You Have The Right to…

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With all the unrest in Ferguson the last couple of weeks it does bring to question whether our police force is becoming a militarized organization with an unspoken agenda or it is limited to small pockets throughout the country. I think the unfortunate truth of the matter is our police force has become more militarized in order to meet the threats that are presented in today’s day and age.

We have large organized gangs that have better armament than our police force. Would you really expect to send police in armed with a slingshot when the force they are going against has a rocket launcher? There is a justification for body armor, high caliber weaponry and armored vehicles. It is just being applied incorrectly at this time.

Our police force as a whole are effective law enforcement officers who do their jobs correctly without coming across as heavy handed or brutish. I do not deny that we have officers who do violate the public trust and rights of individuals, breaking laws themselves in order to ride some power trip as they see themselves in some demi-god role.

As we are weeding out the bad apples we still need to take stock of how our police force is perceived and being treated. I have seen A LOT of videos flowing where people are complaining the police are doing something wrong. Yet as a citizen, albeit a military trained one, I can look at the video and see the justification of the actions I am seeing.

A man being tazered multiple times while the police yell at him to roll over and put his hands behind his back. It looks cruel until you stop and really watch the video. He is instructed to get down and repeatly ignores the command. He is warned several times if he does not comply, he will be tazed; he continues to ignore the commands. He is tazed and falls to the ground. Once on the ground, they attempt to flip him over and he becomes combative resisting their attempts; he is tazed again. Once again they attempt to secure him, he resists and he is tazed again. Only after being tazed four times can they finally get the handcuffs on him.

People look at videos like the one described above and the initial knee jerk reaction is that excessive force has been used on an unarmed man surrounded by four officers. No one stops to acknowledge that the man is ignoring lawful commands or that he has not been frisked and cleared of being unarmed. Most of the time no information on why the altercation has come about. However how much justification is needed before it is OK for officers to take steps to ensure their safety as well as the public safety?

Also keep in mind that a lot of videos are presented out of context and do not show the material leading up to the confrontation. Even if the material was available it is usually clipped off in order to present a more dramatic and skewed view.

How about the videos where citizens are asserting their rights? We have a lot of these going around showing normal every day citizens policing the police or demanding that their rights be upheld. What they don’t show is how a lot of these individuals harass local law enforcement on a regular basis just to assert their rights. I personally know a guy here in AZ that purposely drives through a border patrol check point on almost a daily basis just so he can tell them he does not have to answer their questions, he does not have to prove he is a US citizen, that he does not have to show ID and he does not consent to a vehicle search. On average he holds up other people for fifteen to twenty minutes depending on the officer he gets. Then he drives down the road, pulls a u turn and goes back home ten miles down the road. All because he disagrees with the check point being there.

Yes you have rights and officers should respect those rights. But honestly you do not need to be an ass about it and you should not go out of your way to make their job harder just because you want to prove a point. Most the time you will get an officer who has dealt with people like you before and will just sigh and do what he has to do to make you go away. Or you might get one of those officers I mentioned earlier with the demi-god complex; then you are in for a wild ride and a world of hurt.

Then there are instances where the individual being confronted has a warrant or multiple warrants or they have recently done something that violated the law or would give due cause for law enforcement to come after them. It does not matter if the officer(s) they are being confronted by knows any of this or not, the individuals’ perception of the incident is immediately clouded by their own knowledge of material that could lead to their detainment, arrest and incarceration. Their reaction is either going to be resignation of the situation or it is going to become violent without warning really fast.

When you are interacting with someone who is armed and trained to be wary of danger, the last thing that you want to do is to escalate a situation that has so many undefined variables. Is the person on drugs? Is the person mentally stable? Does the person have a weapon? How far is the person willing to take the altercation? Yes I agree that there are times where the reaction is not justified. But as I said earlier, at what point is it deemed OK for officers to take steps to ensure their safety as well as the public safety?

We are always going to have bad seeds in our different professions whether it is law enforcement, military, politics etc. We cannot hold that against those who are doing their jobs correctly and to the best of their abilities with the obstacles being placed in front of them by society at large. Without our law enforcement our society would be ruled by a criminal element and there would be no method of justice, just retribution. Any perceived wrong would be acted upon without due diligence and investigation.

To be specific on something, do I think the shooting of Michael Brown was warranted? I think that there is material we will never be sure of as far as how Michael Brown reacted when he was confronted by Officer Darren Wilson since shortly before he was involved in a strong arm robbery. I do feel that the level of force that was used was excessive and that deadly force was not needed. Even if Michael Brown tried to wrestle the gun from Officer Darren Wilson, that in itself was an indicator that Brown was not armed. So why were so many shots fired and why did it end with someone losing their life?

I strongly support the initiative to require all officers to wear and use lapel cameras while on duty. I believe that quarterly training sessions should be given that re-enforce proper procedure and behavior for all members of law enforcement. Officers should be required to take social interaction training to ensure that even as they uphold the law they build relationships within the community they are part of.

The concerns about “profiling” are quite a bit harder to address. I am of the firm mind that if a large portion of your community act like thugs, behaves like criminals and presents as dissidents then there really is no room for anyone in the community to cry foul when someone is “profiled” based on the behavior of the majority. Perception is a strong factor in how a situation unfolds and if 9 out of 10 people have behaved a certain way in a community, we cannot expect our law enforcement to continue to expect otherwise.

When officers go into communities where the members are disrespectful, hateful and do nothing to assist law enforcement with crime, how are officers supposed to keep a unskewed view of that community?

While law enforcement has a responsibility to uphold the law, we as citizens and communities have responsibilities as well. If we fail to meet those responsibilities then how can we expect fair and impartial treatment?

You don’t want to create a hostile situation?
Don’t curse or disrespect an officer just because they are doing their job. If you have friends with you who like to pop off about cops, tell them to be quiet or distance yourself from them immediately.

You don’t want to be tazed/have a dog put on you?
Follow instructions as they are given to you and comply with orders.

You don’t want six officers to dog pile on you and grind your face into the ground?
Don’t run and resist arrest when they catch you.

You don’t want to get shot?
Keep your hands where they can be seen and do not make movements that can be perceived as dangerous.

And of course the most important piece of advice I could ever give:

Don’t want problems with law enforcement?



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