I flew to London for Spring Break with my family & upon returning to our home airport, I managed to get sucked into an absolutely ridiculous situation. My goodness.
I was traveling with my Asian stepdad, my Russian mother & grandmother and my half-Asian, half-Russian little sister & little brother. (I am ethnically full Russian) We landed at SAT after our flight from EWR & we made a beeline for the baggage claim. Staked out a bench in the back to let Babushka sit and relax and surrounded her with our carry-ons. Kids hung around her, as well. I went to the bathroom in Terminal B baggage claim & took a much-needed leak. Come out of the pisser & all heck breaks loose.
As I'm walking back to my family with all the relief of someone who really needed to go to the bathroom, an African-American SAT Airport Police officer comes up to me and begins grilling me. "Who's that guy?" as he pointed at my stepdad. "Who's that?" as he pointed at my little sister. I explained who they were in a calm but absolutely internally bewildered manner. He then asked me what phone I had and if he could see it. I told him it was an iPhone 6 & no, he couldn't see it. I don't give my phones to strangers, let alone cops. If he had the right to see it without my permission, he wouldn't have asked for permission.
A second SAT Airport officer (Latino) comes up and begins to explain the situation, in a somewhat low tone of voice. I'm partially deaf and wear hearing aids. Low tones of voice are not my friends. My automatic reaction is to step forward to hear someone better and then he said "Take a step back." in an equally low voice. So I didn't exactly fluster him, but his reaction was automatic. Geez, you can see my hearing aids, why didn't you just speak up louder in the first place? Sigh. Anyways, their Caucasian Sergeant comes up and I guess he saw my moving towards his officer to hear him better and interpreted that as a threat, so they handcuff me and take me over to their little interrogation room/office that's halfway between the two terminals' baggage claims. This is the first time I've ever been handcuffed outside of the bedroom, so it's kind of surreal.
It's here where I finally get an explanation. Someone had made a complaint of seeing "disturbing images" on my cell phone while I was on the plane & the complainant thought I was involved in human trafficking of my little sister, since we do not look alike. Relief washed over me as I finally understood just WHAT THE #&*( was going on and that it would soon be over.
So I had a few titty pics on my phone. Big deal. My friends are always sending them to me, "Hey, RussianTexan, isn't this Thai chick hot?! Whoa, check out the hooters on this Japanese porn star! Whoooooo!" It's just for giggles, something fun to while the time away sometimes. I don't delete these pics immediately, I don't have time, especially when I'm on a 1-week vacation in one of the most amazing cities in the world. So when I woke up all jet-laggy in the final hour of our flight from EWR to SAT, I decided to flip through my vacation pictures and warmly reminisce. I'd have 40 pictures of family vacation awesomeness followed by 2 or 3 images of naked, adult women. I'd focus on the family pictures and when a titty pic came up I'd just quickly scroll through so as not to offend anyone's sensibilities. After all, no one should be looking at my phone or anything, it's none of their business, right? *rolls eyes*
I'm brought into the interrogation room, patted down, asked what everything is. Tell them my wallet's in my left pants pocket, phone in right pants pocket, passports in inside jacket pocket, camera and can of gum in right jacket pocket, stuff like that. The handcuffs are taken off and I'm asked to take a seat. They look at the passports and start asking questions. "Who is this person to you"? "My grandmother." "Y'all are from Russia, huh?" with a tone that implied it's a hotbed of human trafficking activity and that we were involved. "This guy's Asian & this woman's Russian and they're married, huh?" Really annoying stuff like that. "Why are you nervous?" as they glanced at my right leg bouncing up and down. My leg bounces up and down all the time. It's bouncing right now as I type this. Doesn't mean I'm nervous in the least. That being said, you just handcuffed me in front of my FAMILY, my mom, my little brother and sister and carried me away into an interrogation room? And then have the gall to ask why I'm nervous? I know cops aren't <deleted>, but they have to be able to relate to people at least a LITTLE bit!
Cops are not your friends. If they make contact with you, they are doing their job: investigating crimes and punishing people for said crimes. I don't want to interact with cops. Ever. Victim or suspect, either way, something bad happened or was suspected to have happened. So yes, I'm a little nervous, with the nervousness increasing when you ask me "Why are you nervous?"
