There's actual research to back up something that many people have long suspected about our nation's police force: There are a lot of angry people in uniform.
According to the Pew Research Center, slightly more than one out of every five officers admits that they are either "always or often" frustrated or outright angry while on the job. They also feel very negative about the public in general.
That may not be surprising, given the number of police-involved shootings and other incidents of violence and abuse that have been caught on camera in the last few years. It is, however, very concerning for the average citizen.
With this information in mind, there are some things you need to remember if you're stopped by the police for any reason:
1. It doesn't matter if you're right
Ultimately, if the police officer doesn't really have a right to stop you or search your belongings, you can fight about it in court. The violation of your rights is always a serious issue and an attorney can help you after the fact.
However, you have to get through the encounter before you can -- safely -- assert your rights. If an officer is blatantly disregarding the law and your rights, offering any kind of resistance is both futile and dangerous.
2. Your goal is to get through the encounter safely
The worst thing you can do in any encounter with an angry or hostile officer is to give that officer an excuse to act out. With that in mind, remember these rules:
- Stay calm. Follow the officer's directives without arguing.
- Don't try to stop the officer from a search. Never, ever, lay your hands on a police officer.
- Don't consent. If the officer asks to search your car or clothing, clearly and politely decline. Other than that, stay silent. If the officer starts the search anyhow, remain passive.
- Don't walk away without permission. Ask if you are free to go before you try to walk away.
- If you're arrested, offer no resistance and no commentary.
People suffer violations of their rights all the time. Too frequently, they end up victims of police brutality when they try to assert themselves at the scene. Instead of falling victim to an officer's misplaced anger, do what you need to do in order to stay safe -- and then contact our office as soon as possible.