I just listened to the Martial Secrets Podcast with Jon Lupo and really enjoyed it. Jon’s a friend of mine and a really great guy. He’s a humble and quiet man but don’t let that fool you into thinking less of him. He’s been a law enforcement officer for a long time and has walked the walk. He’s one of the people I’d be glad to have at my back if I were in a tight spot.
The podcast in and of itself is well worth it as a whole but there is something I wanted to point out.
Jon clearly explains several key issues on how to interact with a police officer when he stops you for whatever reason. His is one of the best explanations I’ve heard on this topic. Jon doesn’t pontificate, nor does he sugarcoat it. He just says it like it is. If you are a young man in your late teens or twenties, this advice is for you. If you’re living in a shithole and have run ins with the police regularly, it’s for you too.
In the last decade or so, I’ve noticed an increase in hostility against police officers but also how a very misinformed course of action has almost become the standard for people’s reactions towards LEOs. Now I know I’m generalizing but nowadays, so many people foam at the mouth when an officer pulls them over. They immediately feel violated and start yelling about how they “know their rights.” To which I reply “That’s great but do you know your duties and obligations too?” Because those two come along with the rights you know so well (or as it turns out, not so well).
To the best of my knowledge, there is no Western society in which you have the right to curse at, insult, spit on or attack a police officer whenever you feel he’s not doing his job the way you want him to (if I’m wrong, please let me know where I can find that law in the books…) Yet according to my LEO students and friends, this is has become common place now.
Now before you start thinking of arguments in favor of or justifying such behaviour, the thing you need to keep in mind is this: as soon as a LEO pulls you over, your legal status is very clear; he has given you a lawful order and you are obligated to comply, right now. You don’t get to think it over, you don’t get to ignore it for a while, you don’t even get to protest.
You get to do as he says, as long as he’s sticking to his side of the deal, as Jon explains: abiding by rules and regulations so he can keep you safe while you are in his care. As long as he does that, nothing good can come of acting in the way I described here above.
When you think he is indeed bending or breaking the rules, you would be wise to have this thought flash through your head before lashing out in a verbal or physical way:
“Am I 100% certain he is breaking the law and I am not?”
Remember, you not only have rights but you also have legal obligations. In most incidents I’ve seen, people don’t have a clue about the latter. Do you know these just as well as you do your rights? If you don’t (and this takes some training and studying before you can claim knowledge in this area), then how do you expect the LEO (who has had this type of legal training) to react when you resist him? To let you go? After you fail to comply a lawful order and then break the law in the way you react to his order? Really?
What’s more, once an officer gives you that order (in most Western countries) he is obligated to follow up. He is prohibited from for instance saying “Dude, I fucked up, I’m sorry. I am the motherfucking pig you accuse me of being and I’m gonna let you go now. Have a great day.” So no matter how hard you yell at him, he cannot just let it go.
However, he can decide to let you off with a warning.
Now after you’ve made his adrenaline rise by being an insulting and obnoxious asshole, how likely do you think it is he will do that? I rest my case…
So you not only have an obligation to comply, it’s in 99.99% of all cases the best thing for you in the long run. Being respectful and complying with his orders will get you on your way the fastest and with the least amount of hassle or long term consequences.
So like Jon says, keep your hands visible, stay in the car and just answer in a relaxed manner any questions the officer may have.
If this isn’t clear enough for you, here’s a more visual explanation of what not to do.
Chris Rock is damn funny in this one but he does speak true for the most part…
A final point I’d like to mention.
Invariably when I explain this to younger people (mainly young men), I get the response of “What if he’s a bad cop?”
Sure enough, there are bad cops. In my opinion and experience, there are far fewer of them than there are average and good cops who do the job well. But let’s say you do stumble on a rotten apple: how does yelling at him or punching him make the problem go away? The only thing it does is make it worse for you.
In such a case, your best bet is to comply and afterwards file a complaint through the system. As much as it may end up not amounting to anything, it’s the only legal option you have of handling this. It might feel inadequate but that’s the drawback of the legal system that gives you all those rights (and obligations) to begin with.
Close on the heels of the”he’s a bad cop” argument follows the “police brutality” one.
Once again, this often boils down to not understanding how the use of force continuum works along with your obligation to comply (check out “Lawful Force” on this page.) Before you can claim police brutality, you need to be sure you are in the right to begin with. Again, have you studied this part of the law and looked at case law? If not, then you’re talking out of the wrong orifice…
However, police brutality does indeed exist and I’m not denying this at all. But in most Western societies, this has become less and less of an issue when compared to even only 20-30 years ago. “Old school” policing is mostly extinct now but this isn’t true in other countries around the world… I’m talking about stomping people to death:
Or torturing and humiliating them:
Or do some old school policing when you think picking a fight with a security guard is a good idea:
In pretty much every part of the Western world, this is not the norm, on the contrary. But in many other places on our fair planet, this is just another day in the life of the average citizen.
Next time a police officer pulls you over, heed Jon’s excellent advice and be happy you don’t live in a country where a routine stop means you might get killed.