Monday, December 15, 2014

WHEN CONFRONTED BY AN OFFICER .....

This will be a short piece for the blog because it basically deals with common sense.

Apparently, there are citizens who are not aware of how to act when a police officer approaches you.  Perhaps these people were not taught how to have respect for law enforcement.  Perhaps they don't think of how law enforcement will react if the orders they give to a person are met with something other than what they said to do.

I speak with experience on this matter.  I wrote about it in this blog back in the year 2010.  The entry can be found at http://wm-clark.blogspot.com/2010/11/sweeney-and-me-part-2.html where all the details of why, how and when are explained.  I am not going to take the time here to rewrite all the details.  My purpose here is to explain what my own experience taught me.

I was raised to have respect for the law.  For the police who are around to keep the peace, to protect and to serve.  I was taught to have respect for the judicial system that was set up by a little document called The Constitution of the United States as well as respect for the state constitutions.  These documents are designed to keep order in society and to be sure that justice is served in a fair and meaningful way.  If there is a question of whether something is unjust, then we make available an appeals system that goes all the way from the local level to the federal level because sometimes injustices do happen and there needs to be a way to correct these injustices.

It was that respect for the law and for police that helped me decide how to react when the officer pulled me over that night.

When I was pulled over, I decided to get out of the car to go talk to the officer in order to explain what had happened, because I had been caught doing something illegal.  I stepped out of the car and the next thing I knew was that I was looking at a police officer, crouched down behind his open door with his gun drawn and pointing straight at me.  The next thing I heard was the officer yelling and the words he yelled were something like this:  "STOP!  PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!  TURN SLOWLY, FACE THE CAR AND PUT YOUR HANDS ON TOP OF THE CAR!"

Okay.  So this is apparently decision time.  There were several choices I could make.so let's review these choices and try to figure out what the outcome may or may not be.

Choice number one:  I could have put my hands up, but instead of turning and placing my hands on top of the car, I could continue to face the officer and start to talk to him about how he was over reacting and that this wasn't necessary. and continue to argue with him.  My guess is that he would slowly reach in his car and call for back up, then either wait for other officers to arrive, or to act on his own.  Either way the result would be that I would be wrestled to the ground and cuffed and the officer would not be too happy with me.

Choice number two:  About the same as number one except I don't even put up my hands.  I just stand there waving my arms at him and arguing.  The arguing would intensify because he would continue to order me in an attempt to keep himself safe.  No doubt he would wait for the back up to arrive in this case and I would have two or three cops hitting me to take me down.

Choice number three:  The same as above plus I possibly stick my hand in my pants, or turn around facing away from the officer while I continue to have a shouting match with him.  Same result if I am lucky, or he could assume that I have a weapon and possibly fire a round at me if I turn back around quickly because for all he knows, I could be grabbing a weapon.

Choice number four:  I could leave my hands down, continue talking, and walk towards the officer like I had nothing to fear.  I can almost guarantee that the officer would do what he needs to do to protect himself, which could including firing a shot at me.

Choice number five:  Either run or get back in the car and drive off.  Either way I would have many more policemen to deal with other than just the one and the outcome would not be good for me.  I would eventually brought down, dragged out of the car, and the police would do whatever they thought they needed to do to get me in a safe position for them.  I could be beaten, dragged on the ground, or possible shot depending upon the movements I meake.

Choice number six:  I could keep my mouth shut.  Raise my hands, turn slowly to face the car and place my hands on top of the car without opening my mouth one bit, just as the officer ordered.  This was the choice I made.  The result?  The officer holstered his gun, walked over to me and frisked me to be sure I wasn't armed.  Then he allowed me to turn around, keeping my hands in full sight during the whole time and he told me what he thought was going on and allowed me to answer his questions.  I wasn't thrown down.  I wasn't beat.  I wasn't shot.  WHY?  Because at this time the officer knew he was not in danger.  I had allowed him to establish that I wasn't armed.  He didn't have to have fellow officers arrive to help get me under control.

Common sense.  Do what the police tell you to do.  Don't argue, don't make movements that he isn't expecting.  Don't come at him in a threatening manner.  Let him do his job and the details can be sorted out later and both of you will be calmer when talking about the event that led to his stopping you.

Respect the police.  They aren't out looking for citizens to shoot or to have to get physical with.  They don't WANT to fight you, or wrestle with you and they certainly do not want to shoot you.  They want to protect society as well as themselves.

Now I know that people of races other than myself, will say I don't understand what it is like to be black or hispanic and have the police force hassle you all the time because of racial profiling or whatever.  Maybe I don't.  I can imagine that it could get very tiresome to be stopped and questioned because they see things from a certain perspective.

Have I ever been stopped for no reason other than the way I looked?  You bet I have.  My friend Larry drove an old beat up Chevelle when we were young.   One night we were driving in Kansas on our way to a friends house.  Now over in Kansas there are a few really upscale neighborhoods.  One of these small "towns" is called Leawood.  Leawood is very upscale, very rich.  This particular night Larry and myself decided that the shortest route to where we were going happened to be through the heart of Leawood.  We had not driven more than a few blocks when a Leawood policeman pulled us over.

Had we broke the law?  No.  We weren't speeding, we had not run a stop sign, we had done absolutely nothing to be pulled over for except for three things.  One:  we had Missouri tags on Larry's car.  TWO:  Larry's car looked rather rough, as there would be no cars like THAT in Leawood. And Three:  we were young.  Those were the reasons we were pulled over that night.

