This story is a couple of months old, and I wish I knew how it ended. A couple of street preachers named Robert Parker and Don Karns (if you google a bit you'll find that they go around the world doing this) were preaching in a New Jersey train station in late June when they were approached by a couple of hostile police officers. One of them, Kathleen Shanahan, was definitely female, and the other was named "Sandy," so I'm just guessing that that was a woman as well.
It seems that for several years Parker and Karns have been unknowingly breaking a rule that says that you have to have a special permit and stand in a special zone in order to preach, leaflet, or engage in other types of advocacy speech to passersby in the New Jersey transit system. This rule has never been enforced on them before, and I infer that no one has told them about it before.
Eventually, after the street preachers filmed the police (which angered the police, even though the preachers stopped recording upon request), after Parker asked, "What law am I breaking?" and after Karns refused to provide ID, the two street preachers were arrested and charged with defiant trespass and two counts of obstruction for recording with a cell phone and declining to provide identification. Their court date was set for July 10, but I haven't been able to find out what happened.
I'll try to force myself to assume for the sake of the argument that Officers Kathleen and Sandy are just ardent sticklers for the rules, that the hostility had nothing to do with the religious nature of the speech, and that they would have enforced these rules on anyone they happened to come upon in the station, including members of PETA or the Occupy movement. In this, they appear to be different from a fellow officer who wished Parker and Karns a nice day two weeks previously. Still, Officer Kathleen and Officer Sandy could, as far as I can tell, have informed Parker and Karns of the rule in a friendly manner and told them how they could go about obtaining the needed permit. They could have then asked them to move along for the nonce, accompanying the request with a friendly, "Have a nice day." At that point, if Parker and Karns had refused to move along, there might (if the representation of the rule is correct) have been grounds for taking sterner measures.
But it doesn't sound like that was how it went. For one thing, Kathy and Sandy were really ticked off by the fact that Karns wouldn't show them ID. But even more, Kathy got the vapors over the fact that a) Parker had a backpack and b) the two men were trying to film them with a cell phone. She found this positively terrifying, threatening behavior and felt the need to express her fear:
Parker and Karns attempted to record the encounter with their cell phones, but were ordered to turn them off, which they did.
“[Sergeant Shanahan] started repeatedly saying, ‘Put the phone down; put the phone down,’” Karns recounted. “You guys are big guys, and I’m just a little officer. You know how scary it is when you have a camera in your hand. How do I know you’re not terrorists? I have no way of knowing that’s not a bomb.”
Karns said that Shanahan explained that she had just been to a class last week which showed cell phones being used as weapons, and informed the men that it was against the law for them to film her. She later told Parker that she also had concerns about his backpack, which was searched for train tickets after it was confiscated by police.
Don't get me wrong. Male police officers can behave very badly as well. (All the officers involved in the arrests of Christians in Dearborn, which I've discussed at length, were male.) But I imagine I won't be the only one who is moved to a mixture of disgust and amusement at Officer Kathy's childish and exaggeratedly feminine approach to police work. What, exactly, was her goal in saying these things to Parker and Karns? If they really were Christianist terrorists (which evidently she thought plausible), would they be moved to pity by her "little ol' me" speech? If they were just what they appeared to be--street preachers who didn't know they needed a permit--why slander them by implying that they are a threat? Why, in that case, even feel threatened by their filming the encounter?
Officer Kathy is neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. She's not bold enough to deal with potential terrorists without whining about how she's "just a little officer" and how "scary" their behavior is. And she's not sensible enough to treat harmless citizens in a civilized manner. I can just imagine how useful it would be if Abdul were about to blow up Officer Kathy for her to tell him how "scary" his cell phone is. Yeah, that'll work. Keep it up, Kathy. You're making the citizens of New Jersey a lot safer.
Meanwhile, just to show that all those stereotypes about vindictiveness are incorrect...
As they were separated, Parker states that he overheard the officers disagreeing over which cell to place him in.
“There’s a pervert in there; we’ll put him in that one,” he heard Shanahan say.
Oh, the joys of women in the police force.