about making any police officer reading this aware of the implications of their actions and the need to not put themselves above the general society, but on equal lines and in the shoes of the general society. Empathy is a more important part of a police officer’s job than following the law in the strictest ways. Hopefully what I am about to tell will help some to further their understanding.]
As shared previously on this blog, my daughter Kasia and I both suffer from the condition known as non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder. Although there will be a full blog post about the condition (for seeing people) in the nearby future, the most basic explanation I can give already about the condition is that those suffering from this condition don’t have an internal biological clock that keeps to 24 hours like is the case for “normal” people. Hence in the case of both Kasia and I, the times when we are awake and sleep move around and we will have periods when we sleep during the daytime and are awake during the night. And, yes, it does cause a lot of trouble, especially for Kasia who misses school due to her condition quite a lot.
Now, I care for my daughter’s mental and physical well-being. Hence that during the moments she is awake at night, I will currently stay awake to keep her company, help her with school work, and at times take her for a walk outside during the night. We live in a relatively safe neighborhood, so it’s possible to do so during the night as long as my children go with either my wife or me. The reason why my wife doesn’t do so currently is that she’s pregnant. Well, and the fact that in terms of gender norms, we are quite the opposite of what people expect.
So, this is what we did recently as well. It was about 3 at night when we got detained by 2 police officers. Instead of understanding that we were no threat, both police officers had one of their hands firmly placed on (what looked like) their guns while walking up to us. Kasia was visibly scared and was squeezing my hand very tightly while half hiding behind me. Still, the police officers didn’t take notice of this. As they started their story, their hands didn’t move, becoming something that worried me as well.
According to their explanation, they detained us for being suspicious, due to walking around at the hour that we did. However, instead of leaving it at that, they also started accusing me of other things, which is what would become the greatest problem of the detainment. Due to my selective mutism, I didn’t actually say a word during their tirade. The accusations included having a relationship with a minor and kidnapping. The lack of thought of Kasia being my daughter is not truly that surprising, due to my age, which is something I will admit.
Eventually, they started getting annoyed by me not speaking and threatened to arrest us both and put us in jail. What they expected me to say is still a mystery, seeing as anyone who cares about their lives would choose to stay silent when 2 police officers basically with guns in their hands are speaking down on you like you’re a little child who just stole a piece of candy in a store. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was too afraid to speak, I would still have not said anything.
However, this was exactly the moment Kasia snapped and overcame this fear. As she explained in a really angry voice (which I actually never heard before), they were completely wrong about everything. She explained that I was her dad and that we walked in the night due to her sleeping during the day and being awake at night, meaning there was no other option for her. And that while I am young, I do take proper care of her and do everything to protect her from any form of bad. This is unlike her biological parents who did bad acts to both herself and her younger biological brother (Aleks). Kasia stated that she feels safe and is safe.
Furthermore, she told them about both her own and my conditions. The fact that she has felt for so long different and weird over her non-24 diagnosis. And that having someone she loves that has the same condition as she has is so relieving to her. Having rare conditions in today’s society is very stigmatizing. Worsened by the people who incorrectly claim to have these conditions and incorrectly explain these conditions to others. It’s like telling you’re autistic and 99% of the people instantly expecting you to be a way you don’t factually have to be while being autistic, as happened to Aleks, as Kasia explained to the police officers.
However, as Kasia spoke out, the worst is what the police officers were doing right at that moment, while she started to point at their hands. When she said this, there was visible shock on the faces of the police officers, who finally moved their hands away from their guns.
In the words of Kasia, there’s no way police can expect people to respond when they’re too scared to talk with the police properly. For most people, including her, the police are scary. And this is worsened by the guns, tasers, and all those other equipment that the police not only use but very openly display. There’s a fear of saying anything wrong and getting shot, tased, or in any other way hurt. And this isn’t an unjust fear, as the stories about this are often shown on TV. Police brutality is not a rare thing, unlike it should be, caused by the police too often not regarding themselves as civil servants, but as the highest power in a country. Factually speaking, this should be the court. And it’s therefore not without a reason that most of society hates the police. As, generally, the police make almost no effort to take away the fears we have. For one, as Kasia clearly stated, they could have their guns less visible. Having a gun so open even invites danger to the police themselves, as it’s always possible for a criminal to take their gun and use it against them…
When Kasia was done speaking out, the police officers were both silent, stunned by Kasia’s words. They even let her speak without any interruption whatsoever. The silence was broken by the words: please, forgive us. (Although in Polish, obviously…)
Translation of music video by our webmaster]
As the police officers explained in return: The police are often not educated well enough about issues involving health and situations like adoption. This is even though the city of Szczecin, where we live and they work, is attempting to be a discrimination-free city. People, including the police, are often not aware of their own discrimination. And, sadly, this can negatively impact both their demeanor and actions.
