To this day I feel visceral fear when I think of the unknown Columbus, Ohio police officer who forced his way into my home when I was a graduate teaching associate at Ohio State University. I remember was that it was late in the evening in 1994, and I was grading my students’ paper assignments at my desk in my small basement studio apartment located just a few blocks off of the Ohio State University campus. I had a huge stack of their papers to go through from the several classes that I taught, a hundred maybe two hundred student papers. I heard a rough knock at my door, the kind of knock only people with habitual authority make, a knock such as a policeman would make. Through my door peephole I saw a tight-faced, uniformed officer of the Columbus, Ohio Police Department, so I immediately opened the door. He did not identify himself, he was not wearing a police badge, he was sweaty and rumpled, he did not state his purpose, he brushed past me into my apartment, and I scrambled to get out of his way. By force of his much greater physical size and the strength of his authority as a police officer he broke into and entered my home. From his overall tense, silently angry bearing, I would never have given him permission to enter my home if he had given me any choice. From his look I immediately saw that he was up to no good, so I spoke to him in as steady and professional voice as I could manage over my alarm, “I teach at Ohio State University, see here are my student papers. I have a lot of work left to do tonight.” And I darted behind my desk to put it between us. My desk filled a quarter of my tiny room so that did not get me very far away from the police officer. He did not answer me when I asked why he was in my apartment, he did not respond when I asked what was going on. He never looked in my face but he never changed his expression of grim intent upon me, tracking me as I moved to avoid him. I feared he would assault me. I kept repeating whatever I could think of to indicate to him that I was someone of merit, someone whom he should not harm, someone he could not harm without consequences. He quickly decided to leave and strode out of my home. He had not said one word to me but I was left in absolute fear. My hands probably trembled as I locked the door after him but I knew that I would have to report him. He might come back if I did not report him, and/or he might do this to other students in the campus community.
The next day I went downtown to the Columbus, Ohio Police headquarters, 120 Marconi Boulevard, Columbus, Ohio 43215, to make a police report. No one wanted to talk to me after they heard what one of their own had done in my home, and they all told me that it was not possible to make a police report about a police officer. I insisted on talking to someone to report what had happened to me. I suggested that the Chief of Police might be the appropriate person, if no one else would take my report. After a few hours of high anxiety, of being refused by multiple police officers, I was admitted into a small, airless room with a large, highly annoyed police officer who said he was an assistant to the Chief of Police. He said the Chief of Police was not available and would never be available to speak with me because the Chief of Police would not deal with this kind of issue. (This was thirty years ago and I wonder if things are truly different now.) I stated the above specifics of what had happened to me the night before, and I added that I was as certain as one could be that the Columbus, Ohio police officer who forced his way into my home had intended to assault me. The assistant to the Chief of Police was contemptuous. He told me that my apartment had been under surveillance, a police operative in my neighbor had noted me. WHAT!?! I could not imagine what police might have been surveilling at my home as I did not stay up later than my classwork required (which was actually quite late sometimes), I did not drink or do drugs (I had no inclination to do so and certainly could not have carried my heavy class load if I had), and I did not have a boyfriend during those years (which would have been nice but again I could not have carried my heavy class load if I had.) Later, I realized that the curtains on the small window of my basement apartment left a small gap which made it easy to “surveil” inside my home. I was a vulnerable woman. It appeared that the police informant had made a habit of looking in my window and the rogue police officer decided to take it further. The assistant to the Chief of Police salaciously told me that “black men” had been seen coming in and other of my apartment, and the way he said it made it sound like a crime. Well, I had very few visitors when I lived on campus, again, I could not have carried my heavy class load if I had. But my academic advisor in the Department of Sociology was a dark Chinese man who had sold me his used computer and set it up for me on my desk in my home. Perhaps this was who the police informant had seen. My colleagues in the Department of Sociology were of all the hues in the world and some of them visited or worked with me in my home. By the way, the police informant was later pointed out to me and he was as dark as night. More significantly he had the disheveled, dissolute look of the drugged and homeless. No one’s disguise is that good. Apparently the police were using information garnered by the neighborhood peeping tom. Ultimately, at the end of this frightening, ludicrous episode, the Columbus, Ohio Police Department REFUSED to take a police report.
After this incident I was badly frightened and very insecure in my own home, but I was half-way through my Master’s Degree program, and I had no choice but to continue on living, studying, and preparing for the classes that I taught there. If I had had the resources I would have moved immediately, but I did not, which was probably why I was targeted in the first place. Eventually I moved with an expenditure of time, money, and effort I could ill afford.
I still feel vaguely insecure in my own home. The fearful ghost of this episode still haunts me. The police whom I rely upon to protect me, had revealed that some would harm me, and others would let them, if they had the chance.
Caption: Ghost Replica Of Columbus Ohio Police Badge
by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018