Phyllis Bear, a convenience store clerk from Arizona, called the police after a customer threatened her. The disgruntled patron, seeking to purchase a money order, handed Bear several bills that were rejected by the store’s automated safe. Suspecting that the cash was counterfeit, Bear told him to come back later to speak with a manager.
The man had left by the time the cops arrived, and Bear was swamped at the register. Offended that she was serving paying customers rather than rendering proper deference to an emissary of the State, one of the officers arrested Bear for “obstructing government operations,” handcuffed her, and stuffed her in the back of his cruiser.
A few minutes later, while the officer was on the radio reporting the abduction, his small-boned captive took the opportunity to extract one of her hands from the cuffs, reach through the window, and start opening the back door from the outside. The infuriated captor yanked the door open and demanded that the victim extend her hands to be re-shackled. When Bear refused to comply, the officer reached into the back seat and ripped her from the vehicle, causing her to lose her balance and stumble into the second officer.
Bear, who had called the police in the tragically mistaken belief that they would help her, was charged with three felonies: “obstruction” – refusal to stiff-arm customers in order to attend to an impatient cop; “escape” – daring to pull her hand out of the shackles that had been placed upon her without lawful cause; and “aggravated assault” – impermissible contact with the sanctified personage of a police officer as a result of being violently dragged out of the car by the “victim’s” comrade.
The first two charges were quickly dropped. During a bench trial, the prosecution admitted that the arrest was illegal. Yet the judge ruled that Bear – who had no prior criminal history — was guilty of “escape” and imposed one year of unsupervised probation. That conviction was upheld by the Arizona Court of Appeals, which ruled that although the arrest was unwarranted and illegal, Bear had engaged in an illegal act of “self-help” by refusing to submit to abduction with appropriate meekness.
Decades ago, when Arizona was a more civilized place, the state “followed the common-law rule that a person may resist an illegal arrest,” the court acknowledged. But that morally sound and intellectually unassailable policy was a casualty of what the court called “a trend … away from the common-law rule and toward the judicial settlement of such disputes.” Referring to the act of unlawfully seizing another human being and holding that person by force as a “dispute” is a bit like calling assault rape a “lover’s quarrel.”
“Permitting an individual to resort to self-help to escape from an illegal arrest, rather than seeking a remedy through the legal system, would invite violence and endanger public safety,” pontificated the court — carefully ignoring the fact that arrest is a violent injury, and illegal arrest is nothing more than an abduction. “The same public policy that permits a conviction for resisting arrest even if the arrest is unlawful should authorize conviction for escape despite the unlawfulness of the underlying arrest.”
Furthermore, it’s not necessary for a police officer to explain why the arrest was made; according to the court, “only the fact of [an] arrest is a necessary element” for the victim to be charged with “escape.” In an earlier case, the same court ruled that a woman who jerked her arms away from a police officer committed the supposed crime of resisting arrest. Anything other than immediate, unconditional submission to the demands of a costumed enforcer is treated as a criminal offense – even when those demands are not valid as a matter of law.
From that perspective, all citizens are incipient slaves, subject to detention, abduction, and other abuse at the whim of uniformed slave-keepers.
A slave is somebody who cannot say “no” – as in, “No, I can’t talk to you right now because I’m on the clock and there are paying customers ahead of you.” This is because the slave doesn’t exercise self-ownership in any sense in the presence of a slave-keeper.
A slave-keeper is somebody who claims the legal right to take ownership of another person at his discretion, and use physical violence to compel submission.
This is the specific definition of the peculiar institution called “law enforcement,” as demonstrated by the following statement from the annual report of an entirely typical sheriff’s office: “A law enforcement officer’s authority and power to take away a citizen’s constitutional rights is unmatched anywhere in our society.”
The conceit that defines law enforcement is that all claims to self-ownership evaporate in the presence of a police officer. Some people have internalized that message to such an extent that they immediately assume the position of a submissive slave whenever a police officer approaches. Among them is actor and literacy activist LeVar Burton, whose breakthrough role – either ironically or appropriately, I can’t decide which — was the fictional escaped slave Kunta Kinte.
Burton describes his ritual of self-abasement as his strategy for physically surviving an encounter with police. In order to avoid arrest it may be necessary to plumb further depths of personal degradation.
