It seems to be going around lately that a lot of interactions with Police officers are ending up in individuals getting themselves dead. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, etc. Two of those incidents mentioned went before a Grand Jury and it was found that the officers were not liable for the deaths of the individuals, and the third one will likely go the same way. Do we have an epidemic of overzealous police? Maybe. In all three encounters however, there is one common thread…
The individuals who got themselves offed by the police could have completely avoided it, and would still be here today, and their behavior is probably what got them killed.
Eric Garner’s interaction with the police was over selling loose cigarettes. (This could go into a long diatribe about taxes, but that’s for another blog to discuss.) Eric could have said, “okay” and gone peacefully with the officers, had his day in court, and said his piece there. Instead he decided that he was not going to cooperate with the police, and that led to the altercation that put him into a “choke hold” that ultimately ended his life.
Michael Brown was told by an officer to get out of the street. He could have said “yes sir,” moved to the sidewalk, and been on his merry way. He was going to have some interaction with the police anyways because he had just committed a robbery, and assaulted the store owner. Instead he chose a confrontation with a police officer that ended his life. I’m going to say he was resisting arrest just for consistency, even though it was much more than that.
Tamir Rice was witnessed aiming an AirSoft pistol at random people, and the police were called. It was discovered that the Airsoft Pistol had the orange safety tip removed. When the police arrived on the scene (not having been informed that it was reported to likely be a “toy” gun), the young Mr. Rice reached for his pistol and was shot by the responding officers.
Pictured below is an Airsoft S&W M&P pistol, and a Real S&W M&P pistol. Removing the orange safety tip makes the Airsoft pistol look identical to the real one. It is for this reason that I do not consider Airsoft pistols to be “toys” but rather training tools. They should be treated with the same respect as a real firearm, and will get you the same reaction from the police if you happen to yank one out in their presence unexpectedly.
The place to have your say in any interaction with the police, is not when they are speaking to you, arresting you, ticketing you, etc. The police are there to gather evidence and suspects. They do not decide your guilt or innocence. Resisting arrest, fighting with an officer, or generally being a dumbass in their presence is not going to have good end results for you.
I personally have had quite a few interactions with the police, and some were on completely idiotic charges. I just went along for the ride, because I knew I would have my day in court.
In the spring of 1993, when I was stationed at Ft. Bragg, there was precious little to do. About an hour away was a small town called Benson, that had turned into a small cruise strip. You would drive, at a very slow pace, up and down the main street, admiring the local “scenery” and would chance meeting a member of the opposite gender. I had a ’91 Suzuki Samurai, with a stock stereo in it, and was singing along to some song at the time, while the top on the Samurai was down. Officer Nelson Baird, who was standing in the street giving someone else a ticket yelled at me to pull over, and I was subsequently arrested for “creating a noise detrimental to life and health.” I could have pitched a fit with Officer Baird, but that would just add to my charges. Instead I went peacefully, and always answered “yes sir,” and “no sir” as my parents and the military had taught/trained me. Two and a half days later I had my day in court. The judge looked at the charge, and asked me “what does this mean, exactly?” “I played my radio too loud on Saturday night in Benson, Your Honor.” The judge facepalmed, looked at Officer Baird with a look that a parent gives a child when they’ve been caught with their hand in the cookie jar, apologized to me, sentenced me to time served, and sent me on my merry way. On my way out of the courthouse, two of the District Attorneys handed me a $50 each, and asked me not to hold it against the “great state of North Carolina.” No problem. Officer Baird was going to get a reprimand, and I was free to go. The army wasn’t exactly thrilled with what happened, and because I was “unavailable for duty” for a few days, I had my pay docked, but I didn’t face any disciplinary action from them. They understood, and I always carried myself with dignity and respect while a guest of the North Carolina Justice System. If a cop talks to you, throwing a fit is not the right reaction. Screaming “I have rights!” or “You can’t do this!” or “This is an illegal arrest!” is not going to win your case with the officer. Be polite, take the ride. You’ll have a time to have your say. Wait for it.
Are there overzealous cops? Probably. There are bad apples in just about any career path that exists. Are you going to convince them that you are being unjustly arrested, fined, ticketed, etc.? Nope. And if you resist, you just added that charge to something that could be as minor as spitting while standing on a sidewalk on a Sunday in Birmingham, Michigan. The police don’t write the laws, they just enforce them. If you don’t like the law, the officer is not the person to address that with. (They may not like the law either, but again, the law is not up to them.) Have your day in court, have your say in front a judge, and if you don’t like the law, then you need to talk to your local and state politicians. They are the ones who can change it.
I don’t have any sympathy for the individuals who have had bad interactions with the police lately. It seems that they all could have done something different and not been in the situations that got themselves killed. I’ve done some really stupid things in my life (particularly in my youth, while I was in the Army), and I have yet to be killed by a cop.