In the case of children and young people, or those assumed to be of these groups, there is an expectation for them to not be outside during nighttime. Henceforth, when they are, there’s the instant belief that they are street children, runaways, loiterers, or in any other way not complying with the law and endangering themselves, and possibly others.
When there’s a notable age difference in these cases, there’s the instant thought of grooming. Especially when the one of older age is male. The belief that girls are more in danger of grooming and trafficking has in recent years been invalidated. Both girls and boys are in danger of possible grooming and trafficking. And it’s therefore essential for all children to be educated about the risks in our society. As well as law enforcement, like the police, to look objectively and keep both males and females to account for their actions. Gender discrimination towards both males and females is wrong and unjust.
Furthermore, the police are quick to assume resistance when someone doesn’t respond. It’s undeniable that the right to silence interferes with both the police’s work and the general society’s safety. The move toward an inability for self-incriminating statements to be admissible in court would be a far better law than the current right to silence that is there in Polish and international criminal law. While the police are often educated about the condition of autism spectrum disorders, although undeniably not well enough. It’s important to note that they aren’t about the, often regarded, more severe conditions like selective mutism, which could fully disable a person’s ability to speak with the police. Although this condition is far more common in children, as it’s officially treatable, it does have to be noted that there are cases when it’s left untreated and is still there in adults, as has been the case for me.
Besides, people who often purposefully test the limitations and capabilities of the police, so-called “auditors”, have moved the police to quicker condemnation when someone chooses to resist and calls themselves upon their right to silence. While they most often don’t do anything wrong legally, they have caused the police to become less tolerant of the general society, by this being in part responsible for the unjust interactions, like the one I tell about in this blog post. Many do more harm than good. Although, there are exceptions that do choose to only use openly available content for their education and don’t harass the police.
As for the comments about police equipment, the officers admitted that they don’t disagree with what Kasia said. The equipment police have is supposed to be for their protection. However, any proper police officer hopes to never have to use any of it, especially not their gun. It’s good to be aware of the fact that the police are just humans as well, caring about their safety and being able to be scared. It’s undeniable at the same time that the open display of the equipment makes people scared, especially children and young people. This is detrimental to the relationship police should be having with the general society, and it is a problem without a proper solution. The fact is that the country we live in, Poland, is far safer than most of the world, being even among the safest in the EU according to the European Union’s data. (Available here: https://data.europa.eu/en) But this doesn’t change the problem of the safety of the police. It’s a difficult problem that is often politicized, regardless of extending far beyond politics. There’s no one-sided answer possible at this.
After apologizing, explaining some more things, and writing down some details, the police let us leave, without citing us, and go home. After only a few steps away from the police, Kasia broke down in tears due to the extreme emotional stress this all put her under. Close enough for the police officers to listen in, she explained that she hates the bigoted ways of society. In her words, the lacking respect for other people is the greatest wrong in the world. And there wouldn’t be as many problems if people would live and let live. Undeniably, I fully agree with her. After calming Kasia down, we finally walked home, while at the same time noticing that the police were talking at the spot we had left them.
[Source: Policja Warszawa (Police Warsaw, Poland)]
Ślubowanie policjantów / Oath of the Polish Police
A few hours later, when the police officers were off-duty, the doorbell rang and they were standing in front of our door. Explaining they were not there to cause trouble but to talk, we let them in.
As we got into conversation, me now being more relaxed and having less fear and therefore actually speaking as well, they told us that they had explained to their superior that the incident was completely their fault and they were open to any punishment. But had stated they did wonder if there wasn’t a lesson to be learned for not only them but all police.
