“If we're serious about saving lives, and eliminating the confrontations that lead to the demise of Garner and Brown, let's also condemn the stupidity that leads so many Americans to resist arrest.
I read this last part of Mike Rowe’s blog post on the Ferguson protests and I can’t even describe my letdown. I knew Rowe’s politics before I read it. I was prepared for his scale to tip conservatively. But this? The “resisting arrest is a crime” mantra? Nothing depresses me more than smart people speaking ignorantly of things without doing the math, without showing all their work. Sure, he talked to a cop and wrote his impression. Sure, he talked to a black guy and wrote his impression. What Mike Rowe did not do is put himself—a white man with a wallet full of money and what I’m sure is a home in a secure and peaceful part of his city—into the shoes of anyone who might be in a situation where the police are involved, anyone who has clearly seen how police treat members of certain communities.
Generally, uniformed cops deal with three situations: traffic, domestic disturbances, and petty crime in progress. In any of these situations—as most cops know—one or more of the involved parties is upset, already dissatisfied with their current circumstances. Once any party realizes they are on the “losing end” of an episode where the cops are involved, their mood may grow even more upset, upset enough to slap a cop’s hand if it grabs them in a certain way or jerk their arms from an attempted restraint. Folks like Rowe incorrectly call this is “stupidity." Not wanting to go to jail and thrown into a system designed to rid you of everything you've ever had isn't stupidity. It's natural and justified. Stupidity is not a word we should use lightly when it comes to dealing with the police. Two years ago, US courts granted law enforcement the legal right to discriminate in hiring based on IQ—they do not have to hire candidates over a certain IQ and they openly admit to excluding those people from the hiring pool. This fact alone suggests that encountering stupidity in citizenry is less likely than finding it in law enforcement.
Who’s “stupid” here? The cop--a member of a group of people who are notoriously ignorant of laws in general—or your average citizen privy to the complications of going to jail. Average citizens know that once the cuffs are on, they are no longer in control, no longer free to defend themselves. They have lost. Now present this proposition to someone who is agitated by threats, someone who may have suffered some assault. I think we can all admit that if someone has struck you, your first considerations are not to make someone’s job easier, namely the person poised to strip you of your freedom.
To say police train to deal with aggravated and hyped-up citizens is a disservice to the word training. They are trained to make a yes/no decision and either issue a citation or conduct an arrest and whether Mike Rowe or his cop buddies with admit it or not, they are also trained that those they protect are stupid. Citizens either act within a narrow set of responses to police work or those citizens face assault and imprisonment under the veil of protection, protection for the cops and the other citizens. Cops are taught, either implicitly or explicitly--I’ve seen both--that once someone objects to their treatment or the decisions made by police, the police are instantly granted the freedom to commit violence against that person. In many cases, citizens reactions are neither violent nor threatening. They are simply making the cops’ jobs more difficult.
Mike Rowe suggests that we aren't serious about preventing deaths in confrontations with police in our failure to address "resisting arrest." I would ask Mike to consider the way the public has handled high speed vehicular pursuits. In the past, vehicular pursuits cause so much damage and innocent death that laws have forced police to change their tactics. Don’t chase people in certain situations or under certain circumstances. Why? Because innocent people die. Why aren’t face-to-face conflicts with police treated the very same? I don’t care if an irate driver holds up traffic for hours over what may have transpired in an accident. If it takes hours for this person to calm down, so be it if it keeps all the parties alive and unscathed. Eric Garner wasn’t a physical threat to anyone. He simply wanted to state his case that he had been harassed and arrested by the police and he had enough of it. “This stops today,” he said. Would Eric Garner have felt that way after an hour of arguing? I have no idea but I can hypothesize that if he had been allowed to talk—no matter how incoherent or flawed his argument—he would be alive today. Yet out of inconvenience, the cops attacked him to get him off the streets. (Hostages seem the only factor that grants an extended discourse with an arresting officer; however, not only does a hostage guarantee your hatred from your fellow citizens but it nearly guarantees your untimely demise.) Remember this: the streets of our cities to do not belong to the cops; they belong to us. I dare say, coldly removed from the situation, after a little consideration, that most of us would sacrifice a little convenience to keep people alive.
This again all comes down to something I’ve discussed on this blog several times. The municipal governments of this country hire idiots and sociopaths, provide lousy training, and unleash them into the urban landscape to murder, rape, and assault people under the guise of protection explicitly denied by the highest courts in the land.
I ask Mike Rowe to reconsider his conclusion but I’m afraid he, like so many others, has found the line he will not cross, inconvenience, and no one—except maybe a cop—will ever get him to cross it.
Chrysalis, a growing collection of very short fiction.
Unless noted, all pics credited to Skitz O'Fuel.