I want to start this post off by saying this is a very complicated and deep rooted issue. I’m not an expert on law, I live in Canada, where race police issues and social equality in general are quite different from the US (where I think it’s fair to say most of this stuff happens) but there are still similarities.
I just watched a video on my facebook feed which a woman recorded of her self. The video involves her being pulled over and officers requesting her licence. It ends in her cars window being broken and her being arrested. Now that description sounds like an officer abusing power but please, if you’re able, watch the video your self and see (because even if I describe everything that leads to that, I’m sure it would still come off as me being bias). I have to say that I think in this case the police were 100% correct and justified in their actions, and this woman was simply trying to get attention and/or a lawsuit out of the situation. It’s sad to say, but I think that this kind of thing is happening more and more, especially with the convenience of being able to record pretty much anywhere and any time.
Don’t get me wrong. There are absolutely times when police officers have abused their power and position with either selfish, racist, sexist or otherwise predigest intent. When that is the case it is in no way, ever acceptable and should be punished to the fullest extent possible. There are also times when an officer has a legitimate reason to arrest someone, but goes way too far. Even if the person being arrested has done wrong (and I do think they should be prosecuted regardless and held responsible for their own actions), that should not excuse an officer of the law acting irresponsibly or with malice. In that case both parties should be punished.
However, I have seen many videos online of people like this woman purposely baiting police officers into a confrontation. In this video, and in most of the ones I’ve seen, the officers actually do a pretty good job of remaining calm, giving opportunity for the person to comply, and only resorting to force as a last resort. There are a couple where the officers lose their tempers, which they should not, but they are the rarities and somewhat understandable. It’s human nature, when someone purposely tries to provoke you, most people will react.
Like I said in my opening, I’m not an expert on law, but I can still tell you that being able to recite off court cases and Latin legal phrases, is not the same as knowing the law and your rights. I don’t know where exactly this particular video is from and obviously couldn’t tell you it’s specific laws in this specific situation. I can however tell you for sure that in Ontario, ANY time you are pulled over by police, regardless of the reason, you are legally obligated to provide your licence, proof of insurance and vehicle ownership. I can only assume that this would be a pretty standard requirement across at least Canada and the US, if not anywhere you drive. If that is the case then right away this woman is committing an offence, regardless of her brake lights.
Of course this is one example, one specific situation. Each one is different and should be judged accordingly. My point is this. Show the police respect. The large majority of them are out there risking safety every shift because they want to keep people safe. Many of them stay very involved with the community and are more than willing to show leniency if you show that you’re willing to work with them on an issue. Sometimes they will have to stop and look into an innocent person for a legitimate reason (they may match a description, been a witness to something or been seen in the area of a crime). If this is the case they’re doing it in order to find the truth, keep people safe, and arrest the proper person. The large majority of law enforcement officers do not have a personal agenda. They are responsible for sometimes split second decisions under pressure and they are only human. Yes, they have training for those situations and hopefully will handle them well, but the less they have to deal with the better they can asses and react to it. There are laws and procedures many people feel are against their rights, which they may be. However it isn’t the individual officer who decides those laws it’s the governments, so cut the police some slack and work with them, they are doing their jobs.
If there is a situation where you are being unfairly targeted, comply to the best of your ability. Don’t give that sorry excuse for an officer any reason to use extra force against you. They will either be forced to leave you alone, or show up in court with no argument as to why they went that far. You will have the moral high ground to have that scumbag thrown in jail. But most importantly, if you consider your self a supporter of the equal rights movement, if you hate seeing people in powerful position abuse their responsibility, if you want to make sure that every woman, every kid who is unfairly beaten by law enforcement get the justice they deserve, decry these morons baiting police and claiming abuse of power even though they committed a crime and resisted arrest. Rewarding them is only going to do two things. First, it could make police scared to do their jobs when they need to, resulting in a less safe community. Secondly it will encourage more people to make false or exaggerated claims, in turn destroying the integrity and public interest in actual police abuse cases.
Cooperate, show respect and have some self dignity. Chances are an officer will be happy to send you on your way, or at most issue a warning. Even if you do get in trouble, complying with the police’s request will keep it to a minimum. And next time you hear or see a claim like this, look into and think carefully about the entire situation, including things which may not have been shown on a video, then decide who you think is in the wrong.
I’d also like to give a sincere thank you to all of our law enforcement who work hard and put their safety on the line each day to help protect that of my self, my loved ones and everyone else. You’re often underappreciated but so vital to our daily lives.