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article imageOp-Ed: Despite rage, cop op-ed correct on avoiding police confrontation

By Calvin Wolf     Aug 20, 2014 in Politics
Ferguson - A veteran of the LAPD and current homeland security professor at Colorado Tech University has courted controversy by encouraging citizens to avoid physical confrontation with law enforcement by quickly and obediently complying with all police commands.
As a society, we like confrontation. From the Founding Fathers in 1775 and 1776 who would not remain quiet to the reality TV stars of today, we flock to those who challenge authority and jut their chins defiantly. From refusing to bow to parliament's taxation without representation to screaming "you fake!" at a club scene antagonist, we applaud those who do not go quietly. But when authority is truly challenged, where do we rank-and-file citizens stand?
The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri has challenged our notions of authority in a way not seen in years. An 18-year-old black teen, who was unarmed, was shot and killed by a white police officer, sparking a sociopolitical, and racial, firestorm. Supporters of Brown's family argue that the young man had his hands up and was telling the officer he was unarmed when he was killed. Supporters of the police officer argue that the young man, who had allegedly already grappled with the smaller officer and struck him in the face, was charging the cop at full speed when he was fatally shot. The blogosphere has erupted and police departments nationwide are under scrutiny.
While most bloggers and journalists have taken an anti-establishment stance, a former LAPD cop and current homeland security professor at Colorado Tech University is courting controversy by encouraging people to not challenge cops...even when they think cops are in the wrong. "I'm a cop," Sunil Dutta writes at The Washington Post. "If you don't want to get hurt, don't challenge me." Ouch. From the Boston Tea Party to The Real Housewives, this threat from on high provokes our collective ire.
But, despite everyone's outrage, Dutta has a point. We need authority, and need it to be respected. Avenues exist to challenge the actions of law enforcement, which means we need not, and ought not, challenge them in the heat of the moment. Rarely does anything good come from challenging law enforcement in the moment, nor should it.
First of all, police officers are first responders, often having to maximize their time and efficiency. An event needing officers' assistance may be unfolding, making it unreasonable to expect officers to have to go through hours of argument with every citizen who is upset. And upset the citizens will be: It is often the nature of police work for officers and citizens to be antagonists. Cops do things to us that we do not want them to do, like issue us tickets or place us under arrest. We want to dispute and argue, but rarely is there time for an officer to go 15 verbal rounds.
Secondly, society needs certain groups of people to be authority figures and hold certain powers over others. Without this authority, society would likely crumble. Cops are not always right, but it is important that their authority not be disputed in the moment. If citizens are allowed to reject the authority of police officers in the moment, the police lose much of their power to protect the populace and maintain order. Essentially, if people are allowed to get away with refusing to listen to law enforcement, what keeps those same people from taking your stuff?
Third, police officers are people, too. They value their own safety and well-being, and often have families, friends, and loved ones they would like to go home to. While many would prefer that cops use the absolute minimum amount of force required to get the job done, such kiddie glove treatment of suspects would likely result in more danger to the cops. Cops vigilantly protect their own safety, just as we civilians would do. If we civilians were expected to deal with angry, possibly armed antagonists who want to prevent us from doing our job — and even cause us physical harm — on a regular basis, would we be so quick to judge?
As a high school teacher, I will neutralize any possible threat from a teenager who, in anger, lays a finger on me. Undoubtedly, friends and family of the injured teen would argue that I overreacted and that the teen's shove, poke, or other physical challenge did not warrant my aggressive response. However, as a husband and father, I will not take the risk of not coming home at the end of the day. Period.
Our society has given police officers a difficult task. We resent the authority they often possess, and which many individual officers wield as a bullying cudgel, but we cannot survive as a civilized society without it. We give police officers authority, and executive order in the heat of the moment, in exchange for great duty and obligation. Similar to the president of the United States, cops must often act quickly and without the whole story laid out and fact-checked. Just like the president, cops can make mistakes. But should we do away with the executive power granted to presidents and police officers?
No, we should not. We need a commander-in-chief who can take charge quickly, even when civilians do not know what, exactly, is going on. Similarly, we need police officers who can do the same. Just as our nation would be hobbled by requiring congressional votes for everything, our municipalities would be hobbled by allowing citizens to endlessly argue with, and resist, police officers.
Yeah, the cop might be wrong, but in the heat of the moment is not the time for your guff. It is dangerous for you in the micro sense and dangerous for the social order in the macro sense. Record everything as best you can and seek legal recourse after you are safely away from the confrontation. Just as you want to get home to your family, the cop wants to get home to his.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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