When a 12-year-old like Kasia is too afraid of the police to even ask them for help, it leads to a lot of possible problems. For one, it makes children, youth, and young adults less likely to report any possible crime. But also makes them more likely to commit crimes as a way to show opposition. It’s the known 2 sides of what fear is possible to lead to. And when it comes to the Polish Police, it’s further made worse by them being heavily militarized, with this further increasing both fear and opposition of the police. It’s not without reason armies remain more opposed among children, young people, and young adults compared to adults and the elderly. (And why most people involved in the army are claimed to have some form of sociopathy/psychopathy.)
As one of the officers admitted, he even has a child with a mental health condition himself. So the fact that they blatantly disregarded the possibility of this being the case was one more mistake on their side. Furthermore, as the officer admitted, he would have had great difficulties if he had heard his child would have ever been treated in the way he dealt with us. It was wrong in so many ways and shows the need for police to be properly educated in psychology. As the police usually work in duos, it’s, in general, a good question why there isn’t a need or possibility for one to have studied psychology and the other law. But this is more a question that needs to be redirected to governments, especially the Polish Ministry of Education and Science.
[Source: West Pomeranian Police Department in Szczecin]
But the fact even the police need more education about the law is the greatest problem of all. It’s not just Poland where this applies, as most countries have complicated their laws so much, unnecessarily, that it’s unacceptable to ask the citizens to know them either. In fact, while asking lawyers, attorneys and judges, even they admit to generally having a need to check up on laws. They’re the ones who basically should know them by heart as it’s their job, but they don’t.
It’s similar to me having a legal team behind me to run this blog. As I have to deal with many laws I don’t have a clue about, like copyright law. And in the case of this blog, I have to check up on every country’s laws independently. As, for clarity, there’s no international copyright law. And, also, often Americans break the copyright law by not understanding exactly this. Their system of “fair use” isn’t there in most countries’ copyright laws. So, stating that when something is not protected by American copyright but of another country, doesn’t make you able to avoid getting sued and paying up the license costs eventually, as well as possible court costs. International laws would be so much better for the entire world.
After several other subjects, it was about time the police officers would go when one last surprising event would happen. As the officers stood up to go, telling they would prefer to stay in friendly contact like this. They walked out of the room and walked into our sons Aleks and Ilya. Aleks, to my surprise, said “Witam, panie —-“(Hello, mister —-). One of the officers froze, with us all staring at him. I asked Aleks how he knew him. And Aleks casually responded that he was the dad of his boyfriend. (Aleks is bisexual and has a boyfriend.) The reason I didn’t know was that I only ever met Aleks’ boyfriend’s mother, not his dad who was always at work according to both the boyfriend and his mother. The officer greeted Aleks back and admitted to us that he would have a lot of problems when he would get home, having almost arrested his son’s boyfriend’s father and sister. However, the other officer was quick to respond that this shows exactly the reason why the police need more casual interactions with society and spend time with their family.
The officer did ask if I was really Ukrainian of origin, as he had heard this of his son. I explained that I was, but moved to Poland in 2020, not due to the ongoing war. And that I am actually of partial Polish ancestry, with some of my biological family living in Bytom near Katowice. Ilya had walked onward and was talking in Russian with his eldest brother Vlad in our living room by that moment. Which caused the officer to comment that it also explained why he heard Ilya and Vlad talking in another language. Aleks joked that they were talking about him, which was in fact true as Ilya was worried about what was going on, although Aleks doesn’t actually speak a word of Russian and didn’t know that. Both officers laughed and admitted that they would understand if it was true.
Eventually, the officers finally left and I explained to my sons what had happened. Aleks was quick to comment that the officer that is his boyfriend’s dad wasn’t a bad man as far as he had heard of his boyfriend. And as Vlad wisely commented, “the police are often not bad people, but they lose their control in difficult situations. It is very human but not righteous.”
And that is how it all ended. The contact between our family and the police officers in question has been maintained since, with them occasionally coming over to actually learn more about my family’s conditions, as well as just friendly contacts. All in all, it did end well. However, a lot of this has to do with the fact that Kasia spoke up. And I don’t know how this would have ended if she hadn’t. The reality is that very likely we would have been arrested just for me not being able to speak out and being outside during nighttime. In general, it is not only a need for the police to understand not only criminals are outside at night, but also for the general society. Mental health conditions like non-24-hour sleep-wake disorder are not widely known, and it would help a lot if they actually were.