With the news that the NYC medical examiner has declared the death of Eric Garner a homicide (SEE: BREAKING: NYPD Chokehold Death Ruled a Homicide), it is worth considering once again how to respond in a confrontation with police.
I continue to believe it makes little sense in almost all occasions to directly confront government and this includes the police, especially police on the street.
If a cop questions you, it’s okay to try some verbal jujitsu (SEE: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters) to attempt to limit a confrontation, but if a copper is about to put you under arrest, it makes no sense to physically resist. You are very, very unlikely to win that battle. It makes much more sense at that point to get things resolved in court.
Police, during any confrontation, are very likely to be better armed than you are.They will have billy clubs, mace, stun guns, and loaded weapons. And they can call back-up pronto.
They are also professionally trained in street combat. Watch once again the confrontation between Spiderman and a New York copper, here. I don’t know much about street fighting, but it looks to me like this cop is executing skilled street fighting. He is staying close to Spiderman, which makes it difficult for Spiderman to get off any roundhouse punches. He attempts to uproot Spiderman, with eventual success, and he controls the fall so that he ends up on top with a leg on top of Spiderman. That looks like a very well trained copper to me.
Courts are certainly not completely fair but you will have a much better chance than by resisting on the street.
That said, there is a lot of talk in the media about “police brutality,” but when it comes down to it, all police confrontations are about, at a minimum, implied police violence. You are either going to have to follow a copper’s requests, or he is going to escalate as far as he has to—to death (yours), if necessary.
To lower the amount of “police brutality,” a society needs to lower the number of potential confrontations police have with the public.
The confrontation the police had with Garner was allegedly over his selling loose cigarettes. It was probably a bogus claim, but the police needed some cover story. The question remains, though, why should police be enforcers preventing private transactions over loose cigarettes? Forget government cigarette tax laws, one would think that police on patrol are supposedly on patrol “to protect the public” against violence, not enforce government edicts.
If we remove police from enforcing cigarette regulations, drug regulations, etc., then the number of potential confrontations between police and the pubic drops dramatically.
I personally think that in most cases it is a waste of time to call police after a robbery or some damage to personal property. Rarely are you going to get stolen property back.
The only time the police might be of some use is when you are facing an immediate physical threat, but, even here, the logic of the timeline is against the police helping you. If you are under physical attack, you really don’t have a lot of time, in most cases, to pick up a phone and have an excited chat with 911. In other words, government police are of little value for safety purposes. If I want to stay safe, I stay in areas where there is private security that can respond immediately to a threat, such as in a mall or a quality hotel or apartment complex.
Police providing safety is largely a myth. Indeed, if they aren’t stopping you from beating on someone or damaging a person’s property, then any police action action against you is police brutality.
The best thing to do, generally, is avoid interaction with them. If fate puts you in harm’s way, the best thing to do, generally, is to respect the potential physical attack that could be unleashed against you, the way you would respect the potential attack that a lion right in front of your path could unleash against you.
Reprinted with permission from Economic Policy Journal.