As much as I like to imagine myself and my fellow officers are all above average people with superior intelligence, ethics, and maturity, it sadly isn’t so. We have bad habits, brain farts, and emotional outbursts like anyone else. The problem is, we also have the weapons, legal authority, and often the social clout to make things really bad for the target of these less than ideal moments.
It’s a Crime to Resist the Police
Contrary to what you might expect, even if an officer is making an unlawful search or seizure, if you physically resist on officer, you will not only place your self in danger, but you will be committing a crime. No joke, the law does not permit citizens to physically resist searches and seizures by officers, regardless of legality. This may sound unjust, but it is intended to prevent a citizen rightfully upset about an unlawful search or seizure from resisting officers and escalating a simple mistake, or abuse of power, which could be dealt with later, into a deadly encounter, where the citizen or officer are seriously injured or killed.
Who Cares if You’re Right if You’re Dead?
An officer facing physical resistance will fear for his safety, and will escalate his use of force 100% of the time. Every single police officer’s top priority is going home at the end of his shift, and we all assume the worst when someone starts physically resisting us. Never forget that in every fight an officer finds himself in, there is always a gun nearby. The gun on his hip. Every officer’s worst nightmare is having a fight end-up with a suspect grabbing his gun and killing him, and just think of how desperate or crazy someone must seem to be if they’re fighting with a police officer?
Arguing Only Makes Matters Worse
If you believe that an officer is making an illegal search, seizure, or charging you with a crime you didn’t commit, do your best to contain your anger, and calmly request that a supervisor be called to the scene to address your concern. Do NOT demand it. Just politely request it ONCE. This is the smartest and safest way to address the situation. If the officer refuses to call a supervisor to the scene, do your best to bite your tongue and wait and until the opportunity arises to speak with another officer, or if you are arrested a jailer. Ideally, try not to repeat the request in the presence of the original officer, as he may attempt to retaliate, by adding additional charges, which may in fact be legitimate, and may hold up in court, even if he was an a-hole. Also, understand that such complaints are most commonly made by people without a leg to stand on, so don’t be surprised if most people blow off your request.
Get it on Camera
If you are in the vicinity of a patrol car when the incident is unfolding, ask the officer if there is a video camera in his car, and request that the search or seizure be moved in front of the patrol car, to ensure that it is captured on video. If this is possible, but the officer refuses, this will simply be more evidence in your favor later on.
If additional officers arrived during the incident, ask each officer to call for a supervisor, and to move you in front of a video camera. The more officers you are addressed about your belief, the more likely that one of them will question the original officer about the legitimacy of his actions. Again, try not to ask in front of the original officer.
Likewise, if other citizens are around, don’t encourage them to interfere with the officers, but ask them to video the incident if possible, and to call 911 and request a supervisor to the location. Again, the more people there are documenting and demanding a supervisor to the location, the more evidence there will be later on when you address your grievances in court. Don’t shout and make a scene. Just ask them calmly. Your demeanor will add to the apparent legitimacy of your requests.
Focus on Winning the War, Not the Battle
If you believe that an officer is doing something wrong, resist the urge to physically resist or argue with the officer, because it will usually only make matters worse for you. The law is structured in the citizens favor over the police, and if an officer is found to be in error and what he does, the charges he makes in error will be dropped. If the officer was not acting in good faith, and outside the rule of his department, then the officer will be vulnerable to a civil lawsuit. If the officer was acting within the rules of his department, and it is the department’s rules that were to blame, then this could mean big money for you, the injured party. Generally speaking, police departments will be quick to settle out of court, because they want bad PR and lawsuits kept to a minimum.
What kind of bad experiences have you had with police? How did you handle them? What was the outcome?