Posted by Scott Tibbs at 4:00 AM (#)
Last week, I shared an article on Google Plus from a police officer advising readers on how to deal with police when you are stopped. Basically, it comes down to this: Be polite, be cooperative, and do not be belligerent.
Even if you feel the stop is unjustified, no good is going to come by being belligerent. If you are dealing with a jerk, the situation can escalate quickly and it will be much more unpleasant than it would otherwise have been. Even when dealing with good cops, acting belligerent and combative can needlessly escalate a situation and lead to violence, when it could have been handled easily and with a minimum of confrontation. We saw this in action in a high-profile drunk-driving arrest in downtown Bloomington a number of years ago.
On the other end, no harm can come by being polite and cooperative. A good cop will appreciate a good attitude and the stop can be handled quickly and with minimal disruption for both parties. Being polite and cooperative might not help when dealing with an authoritarian jerk, but it certainly cannot cause any harm. If the officer misbehaves, file a complaint. If that does not work, make noise publicly, after the fact. Lobby the mayor or local legislative body. In some cases, pro bono legal help might be available, such as from the American Civil Liberties Union or a state affiliate.
Obviously, nothing excuses police brutality, the abuse of authority, or violations of civil rights. Police officers who behave in such ways should be disciplined or fired, and in some cases criminally prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Police officers are human beings too, and are tempted by the same wickedness that lives in every human heart. We must aggressively hold abusive police accountable, and governments that employ such officers should face severe and draconian financial penalties as a deterrent. But a little politeness can go a long way.
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, Mike Newton said...
"Being polite and cooperative might not help when dealing with an authoritarian jerk, but it certainly cannot cause any harm. If the officer misbehaves, file a complaint. If that does not work, make noise publicly, after the fact."
That assumes you survive and haven't been jailed on trumped-up charges of "resisting," "assaulting an officer," etc. I've come to judge "good cops" by whether they report, restrain and arrest the bad ones. So far, the count stands near zero.
, Scott Tibbs said...
Not excusing bad cops. The point is that no harm can come by being polite and cooperative. You didn't bother disputing that point.
, Mike Newton said...
I thought the dispute was plain enough. A groveling attitude won't necessarily save you from arrest, assault, murder (or rape, in some cases) at the hands of rogue cops. We see them charged with sex crimes on a weekly basis, and countless shootings of unarmed "suspects" remain in dispute. Bystanders are assaulted and jailed for exercising their right to photograph or film "public servants" in action, and you must have seen the videos of cops beating and macing prisoners already handcuffed, sitting or lying on the ground while offering no resistance.
, Scott Tibbs said...
First, one can be polite and cooperative without groveling. There's a big difference between the two.
Second, I recognized there are bad cops, and said they should be prosecuted.
Being polite and cooperative can often avoid an unnecessary confrontation or escalation.