What Does Police Stalking Look Like?

by Reidar Visser

Some aspects of police stalking conceptually belong to the same class of mistreatment as Chinese water torture. In Chinese water torture, the pain of each little water drop falling on the body  of the immobilised victim (usually on the forehead) is probably so small that any doctor would dismiss it as insignificant. And yet the total effect of those water drops is sufficiently strong that the method has been used for centuries as punishment and for interrogation purposes.

Can this be torture?

Before Chinese water torture was generally known, victims who claimed to have suffered unbearable pain after having experienced light water drops falling on their forehead would probably be ridiculed or even dismissed as lunatics. Real torture victims, it would be claimed, should be able to point to severe physical injuries as a result of their mistreatment.

Today, police stalking victims face the same predicament. If someone said that they had been mistreated by a police officer who assaulted them, knocked them to the ground, and violently kicked them, that would be seen as a perfectly believable account of all-too common police brutality. But if you say a plainclothes police officer followed after you with his car, then revved the noisy engine,  and finally parked and blinked with the lights in an intimidating way, people will look askance and think you are mad.

Unsuprisingly then, when asked for photographic evidence of the mistreatment, police stalking victims are rarely able to come up with anything terribly spectacular. Sure, you could perhaps publish some pictures of police officers and repeat offenders in the general population who collaborate with them. But the only result of that would be to violate the presumption of innocence, precisely the kind of violation that most police stalking victims have themselves already experienced.

The whole point here is that the concept of police stalking simulates normal behaviour. Many events in a police stalking operation, at least those that take place in public, are situated on a continuum of everyday behaviour and rarely reach the extremes where they would impress others than the victims, who have seen it day after day for months and years. Only in those cases where the police gets a little to eager to prove its point does police stalking stray from the parameters of normal behaviour into the realm of abnormalities that perhaps would raise eyebrows even among members of the general population.  It is in that limited window I’ll make an attempt to show some of what is going on in the operation against me. I am certainly not offering these images in the belief they can ever produce a verdict against anyone. Most are poor quality stills from videos, and they are deliberately chosen since the identity of the persons is not easy to establish. For now, I leave the high quality material for the courts. The goal in this post is simply to raise awareness about untraditional policing methods in the hope that ultimately, hard evidence will materialise.

It is logical to start with the use of uniformed police. They are part and parcel of a police stalking operation, but they are often used sparingly. The reason is precisely that because they are uniformed and may be subject to requirements that they identify themselves, they are in some ways the most vulnerable element in a police stalking operation. However, uniformed police has to be there, since the whole point of the operation is to communicate the police’s ownership of the process.

When I was in Maasdam in the Netherlands between January and July this year, I was typically met by two police cars every day during my  walks. Remember that I lived in a tiny place with no more than 2,000 inhabitants. Remember also that I was only near the highway for some 10 to 15 minutes every day. I can document an above-the-average frequency of encounters with uniformed police in this area. Still, I am perfectly aware that these observations are not going to impress anyone.

When police cars drive through affluent neighbourhoods in broad daylight without any specific mission, maybe more people might agree this is somewhat out of the ordinary. But perhaps only when uniformed police officers on bikes enter a desolete mountainbike trail a late Friday evening would outsiders agree that there is something odd going on.

Similar continuums from the almost-normal to the slightly unusual can be seen for many of the other components of a police stalking operations. Citizen stalkers will often be unremarkable. Additionally, often those divergences that can be helpful towards understanding what is going on are context-specific and therefore not immediately intelligible to a wider audience. For example, in the Dutch countryside, walking on foot away from specific walkways is seen as highly abnormal. If the Dutch are not in their cars, they cycle. If they walk, they do it as sport and put on prodigious amounts of specialised clothing to the point where they look as if they are about to embark on a North Pole expedition. Accordingly, an old man sweating along a dirt road in the middle of summer is next to paranormal, even though few outside the Dutch context may recognise this. Perhaps the best examples in this category are people who break the traffic laws and other regulations with the consent of the police. Examples include motorcyles on walkpaths or cycling paths, electrical cars in cycle paths, and dogs in areas where they are specifically prohibited (dogs were deliberately used in large numbers by Dutch police in the stalking operation against me).

The use of light and noise in the public sphere, two crucial elements of police stalking, calls for particular attention.

With regard noise and its “normality continuum”, most cars participating in police stalking operations may do perfectly normal things (apart from the fact that the same ones stalk you day after day). Accordingly, picture proof is once more of limited value. Often, the only slight exception from a normal traffic situation will be the disproportionate presence of noisy cars. They typically include modified or tuned car (“tuner cars”) – specifically lowered cars, cars with exhaust system modifications, tuned engines that make more noise, impossible rear spoilers etc. Sometimes, it is only the overuse use of heavy motorcycles like Harley Davidsons as well as fourwheelers (ATVs) that can divulge that something is not quite right. Evacuated vehicles left with motor and lights on are also common.

A similar continuum regarding the use of light can be found. A car blinking continuously with all lights could be “normal” when parked in the middle of the street.  It could be described as somewhat zealous if parked on the pavement alongside other cars. Perhaps even sceptics would find it odd to see a car with lights blinking in a dead-end alleyway in broad daylight, or cars with high beams or fog light turned on in perfect sunshine. Remember that a victim of a police stalking operation may meet these phenomena every 500 meters or so. Remember also that the use of headlamps is not mandatory in the Netherlands during daylight hours, so overuse of high beams etc. is unusual.

A peculiar component of police stalking is street theatre. Theatre is used for a variety of reasons in police stalking operations, and with differing degrees of sophistication and allegorical logic.

Not all of this is easily  penetrable. Ever since I was in the United States, blind people or people with mobility issues have been used by police in the operation in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population. These poor people have already been victimised by the police through their deliberate inclusion in the operation and the apparent intention  on the part of the police to communicate a sense of stigma; accordingly, it would make no sense to document their participation in more detail.

By far the most frequent theatrical element in the operation against me relates to my supposed original sin: Photography. Every day, wherever I walk, little photography scenes have been staged. Typically, these are people that stand and wait until I appear, at which point they invariably pull out a camera and begin taking pictures. Again there is a continuum here, with different degrees of eyebrow-raising behaviour. There are people who just happen to take photos whenever I approach. There are people with very elaborate cameras and advanced techniques. And there are people who jump out of a car exactly when I come and then take apparently meaningless pictures of the empty sky, sometimes with cameras pointing directly into the sun. When they ask me to take a picture with their camera, the parallel to medieval stocks is almost perfect.

It can be useful to revert to the image of the water drop that forms the weapon of Chinese water torture. The bigger picture is this:

Water torture

In my case, I cannot provide that picture yet. Just imagine what it would have been like for that victim to try to document his ordeal! Remember also that stalking in the public sphere is perhaps not more than 10% of many police stalking operations, with noise and other harassment directed at private dwellings accounting for most of the police activity. But one day, that bigger picture will emerge.