In a recent article posted on the Washington Post's website entitled, "I'm a cop. If you don't want to get hurt, don't challenge me", former Los Angeles Police Department (the same local jurisdiction that housed the infamous Rampart Division and the scandal) officer Sunil Dutta offered a police officer's perspective on how to deal with police, likely in light of the magnifiying glass being placed on local law enforcement due to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.
Mr. Dutta had this to say:
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?
Because he's also attempting to appeal to the reasonable senses of ordinary citizens, he also offers some seemingly contradictory advice:
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.
To his credit, Mr. Dutta believes that police should be wearing on-person cameras and have dash-cams as well at all times. Let me say quickly, that while I have a sincere distrust for the police, I recognize that their job isn't an easy one. You really don't know who you're walking up on during a traffic stop. Everybody's tensions are high when the police are involved. They are the very definition of a necessary evil, but they are necessary. I can't imagine how stressful it must be at times to be a police officer because nearly all situations can be a powder keg.
With that being said, fuck that.
This all comes down to: if you allow me to do my job properly, I will do my job properly. This is pure and utter bullshit. How many people have been harassed by police or been accused of antagonizing the police for asking simply, "what did I do?" This article ALSO ignores the fact that the tension between police and the citizenry is often created by the police. (See Ferguson, Missouri) Police KNOW they can get away with anything because 9 times out of 10 they do. If I was able to operate with that type of impunity, I'd probably be a raging jackass too. I'd think that I had the freedom to enact "justice" in whatever means I needed because ultimately, my job afforded me the ability to do so. And I'd ALSO feel like if people didn't listen to me that they were immediately disrespecting my job and antagonizing me.
I recognize that there are good cops out there. Hell, some of them have let me slide when I was clearly doing shit that I should have received a ticket for, etc. All cops aren't bad people. But people aren't pissed at the individuals, its the system. It's the institution that is fraught with considerable examples of lawlessness. Shit, we SAW the police beat the living hell out of Rodney King and the officers were ACQUITTED of all charges by the local jurisdiction. Even the damn President at the time, President George H.W. Bush was shocked at the outcome. In no way, shape, or form should that type of behavior and action be condoned, but they were acquitted. Only in the federal suit were two found guilty. And the damn judge in the case only felt certain blows were excessive. Come on.
It's hard for me to read a police officer's words where he implies that police would all just do their job (and a good job) if we let them. I've been pulled over and been disrespected by police officers and I did comply. I once got followed for three miles, pulled over, had at least three more squad cars show up because "cars had been stolen in the area" and when it was made CLEAR that I was indeed not a car thief but driving to pick up my daughter, as opposed to saying, "sorry for your trouble" or anything that expressed that I'd been erroneously inconvenienced, I was told, "you should leave now." What kind of shit is that? And I'm not suppposed to feel some kind of way? I've seen friends get cuffed because they were asking for answers.
The worst thing is, we all know that the best way to deal with a police officer is to keep everything short and sweet. We all know this. We're taught this, especially as people of color. I want my interactions to be as quick and uneventful as possible. But police officers are people too. And they are not all good at their jobs. It is painfully obvious that many are on their own power trips. We've seen videos. We've heard stories. We've experienced it. Police, and law enforcement in general, really do not like providing information that you want, such as "Officer, could you tell me why I'm being detained?". It's their little way of maintaining control. I don't know why I was pulled over or why you're at my door right now nor are you being clear as to why I'm even dealing with you. Yet somehow, I'm not allowed to be human when I'm dealing with a police officer who is being obtuse for no reason?
This one particular line stood out to me:
We are still learning what transpired between Officer Darren Wilson and Brown, but in most cases it’s less ambiguous — and officers are rarely at fault.
Rarely? Shit, you let the courts tell it, cops are only EVER at fault when the court of public opinion requires somebody to be held accountable. A police officer can kill me and its presumed he's justified. Thank god for video or Eric Garner's story would have been swept under the rug because again, officers are rarely at fault.
Honestly, it hurts reading that because I know thats really how law enforcement views all of its interactions. It's a fact. It means that behind those closed doors, even the police that other cops know are rogue or terrible at their job are still going to receive the benefit of the doubt from the higher ups because you can't show weakness or that your officers aren't always doing their job the right way. Cops fuck up. But its our fault and we pay the price. And by we, I mean all of us. Of any stripe. .
All cops aren't bad, but justifying the actions of police by telling the people that they're the reasons why any police-related incident goes awry is the most non-sensical shit I've heard in a very long time.
So, yeah. Fuck the police.