Anyways, I told them that they could cross-reference the passports and see that the port of entry stamps on every single passport matched by location and date. Isn't it more likely that matched stamps across a period of 5 years (the length of validity of the kids' passports) are indicative of a family rather than a human trafficking ring? "I don't have the qualifications to make that assessment, Sir." said the officer guarding me. I laughed on the inside.
Look, I get it. Cops need to investigate every single allegation that they come across. Human trafficking is a very real thing and sad to say, it is present in our very own home airports. I see tales of rescued girls every other week here in San Antonio. And yes, I guess it's better to investigate and be wrong than to not investigate at all and miss an opportunity to save someone. But anything heinous was not the case at all here. We were all a family that just wanted to go home and sleep.
Outside, unbeknownst to me, my parents are freaking out. My mom's calling all our attorney friends, calling the guy who was picking us up, an ex-US Army MP, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. She felt that handcuffs were uncalled for on me, that they needed a warrant to put handcuffs on me. I understood that was not the case, that they were investigating me on suspicion of human trafficking, but my mom isn't exactly schooled in the American legal system and her experience of law enforcement is, quite frankly, the system in the Soviet Union, not even modern-day Russia. All the news stories of people being tazed and shot by police officers in the USA aren't exactly helping her image of American cops, either.
The sergeant is talking to my parents, ascertains identities and manages to corroborate the information eventually. One of his underlings (the African-American officer) keeps asking me questions while we're back in the interrogation room. "What's your zip code? 78XXX or 78YYY?" It was glaringly obvious what they were doing, trying to trip me up in case I was a human trafficker who just memorized data earlier that day, but it was annoying as all hell. 78XXX was right and 78YYY was wrong and he absolutely had a tell: the left side of his lip curved upward as he said 78YYY. I'm deaf, not blind. Would've been funny if they weren't wasting my damn time.
Low tone-of-voice guy comes up and explains to me that the situation has been resolved and he'd fill out a report. Evidently they have to make a report of any and all contacts, even if no criminal activity was found. I really hope that report stays internal and isn't distributed to other law enforcement agencies, because I drive my little sister and her friends around a lot for school events as a volunteer and if I'm ever pulled over with six 13-year-old girls in my van and "detained at San Antonio International Airport on suspicion of human trafficking. No criminal activity found." popped up on the computer.
Wouldn't matter if no criminal activity was found! Perception is everything. On an aside, does anyone here know if that sort of document will remain internal or will it be shared with other law enforcement agencies? Not cool, man. Not cool at all.
They fill it out, return the family passports and I'm free to go. I thank low-tone-of-voice guy (with whom I had a pleasant conversation considering the circumstances) and the Sergeant and we depart, whereupon I have a whole lotta 'splainin' to do in the car! My mom eventually tells me that she had seen the African-American officer speaking to a man in Muslim garb as we walked through baggage claim. I finally remembered that he was sitting behind my stepdad. I was sitting next to my stepdad. So he saw some titty pics and like most idiots, has no idea how to tell the difference between Asian people and confused the 32G-breasted Japanese porn star Sakura Sena for my 13-year-old, half-Asian, half-Russian little sister. Oh, yeah, yeah, that's not a stretch at all. Great job shutting down an international human trafficking ring consisting of my family members, Sherlock Freaking Holmes. Gah.
We asked if he will be told that he was dead freaking wrong and that we were pissed for wasting our time, but the officers said they don't share that information and that while they take down informants' information, they don't tell them about cases unless there is an actual crime found and they need to come testify as witnesses. Of course, they didn't give us any of this genius' information. Made us miss SNL. ........ Oh, well. Like I said, better to investigate and be wrong than to fail to investigate and let something horrible slip through your fingers. I do have to say that the officers were polite and extremely professional, albeit a little clueless and very, very slow. Of course, that's merely my opinion, and I am not a law enforcement professional. Nor would I ever want to be.
Finally managed to get home just before midnight and slowly unpacking all our stuff. It was a damn good trip. Save for that final hour.
Anyone else had a situation like this sometime? Did I handle myself the right way? I tried to stay as calm yet alert as I could. Did the officers handle themselves correctly? Any breaches in procedure or unprofessional behavior that I missed? What did y'all think of this tale of woe and a missed SNL episode?