Are you one of the people living in the United States who have never been arrested? If yes, your parents must be proud. I, on the other hand, stand among a third of Americans who have been put in police custody before the age of 23.
I didn’t want to get arrested – it really messed up the flow of my day and cost me a lot of money. It was embarrassing too. I had family members reading my name in the local police blotter and calling my mom. I had to use the little money I had to pay a lawyer, and dig deeper to pay fines. I had to go to court mandated probation, community service and therapy for what seemed like forever.
The shit thing is, I feel like I never should have been stopped in the first place.
I didn’t hurt anyone and I certainly wasn’t looking for trouble but, boy, when it was over did I have a lot to say about cops. I am, however, happy to report that I’ve never been shot, beaten, tased, or wrestled to ground by any members of law enforcement and I’m going to tell you how I did it.
Before I was 21 I had been arrested three times (once when I was a juvenile) and in my first year of having a driver’s license I had 12 points and had to take a mandatory driving class. I am, what you might call, an expert in police interaction. In the last year or so it has become fashionable to monitor out-of-context cell phone videos, and use shady eyewitness claims to immediately jump to the conclusion that police are overstepping their boundaries.
It seems we need to get back to basics to ensure our citizens don’t get killed by the police.
Here’s how you do it.
Do whatever the fuck the cop says to do. As my brother Christopher put it:
“Getting Arrested is high stakes Simon Says for Adults.”
See that? You were practicing all through grade school and didn’t even know it. It’s easy, if a guy (or gal) in a uniform with a badge who drives a vehicle with a crazy lights tells you to do something, DO IT. Officers technically have the right to detain you for a traffic ticket, so if you are stopped, you are being detained.
They will ask you questions. Answer them anyway you like, buy if they TELL you to do something, DO IT. That may include (but are not limited to):
- – Sit
All of these commands have been developed over time and experience so the cop doesn’t get hurt AND doesn’t have to hurt you. It doesn’t matter if he’s mean. It doesn’t matter if you’re right.
COMPLY. It won’t just make the process and your day go faster, but you won’t get hurt. And if they are being abusive, when it’s said and done, you can sue them. That’s right. If you are the victim of legit abuse, you might get a payday, but in the meantime be patient and COMPLY.
Imagine having to put up with this shit?
UNDERSTAND WHAT A COP IS
First, understand what a cop isn’t. They’re not a judge. They’re not your congressman. They’re not a gang member. They’re definitely not your mom.
Cops don’t make the laws, nor do they have to agree with the laws. There are good cops and bad cops. Some abuse their power, some don’t.
Some of the employees are good, nice people and some are bad, miserable people. It’s almost like cops are human. Yes, they watch the clock, just like you. They criticize and act like they are above the people they have to deal with, just like you, gossip just like you, and I’d imagine in many cases don’t want to be dealing with the horseshit…just like you.
Police don’t want to deal with you anymore than you want to deal with them, but it’s how they get paid. I’m sure you have opinions of some states’ marijuana laws, I’m sure the cop arresting does too but none of that matters because he didn’t make the laws you hate, and he doesn’t get to pick and choose the ones that he needs to enforce. It’s just a job, a dangerous, thankless job where every now and again you get to smell charred flesh from a house fire, or see a dead infant, or have a maniac try to bite you.
What’s the worst day you can have at your job?
They are a low level government official who has to show up every time someone is having a shitty day. They are lied to by everyone. They have multiple confrontations an hour. And a lot of people want to see them dead.
Make their lives easier, chances are they’re not out to get you and if they are, you sue them.
LEARN THE REASONS POLICE USE FORCE
This may be news to some of you, but the police can and do use force in certain circumstances. I’ve looked it up, it’s true. Turns out that’s why they carry guns, nightsticks, peppers spray, and tasers.
You wouldn’t know it from your “Yoga Dance Therapy” major cousin’s twitter posts, but police are in fact empowered to use force when necessary. Whether or not that force was necessary is left to the courts.
People tend to ask the wrong questions when there’s a case of police using force which results in injury or even death of a suspect. People ask “was he armed?”, “was the gun registered?” and “was he stopped for a good reason?” or even “what was the race of the cop?”.
There is one relevant question to ask when police action results in harm to a suspect:
“Was the officer within their right to use force?”
Absolutely nothing else matters.
Not why they were stopped, not their color, and not the age of the suspect (if you’ve been to the hood, you know underage kids are killing too). You must know when an officer is within their right to use force:
- – If you’re assaulting someone
- – If you’re sticking your hands in your pockets when being told not to
- – If you’re sticking your hands behind your back when being told not to
- – If you’re making sudden movements with your hands
This is an incomplete list. The point is that we empower police officers to use force in some cases because there is a ton of shit people out there who would absolutely hurt me, you, a cop, and Gandhi if the mood struck them.
Before a suspect is searched it is unknown if they have a knife, gun, or a fucking U.F.O. on them and if you aren’t complying, or are exhibiting the signs police are trained to spot of a person about to pull a gun, you might get shot.
Don’t get shot.
Police are trained only to use their service weapon for lethal purposes, and they always aim for center mass. There is no “shoot to wound”.
KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN
Here’s what happens when you get arrested:
They will cuff you. They will take you to the station where you will be searched. Your picture will be taken and so will your fingerprints. They’ll ask you questions about yourself. They will also have you sign a piece of paper acknowledging your rights. You know, the ones from all the cop movies. Basically they are:
- – Shut Your Mouth
You don’t have to say anything to the police. Don’t incriminate yourself. Don’t say anything you don’t have to and don’t admit to anything they can’t prove. Plead the 5th.
Let your lawyer do the talking for you.
Tell your lawyer your story and let him find where they were wrong. At the scene of an incident, telling a cop you won’t go with them, telling them not to touch you, and trying to leave has literally never worked before. If you do that, you’re just escalating a situation that may have resulted in a ticket…or nothing.
The best advice I can give is know the law.
I live in New Jersey where fireworks are illegal. Every year we get our hands on some illegal fireworks and our block put on a show. If you think about it, it’s the most American thing to do on the 4th of July: Defying authority and celebrating freedom from tyranny all while flaunting an unjust law while hurting no one to the delight of everyone.
We know those fireworks are illegal. We also know if a cop sees us, we’re in trouble. Know the laws and their consequences. Obey them the best you can and don’t take risks with the law or you may end up with a hefty expense and damn inconvenient situation.
Black Lives Matter has become a flavor of the month hashtag/social justice movement for lazy activists who want to be outraged, but don’t necessarily want to look up (or in most cases wait for) the facts behind police interaction with different communities.
The police aren’t separate from us, they are us. Anytime you’re speaking to a uniformed officer, just know you’re speaking to a guy at work. Be polite and respectful. If you can’t, then at worst be silent and comply. It’s not a cop’s job to make you feel good, but it costs you nothing to make the police feel as though their community is behind them.
The wisest thing I ever heard a judge say was:
“If you are in the courtroom facing charges today, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, you just have a matter you need to clear up with the court”.