Dale Carson, a defense attorney, former cop, and former FBI agent, has written a revealing manual entitled Arrest-Proof Yourself. That book is replete with significant insights into the institutionalized sociopathy called police “work” – and it abounds in even more revealing advice about the kind of self-inflicted humiliation expected of Mundanes once their self-anointed slave masters appear.
In an interview with the Atlantic magazine, Carson described law enforcement as a “revenue gathering system” in which predatory officers compete to see “who can put the most people in jail.” His most emphatic advice is to avoid attracting the attention of police officers – something that is becoming nearly impossible in our Panopticon society.
In the event that avoiding the police proves to be impossible, Carson offers etiquette tips for Mundanes seeking to avoid an arrest: Make eye contact, but don’t smile; don’t react when (not if) the privileged thug deliberately provokes you through foul, confrontational language and calculated acts of battery; be accommodating and extravagantly respectful.
If all of these tactics prove unavailing, then Carson recommends that the Mundane surrender what residue of personal dignity remains by crying or, if possible, deploying other bodily emissions. He suggests that you could foul yourself “so that police will consider setting you free in order not to get their cruiser nasty,” urinating in your pants, or, if possible, vomiting.
Remarkably, Carson’s tactics for avoiding arrest track very closely with the notorious rape prevention advice provided by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The college faculty, piously discouraging “violent self-help” (such as carrying and using a firearm), urged women confronting a potential rapist to “Tell your attacker that you have a disease or are menstruating” and that “Vomiting or urinating may also convince the attacked to leave you alone.”
In similar fashion, Carson’s advice on avoiding arrest assumes a limitless capacity for self-denigration on the part of the Mundane. But it only applies to public encounters with police. It provides no direction for people victimized by lawless police violence in their own homes, something that is becoming commonplace.
Last May 28, 72-year old Fort Worth resident Jerry Waller was shot and killed in his garage by Officer R.A. Hoeppner.
Displaying the competence for which government law enforcement is legendary, Hoeppner and his partner, Ben Hanlon, had responded to a burglary alarm by going to the wrong address.
Hearing prowlers on his property, Waller grabbed his gun and went out to investigate. A few minutes later he was dead, shot multiple times by Hoeppner when he refused to disarm himself. A grand jury declined to indict the officer.
In describing the events of that evening, Hoeppner, a neophyte police officer from a multi-generational family of law enforcers, displayed the reflexive perplexity of a freshly-minted slave catcher confronting someone who didn’t see himself as another person’s property.
“His attitude toward us was very malicious – It, it was not pro-police at all,” recalled Hoeppner. Although Waller was on his own property, and the police officers were the intruders, Hoeppner described the victim’s posture as “very aggressive toward us – and I mean like almost … attitudish.” That assessment makes perfect sense once it’s understood that Hoeppner had been indoctrinated to view any non-cooperation as “aggression” because police, in some sense, own the rest of us.
After Hoeppner made the unlawful demand that the alarmed homeowner disarm himself, Waller quite sensibly asked, “Why?” This struck the cop as an act of irrational defiance:
“What person in their right man – mind would ask a peace officer – a, a law enforcement officer `why’ when he tells you and gives you verbal commands…. Your law-abiding citizen is not going to tell – going to ask you, why.”
From the cop’s perspective, the expression “law-abiding citizen” is a functional synonym for “Properly obedient slave.” Not only did the uppity Mundane refuse to submit, he actually behaved as if he was the rightful owner of his person and property: “It was almost like he had the attitude of you – you cannot tell me what to do with my gun in my, you know, in my castle.”
Slave-keepers don’t have to ask permission to invade the servants’ quarters, and slaves have no right to protect the sanctity of their person or effects. In his study of 18th Century slave patrols – the largely unacknowledged ancestors of today’s “professional” police agencies — historian Philip L. Reichel points out that “patrols had full power and authority to enter any plantation and break open Negro houses or other places where slaves were suspected of keeping arms; to punish runaways or slaves found outside of their masters’ plantations without a pass; [and] to whip any slave who should affront or abuse them in the execution of their duties….”
No-knock midnight raids; gun confiscation; “stop-and-frisk”-style demands for identification that quickly escalate to violence and arrest; summary punishment for “contempt of cop” – all of these practices would be immediately recognizable to 18th century slaves. They would probably find it incomprehensible that people who consider themselves to be free would allow such practices to continue.