Resisting Arrest

by The Beardly Writer


I wasn’t planning on writing this. I had another post all written and schedule to go up today. I don’t even know if writing this is a good idea, or necessary. But it’s in my head and like a demon it needs exorcised. So bring in an old priest and a young priest and probably more than a smidgen of holy water and let’s get this over with. “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!

This world has problems. Ain’t no one gonna argue that.

America has problems. And as “awesome” as Fox News believes America to be, even they wouldn’t argue that stuff’s not broken.

Nothing I write today or ever will fix all or any of America’s problems. “I’m not Jesus Christ. I’ve come to accept that now.”

But I have two cents in my pocket and as a consumer I feel the need to spend them on something.

I read a great post by Mike Rowe written in response to a question he received on Facebook about the recent protests concerning the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. You can read his entire response here but in short he said that he is in favor of both “peaceful protests” and “rooting out bad cops” but that he believes resisting arrest is stupid.

I have a lot of respect for Mike Rowe. It grew out of my early fears that he was an android back when he was instructing me how to use my PrimeStar Satellite TV remote control. Those impossibly blue eyes. The name, Mike Row, too similar to “micro” to be a coincidence. Then he switched to hosting Dirty Jobs and while he may still be a mechanized man, I realized he’s not hell-bent on destroying all humans. I respected his response. It was fair and well thought-out. Except for the part about resisting arrest being a stupid thing.

In general, yes. Resisting arrest is not a wise decision. But let’s remember that not all decisions have the privilege of being made after a good night’s sleep. Being arrested, I imagine, can be a highly emotional experience. A lot of things run through your mind, not least of which might be all the cases of police brutality the media loves to show us. We are told the police are here to protect us and 90% of the time, or higher, that’s probably true. But there are always going to be bad apples that spoil the whole barrel. If you’ve done something to warrant arrest, chances are you’re not in the best frame of mind or emotion. Why should the police expect you to cooperate with your incarceration? What do the police do to calm the situation down prior to slapping on the cuffs? Very little from the looks of things. If the media portrayal of police is accurate, they all respond with fear and aggression which doesn’t take a scientist to realize escalates an already heightened situation. And in many communities where citizens have learned through experience and stereotypes to fear the police, how can we expect them to act any differently than they do?

My personal reaction to Fight or Flight stimulus is fight. When it all hits the fan, I fight back. It’s not a conscious decision. It’s not a logical, strategic approach to the situation. You come at me, I’m going to come back at you. It’s not trying to be a tough guy. It’s not like I’m trying to prove anything. It’s a physiological response. I can’t curb it. If I suddenly found myself staring down the barrel of a gun while cops are trying to restrain me, my natural reaction is to resist. I’m claustrophobic. For me, it’s less about tight spaces and more about freedom to move my limbs. If I can’t move my arms, I start to panic. If my hands were cuffed behind my back, I’m not responsible for what I say or do. And I don’t see the cops, as they are portrayed in the media and candid cell phone video, doing anything to address this reality. The reality that what they do, and more importantly how they do it, creates and reinforces the negative stereotype of the police force. Force being the key word. They are not a Police Service. They are not a Police Nicety. They are a Police Force. Too often it is the exact wrong kind of person, the person attracted to violence and authority, who enrolls in the police force. Again, I realize that many if not most cops are decent, well-meaning individuals and I thank them for their daily serving and protecting. I understand they risk their lives on a near daily basis and that can’t be an easy thing. But what we in the masses see is our police fighting violence with violence. Or worse, shooting first. That’s not risking your life. That’s cowardice. Risking your life would be to assess the situation to see what kind of action is warranted. Shooting first and waiting for a grand jury to find you innocent of any wrongdoing is the coward’s approach. Of course cops should be concerned for their own safety. But the job they are paid to do is to put our safety first. The job is to serve and protect the public, not serve and protect themselves. When I see a YouTube video of a cop breaking a girl’s car window after she refused to roll it “all the way” down simply because he was more concerned for his safety than hers, it makes me proper angry. Yeah, maybe she should have cooperated. Maybe that guy shouldn’t be a cop.

The police want people to view them in a better light so people will stop resisting arrest. But it’s every citizen’s right to resist unlawful arrest. Unfortunately, what constitutes an “unlawful arrest” isn’t determined until after the fact, and by then you’ve probably already been tasered, beaten, or shot. As long as the police respond to violence with violence, as long as they act preemptively with violence in order to protect themselves instead of their citizenry, this situation is only going to get worse. They created the negative stereotype they insist isn’t true. But you know what? Despite all this, I want to like cops. If a cop pulls up behind me at a drive –thru, I buy his or her meal. The few times I’ve been pulled over it’s been a relatively painless experience because I treat them respect and speak politely. I’ve never been profiled or abused by cops. I can’t speak to that experience. The few cops I’ve known, including my father, were good people. I want to give cops the benefit of the doubt. I want to, but I don’t know how safe that is. The bureaucracy that continues to put angry and abusive individuals into police uniforms and then defend their obviously hate-motivated crimes gives all cops a bad name. And for those cops who are good but say nothing, they’re complicit.

I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a solution. I wish we could all just “be excellent to each other.” But the temptations of power and authority prove too much for some people. And the feeling of entitlement too strong for others. It’s a broken system in a broken world. I don’t know if there is an answer. Maybe it’s already happening. All these cell phone videos of police abuse. The more evidence we gather the more imperative it will be for the police to make a change. They can’t operate in the dark any longer. All things will be revealed. Change can’t come soon enough.

Just ask the families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.