People call me a smart ass, know-it-all, maybe even arrogant or self-righteous. I agree to about fifty percent of it. Of course, I can’t entirely incriminate or discredit myself as I enter my rant, so I’ll leave it at that. I recently hit a touchy topic on Facebook about just what exactly is or is not justifiable behavior in regards to police and citizens. Now, I will preface this with I am no authority on laws, rights, the constitution or law enforcement. I am just a citizens sharing my perspective and hopefully igniting some insightful dialogue on just what is the line in the sand.
America has been in a battle to balance both our liberties and our safety. As a democracy we have elected officials that determine when either becomes more important. For instance, the controversial Patriot Act determined that our right to privacy was not as important as our safety regarding terrorism. This same act was utilized for purposes other than terrorism, which is more or less a different subject. I believe that things that put our safety over our rights do in fact protect us. The question is, as elected officials often attempt to determine, is the benefit/reward outweigh the risk/cost.
What frustrates me is the confusion people seem to have between morality and the law. The relationship between the two is non-existent. I will say that again, the law is devoid of morals. This exists for pertinent reasons. While uncooperative citizens may decide to exercise every single right at a DUI checkpoint, as long as they remain within their rights they should not be bullied, intimidated, or manipulated by police in order for them to achieve their intended goal. When I say uncooperative citizens, I mean blatantly stand-offish and happy to get it all on video. This person’s behavior seems morally wrong, but like I said that is irrelevant to law. While some people have absolutely no reason to hide or otherwise resist requests others may have private reasons for doing so. Hell, if my car smelled like feces because I just so happen to have diarrhea and am embarrassed about my mess, then I may opt to exercise that right. Worse yet, if I were intimidated to the point of being removed from my vehicle and humiliated as such I would feel violated and build a mistrust of police.
Take for instance the attached video. The citizen was obviously trying to make a point and knew that by being stand-offish and exercising every miniscule right that a problem would occur. Now, I would be suspicious of someone did not want to roll their window all the way down. He was basically resistant to every request by the officer for no reason. A childish behavior in my opinion. This would make me think he was trying to mask the smell of alcohol. I would, as a police officer, look for ways to dig deeper. I have the utmost respect for police because they are tasked with keeping us safe through the enforcement of laws while attempting to balance the rights of their citizens all through the sometimes very murky guidance of politicians. This does not give them the right to purposely use their authority to infringe on the rights of the citizen. That also means their ignorance to the law is not an excuse, just as it is the same for citizens. Now, this citizen, while irritating, is not entirely uncooperative. He questions the authority of the officer, which is his right. He also does submit to a certain extent, which keeps the unfolding event from becoming a violent situation. I commend him for that behavior, as long as I ignore the fact that he started it in the first place. Choosing to be an irritating citizen does not justify manipulative and shady police practices. I say this because if you listen to the video other police officers give admittance to it in a very generalized way. He could have avoided the situation by cooperation and I suspect this was more about his fifteen minutes of fame, but his point is still abundantly clear. If we choose to exercise our rights they should be respected. On the other hand, as a citizen we should check our moral compass to determine if such behavior is truly warranted.
I want to encourage people to see that interactions with the police are not one sided. There are also very serious issues with abuse of power. I want to make it absolutely clear, there are only murky statistics at best, and it’s not legitimate enough evidence to make sweeping assumptions. Cooperation is key for both sides just as mutual respect is imperative. If one side cannot trust, cooperate, or respect the other than we perpetuate the issue. So I suggest the citizen in the aforementioned video stop instigating the issue. I also suggest citizens continue to hold police accountable. Now discuss!
Disclaimer: Any inappropriate language or insulting comments will be removed as soon as they are discovered. Be intelligent and respectable adults.