Thursday, August 21, 2014

Why You Shouldn't Confront Police Directly

I have on a number of occasions pointed out here at EPJ that is does not make sense to confront the government directly, that of course goes doubly for street police (SEE: How to Deal with Police).

If you need more convincing, I think the perspective of Sunil Dutta, a professor of homeland security at Colorado Tech University and an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department for 17 years, reflects the thinking of most coppers. He wrote the following in a WaPo op-ed:
Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
You really need to keep in mind that cops are armed agents of the government and they will escalate  until their orders are complied with.

Dutta, also, provides some sound advice for dealing with the police when you have been stopped:
Having worked as an internal affairs investigator, I know that some officers engage in unprofessional and arrogant behavior; sometimes they behave like criminals themselves...And you don’t have to submit to an illegal stop or search. You can refuse consent to search your car or home if there’s no warrant (though a pat-down is still allowed if there is cause for suspicion). Always ask the officer whether you are under detention or are free to leave. Unless the officer has a legal basis to stop and search you, he or she must let you go. Finally, cops are legally prohibited from using excessive force: The moment a suspect submits and stops resisting, the officers must cease use of force.

But if you believe (or know) that the cop stopping you is violating your rights or is acting like a bully, I guarantee that the situation will not become easier if you show your anger and resentment. Worse, initiating a physical confrontation is a sure recipe for getting hurt. Police are legally permitted to use deadly force when they assess a serious threat to their or someone else’s life. Save your anger for later, and channel it appropriately. Do what the officer tells you to and it will end safely for both of you. We have a justice system in which you are presumed innocent; if a cop can do his or her job unmolested, that system can run its course. Later, you can ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated. Feel free to sue the police! Just don’t challenge a cop during a stop.

I'm not so sure that the criminal justice system will in most cases work to your advantage, when it is you against a cop, but it does make sense to take the battle off the street where your odds of winning are extremely low.


(ht Jay Stephenson)

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