A few years ago, I was driving home from my teaching job at an elementary school in the Bronx, on my way to pick up my 3-year-old son and wind down for the evening.

I saw sirens flashing in my rearview mirror.
This was not the first time I’d been pulled over by the cops, nor would it be my last. It is something one never gets used to, and every time it happens your heart skips a beat.

You feel guilty even though you didn’t do anything wrong.
I remember the officers approaching the vehicle and telling me I hadn’t properly used a turn signal, and I remember them taking my license and insurance.

I waited for what seemed like forever with increasing anxiety in every moment.
When the cops returned, they asked me to step out of the car, turn around and put my hands behind my back. I don’t remember asking why or if they just told me that my insurance was suspended.

I knew this wasn’t true, but I didn’t dare open my mouth.
I was taken to the local police precinct and put in a cage not much bigger than a bathroom, with two other people, one bench and one toilet.

While one person gets to occupy the bench, the other two are forced onto the filthy floor.
When you are locked in a cage, you are suddenly no longer human. You’re an animal.

Your spirit shifts into survival mode.
I spent what must have been a few hours in one cell before being transferred via paddy wagon to another cell. I was handcuffed and placed in the back of a dark van behind a cage.

You lose your bearing because you don’t quite know where you are or where you’re going.
After spending another few hours in the second cell, I was released without seeing a judge.

No explanation. No apology. No car either, as it was impounded.

I had to borrow money just to get it back the next day.
I was grateful to be free and get home to my son and my mother, who was watching him.

We didn’t speak much about the incident because I was just happy to be home.
The year before, I was arrested and accused of stealing my own car because I parked somewhere illegally.

My son got to see his daddy arrested by the police.

Once again, I recall being detained for hours before being released without charge.
The only way police departments are going to change is by shrinking their function.

Don’t give them funding to harass people like me. Don’t give them funding to drive through protest crowds like madmen.

Invest in services that actually keep people safe. Then things will change.
You can follow @JamaalBowmanNY.
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