Dealing with Law Enforcement
Should You Be Adversarial or Respectful?
BRYCE ON COPS
- Should you be adversarial or respectful?
Click for AUDIO VERSION.
I recently found myself embroiled in a passionate argument about law enforcement. Someone had posted a video on social media showing a man in his car eluding police allegedly after a road rage incident. He refused to stop until he pulled into his driveway at home. The fact he failed to acknowledge police commands and argued loudly when he was caught agitated the police who forced him to the ground and put him in handcuffs. A few of the viewers commented how outrageous the police acted and they would have done likewise in resisting arrest. In contrast, I made the remark the suspect only had himself to blame; had he done as he was instructed, I doubt it would have turned into an ugly episode.
This resulted in a firestorm of comments against me for taking the side of the police. Frankly, I was surprised by the push back. In my defense, I described how I was taught to drive years ago by my father, who said if the police pulled me over, to keep my hands on the steering wheel, do not argue, and treat the officer with respect saying, "Yes Sir" and "No sir." As the police see a lot of people during the day, they know nothing about me and will naturally approach cautiously. As such, it wouldn't pay for me to pose a threat to them by being a smart ass.
I found this advice to be invaluable over the years. By acting this way, I was able to talk my way out of a ticket on more than one occasion. Each time, as the officer saw I wasn't a threat and was heeding his instructions respectfully, I was let go with a simple warning.
After explaining this on the posting, I was accused of being a wimp and should have stood my ground and taken the officers to task. One gentleman claimed it is necessary to resist the police, simply because they are looking for an excuse to impound your vehicle. I have never heard of this before, so I have no way of knowing if this is true or not.
The way I see it, law enforcement has a difficult job, and they meet a lot of strange people in their daily routine, some not exactly playing with a full deck of cards. My philosophy in dealing with the law is to demonstrate that I am not some kook who poses a threat to them. When this is established, I find it is relatively easy to have a rational conversation with them where I can explain my side of the story. Regardless of how I tried to rationalize it, others in the group thought I had behaved cowardly. The only thing I know, I probably get fewer tickets than they do.
In a way, I am reminded of the classic comedy routine by Chris Rock titled, "How To Not Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police."
What bothered me about this little incident was the total disregard for law enforcement, portraying them as disreputable ogres who are to be fought with, not respected. I recognize not all law enforcement officers are perfect, but to have people openly provoke a confrontation doesn't make sense to me. Frankly, this adversarial relationship is disturbing as I believe law enforcement serves a vital function for the community and should be appreciated for their efforts. Then again, maybe this is just another sign of our changing times. I grew up in an era when we were taught the police were our friends, but I have a feeling this is a lesson no longer taught. It disturbs me when I hear 29 officers were killed in the line of duty thus far this year (compared to 44 for all of 2017). Frankly, I'm surprised how patient and professional most officers conduct themselves in light of the animosity against them.
Next time you are stopped by law enforcement, keep your cool and act respectful, they are only trying to do their job and not get killed in the process.
P.S. - Perhaps the most imaginative way I've heard of someone talking their way out of a traffic ticket was the father of a friend of mine in Chicago years ago. The father, named Al, was a baker and typically worked the late shift. One night, as he was driving home in the wee hours of the morning, he was tired and anxious to get to bed. Consequently, he was driving a bit too fast.
As he passed a billboard, he spied a patrol car hidden behind it, undoubtedly running radar. Seeing the car pull out from behind the billboard, he knew he was going to be ticketed. Thinking fast, he pulled his car over to the side of the road, popped his hood open, jumped out and began jiggling his carburetor (Yes, this was before electronic ignitions). As expected, the patrol car pulled up behind Al's car and the officer stepped out. Al looked up at him and said, "Oh, thank God you're here. Something's wrong with the carburetor and the car was running away on me. Boy, did it scare the heck out of me."
The officer looked at Al, then the carburetor, and gave him a warning to get the car fixed before he got into an accident. Yes, he let him go. Brilliant, just brilliant, and a great story he told for many years thereafter.
Keep the Faith!
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Copyright © 2018 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.