The officer came to the car and asked for ID from both of us and we complied.  We did not protest or talk back or anything.  We did as we were requested to do.  He ran a check on the car and both of us.  Nothing was to be found in the police data base.  After taking about a half hour to check us out, he came back to the car and handed us our ID's back.  He asked us what we were doing driving on this street.  We told him we were on our way elsewhere and this was shortest route.

He thought about that a second, then said okay ... you can go, but go straight to where you said you were going, and ... this is the kicker ... DO NOT DRIVE THROUGH LEAWOOD AGAIN .... It would have been real easy to spout off at that policeman at that point.  Did he not know what country we were in?  Did he not know that I can go anywhere I damn well want to?  Did he not just check us out and discovered that we were not trouble makers and no one was looking for us?  Did he not know that even while driving through precious Leawood, we had not once broken a traffic law?  BUT, we kept our mouths shut and drove on to where we were going.  (for some of you people who don't understand why I have a sour taste for Kansas, this is but one reason).

Bottom line of this entry.  Respect the police.  Do what you are told.  Do not mouth off at the police.  Again, do as you are told and I can promise you that you won't get shot.  You won't be beat.  You won't get wrestled to the ground by three or four officers.  Things will go a LOT smoother and perhaps, if you do this, the police in your neighborhood will get to recognize you and not "profile" you and hassle you for what you see as not a good reason.

Just something to think about from lessons I have learned during my life.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

FERGUSON: PART TWO

Ferguson, Missouri.  Who would have thought this little town, suburb of St. Louis, would bring so much attention and division across the country.

This is going to be short, because in my mind there isn't a lot to discuss here.

Here is how I see it.  The Prosecuting Attorney went beyond what would normally be done in such a case.  He took it to a Grand Jury that was already seated when the terrible events unfolded last August.  They let anyone who wanted to testify to tell what they saw.  They spent weeks, months on a case that ordinarily would be taken care of in a day or two.  The charge to the Grand Jury was to see if anything rose to the simple bar of reasonable cause to indict Officer Wilson in his shooting of Michael Brown.  It is as low of a bar as can be set.  If there is any ... ANY ... indication that the officer may have done anything improper they would indict him.  They charges they could indict him on ranged from involuntary manslaughter to first degree murder or, if they found no reasonable cause, not bring an indictment.

After all of the testimony and evidence was gathered, including forensic evidence, autopsies from three different medical examiners and the testimonies of dozens of witnesses, they found nothing that past the level set for indictment.  Nothing.  Personally I was expecting at least an involuntary manslaughter charge just because of the political and public unrest that the case had caused.  They couldn't even come up with that.

The Prosecutor went a step further by doing something that is hardly ever done by releasing transcripts of all the testimony, the results of the forensics and autopsies to the public as a show of good faith that the situation had been completely studied and that the public could understand the reason the Grand Jury came forth without an indictment.  It was an extraordinary measure to try to keep peace by being totally 100% transparent.

Still, Ferguson burned.  They rioted.  They looted.  They burned businesses that had absolutely nothing to do with the case.  It was shameful as far as I am concerned.  Agitators from outside Ferguson came in to take advantage of what was surely to be a powder keg waiting to explode so that they could take advantage of the anarchy that followed the announcement.

Here's the thing.  The system worked.  Let me repeat that.  THE SYSTEM WORKED.  They set the bar as low as they could to get an indictment on Officer Wilson and the evidence did not rise above that bar.  The step father of Michael Brown went out and stood on top of a car and urged the crowd to burn the place down.

A few players on the St. Louis Rams football team came out with hands raised to protest the decision of the Grand Jury.  Again, shameful.

Now it seems that in spite of all the evidence gathered by the Grand Jury, in spite of the Grand Jury working hard to come up with the correct decision, Officer Wilson is still evil and Michael Brown is a victim.  It is almost surreal.    Where were all these protestors when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty even though the evidence screamed his guilt?

Major steps were taken by the Prosecutor to ensure that there would not be another situation like what happened after the Rodney King trial in Los Angelas.  THAT was a miscarriage of justice just as much as the O.J. case was.  The Ferguson case was not.

THE SYSTEM WORKED.  If we want to continue making sure the system works, then we, all citizens, should respect and accept this Grand Jury's finding that there was not enough evidence to even bring up a small question that the officer acted in a criminal way.  Not even involuntary manslaughter could be brought.

THE SYSTEM WORKED.  In this country, the system works very hard to bring the guilty to justice.  There should never be a situation where a man who a Grand Jury and a Prosecutor would put on trial a man that none of them thought was guilty of anything.  That isn't the way it is supposed to work.

If charges had been brought against Officer Wilson when no one involved int he process thought that he was guilty the system would have failed.  If that were to happen, then not one citizen in this country would be safe from false imprisonment or being put on trial for anything that someone said they committed.

THE SYSTEM WORKED.  If ever there was an example of how the system worked, it was this case.  The total transparency of the whole system proved that.  It is best, at least in this case, to accept the Grand Jury's decision and be thankful that the system did work.  Just because the outcome was not what you wanted, doesn't mean the outcome was wrong.

Accept the decision and be thankful that all of the evidence was made public and know that in the future, the system will continue to work so that any of us, all of us, have the freedom that is given to us in the Constitution.

There have been times when the system did not work, but this isn't it.  Pick your battles carefully.  Don't work to destroy the system that protects all of us.