Sunday, August 24, 2014

A cop speaks out

One veteran police officer has a piece of advice for dealing with the police in a recent Washington Post column: cooperate.  Sunil Dutta writes:

cops are not murderers. No officer goes out in the field wishing to shoot anyone, armed or unarmed. And while they’re unlikely to defend it quite as loudly during a time of national angst like this one, people who work in law enforcement know they are legally vested with the authority to detain suspects — an authority that must sometimes be enforced. Regardless of what happened with Mike Brown, in the overwhelming majority of cases it is not the cops, but the people they stop, who can prevent detentions from turning into tragedies.

Working the street, I can’t even count how many times I withstood curses, screaming tantrums, aggressive and menacing encroachments on my safety zone, and outright challenges to my authority. In the vast majority of such encounters, I was able to peacefully resolve the situation without using force. Cops deploy their training and their intuition creatively, and I wielded every trick in my arsenal, including verbal judo, humor, warnings and ostentatious displays of the lethal (and nonlethal) hardware resting in my duty belt. One time, for instance, my partner and I faced a belligerent man who had doused his car with gallons of gas and was about to create a firebomb at a busy mall filled with holiday shoppers. The potential for serious harm to the bystanders would have justified deadly force. Instead, I distracted him with a hook about his family and loved ones, and he disengaged without hurting anyone. Every day cops show similar restraint and resolve incidents that could easily end up in serious injuries or worse.

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?...

I know it is scary for people to be stopped by cops. I also understand the anger and frustration if people believe they have been stopped unjustly or without a reason. I am aware that corrupt and bully cops exist. When it comes to police misconduct, I side with the ACLU: Having worked as an internal affairs investigator, I know that some officers engage in unprofessional and arrogant behavior; sometimes they behave like criminals themselves. I also believe every cop should use a body camera to record interactions with the community at all times. Every police car should have a video recorder. (This will prevent a situation like Mike Brown’s shooting, about which conflicting and self-serving statements allow people to believe what they want.) 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.....

An average person cannot comprehend the risks and has no true understanding of a cop’s job. Hollywood and television stereotypes of the police are cartoons in which fearless super cops singlehandedly defeat dozens of thugs, shooting guns out of their hands. Real life is different. An average cop is always concerned with his or her safety and tries to control every encounter. That is how we are trained. While most citizens are courteous and law abiding, the subset of people we generally interact with everyday are not the genteel types. You don’t know what is in my mind when I stop you. Did I just get a radio call of a shooting moments ago? Am I looking for a murderer or an armed fugitive? For you, this might be a “simple” traffic stop, for me each traffic stop is a potentially dangerous encounter. Show some empathy for an officer’s safety concerns. Don’t make our job more difficult than it already is.... Rest of column.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

the writer is a good cop. a smart street cop.

I am a lawyer. I have been both a prosecutor and defense counsel at various times in my 30+ years. The article is written in a wishful, naïve, out of date tone. the quality of street cops has rotted over the past 30 years, while the expertise of investigators and crime scene folks has dramatically increased their talents and abilities. Guess who gets paid better? Street cops can't support a family on $30,000 [I know they make more, but I'm in Mississippi, so that's my frame of reference] and that's a morale killer that no chief can cure, no mayor can answer for, and that taxpayers will not pay more for better service. I've seen plenty of thugs dressed up in police uniform.

Anonymous said...

'If you don't want to get shot....just do what I tell you'. That's the typical mentality I've come to expect from cops. I've never had a positive experience with one. I believe they are all a bunch of unintelligent corrupt hotheads that aren't qualified to tie their own shoes. Much less parade around with a gun and a badge pretending to be god.

Everyone should be familiar with Plumner vs State and Housh vs People. If one of these hotheads tries to illegally arrest you, you have the right to resist with lethal force.

Anonymous said...

7:27pm

Mister Sovereign Citizen:

You might want to actually READ the case rather than all of the BS "It's on the internet so it's true" misinformation that's out there.

You have recourse if you're subjected to an illegal arrest, but you are not judge, jury, and executioner just as no rogue cop has that authority.

You need to get your facts straight yourself before you start offering advice.

Anonymous said...

What ended up happening to the JPD officer that was caught on video trying to kill the drunk redneck last year? I assume he's still 'serving and protecting'?

Anonymous said...

@7:27--Guess what. I've never had a bad experience with a police officer. Now, put that in your blunt and smoke it! GROW UP.

Anonymous said...

6:43pm +1

Mornin' Occifer... said...

@7:27. Citation, please, for your statement that one can resist with lethal force if he thinks he is being illegally detained. You'll have to look deep in the shitter for a citation for that bullshit.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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