The War on Drugs has left us with local police forces that we wouldn’t have recognized fifty years ago. Militarized. Equipped with an attitude of “whatever it takes to get home safe” and they aren’t referring to you. Since President Clinton set about empowering the police to better deal with a failing war on drugs, they’ve been equipped and trained in how to act like the military and see us, the common citizens, as their primary enemy. Us versus them.
Most cops aren’t trying to make our lives miserable. But the bad to good apple ratio has gotten worse and we see plenty of evidence in the daily news. Cops are now more prone to overreact—to move to deadly force. While the President has recently moved to cut back on the transfer of military equipment to local police forces, it was more a gesture than anything meaningful. Politics rather than real change.
When the mindset of the police and the district attorneys is one of us versus them, the deck is stacked. Despite innocence, a simple encounter with the system can result in physical harm or going to jail for something you never did. Thankfully, there are private organizations, businesses, and attorneys who are responding to the challenge. The Internet is becoming richer with sites that offer good and useful advice. Advice that can protect you from unintended consequences during and following an encounter with the police.
One of the organizations produced the video that headlines this blog post. The video covers ten simple steps that an greatly reduce your chances of harm, both physical and legal, by knowing and carefully asserting your Constitutional rights. It outlines and explains actions you can take during and after an unwanted encounter with the police to maximize your ability to seek redress for abuses of your rights. Some of them are listed below. Their YouTube site is rich with other videos of good content.
The CATO Institute has put together a site for national police misconduct reporting, http://www.policemisconduct.net. The site is rich with statistics, including a data base and maps. While it isn’t directed towards dealing with your own personal incident, it offers the ability to report incidents of suspected or known abuse.
http://www.copblock.org provides not only information, but practical advice covering everything from political actions that citizens can take to work against the growing problem of police abuse to jury nullification, perhaps the last and best defense one can take to protect their neighbor and their communities against abuses of power.
While not very refined in appearance, http://policecrimes.com offers a wealth of valuable information. It covers everything from the magnitude of the current problem to great FAQS covering your rights and practical formulas for handling normal encounters and abuse that occurs. You’ll find good links to private and government resources that are informative and helpful.
The truth is that best advice is to do all you can to avoid encounters with law enforcement. Not simply because you might end up dealing with a bad cop. In our current system, even during innocent encounters involving well-meaning law enforcement and compliant citizens, simply trying to be helpful, innocent people end up being damaged. Physically and financially.
This isn’t about resisting authorities. It isn’t about rebelling against their God-given power of the sword. It’s about being wise and using what rights that may remain to protect yourself against the abuses that even well-meant encounters with the system can result in. Help the cops. Help yourself. Know your rights and how to politely deal with the police. Or, risk getting “tazed,” roughed-up, and charged with crimes you never committed.