A California businesswoman gave a harrowing first-person account of her encounter with the Santa Monica, Calif., Police Department in the Washington Post, detailing how 19 officers arrived at her apartment after a white neighbor reported a possible burglary.
Fay Wells, the vice president of strategy at a California company, told of how she accidentally locked herself out of her apartment in early September while rushing out of the house. Upon returning home, she called a locksmith and got inside, no problem. Shortly after, however, she was greeted by two officers with guns drawn, demanding that she come outside.
Wells described how, although she told the cops that she didn't want them coming in, they entered anyway. It was then that she noticed the sheer number of officers: She counted 16. Later she learned that the Police Department had dispatched a total of 19 officers after the neighbor reported a burglary.
"It didn't matter that I told the cops I'd lived there for seven months, told them about the locksmith, offered to show a receipt for his services and my ID. It didn't matter that I went to Duke, that I have an MBA from Dartmouth, that I'm a vice president of strategy at a multinational corporation. It didn't matter that I've never had so much as a speeding ticket. It didn't matter that I calmly, continually asked them what was happening," Wells wrote in the Post.
"It also didn't matter that I didn't match the description of the person they were looking for—my neighbor described me as Hispanic when he called 911," she continued. "What mattered was that I was a woman of color trying to get into her apartment—in an almost entirely white apartment complex in a mostly white city—and a white man who lived in another building called the cops because he'd never seen me before."
When Wells questioned the officers about their conduct while investigating the call, she didn't get much of a response. When she insisted on being given names, a few officers pointedly ignored her request, she says.
As for the neighbor who reported the incident? When Wells confronted him, she was greeted with even more hostility.
"I introduced myself to the reporting neighbor and asked if he was aware of the gravity of his actions—the ocean of armed officers, my life in danger. He stuttered about never having seen me, before snippily asking if I knew my next-door neighbor. After confirming that I did and questioning him further, he angrily responded, 'I'm an attorney, so you can go f—k yourself,' and walked away," she wrote.
"I got no clear answers from the police that night and am still struggling to get them, despite multiple visits, calls and e-mails to the Santa Monica Police Department requesting the names of the officers, their badge numbers, the audio from my neighbor's call to 911 and the police report," Wells continued. "The sergeant didn't e-mail me the officers' names as he promised. I was told that the audio of the call requires a subpoena and that the small army of responders, guns drawn, hadn't merited an official report. I eventually received a list from the SMPD of 17 officers who came to my apartment that night, but the list does not include the names of two officers who handed me their business cards on the scene. I've filed an official complaint with internal affairs."
The businesswoman also described how the encounter left a lasting trauma, leaving her with sleeplessness mixed with horrible nightmares.
"The trauma of that night lingers. I can't un-see the guns, the dog, the officers forcing their way into my apartment, the small army waiting for me outside. Almost daily, I deal with sleeplessness, confusion, anger and fear. I'm frightened when I see large dogs now. I have nightmares of being beaten by white men as they call me the n-word. Every week, I see the man who called 911. He averts his eyes and ignores me," she wrote.
Read Wells' full story at the Washington Post.