If a police officer decides to point a gun at me, I am going to follow his instructions even if I think he is wrong. Yes, I freely admit that I come at this from the perspective of a police officer, even though my patrol time these days is limited. But even if I am not completely objective on the topic, I think what I have to say about this makes sense.
This topic crossed my mind as I watched the video of two gentlemen getting arrested for openly carrying firearms into the lobby of the police station in Dearborn, Michigan. This video is about a year old, and apparently, what the men were doing was completely legal. But they still found themselves looking at the business end of some police weapons and facing charges for resisting arrest.
So, these two men walked into a police station. One of them was carrying a rifle and a handgun, the other a camera. What did they expect to happen? Yes, open carry is perfectly legal in Michigan, but I am not here to talk about the law. There is a difference between law and order. Remember back in 2011 when the guy walked into a Detroit Police station and starting shooting the place up? Cops — especially cops in Michigan — remember that incident. It is clear these two men wanted — even hoped for — an overreaction by the police. They wanted to get that on camera, and it worked.
Let’s be really, really clear on this one element: I am not here to argue the legal elements of this case or whether or not the police acted properly. That is not the point of this column at all. What I am talking about right now is the real-world ramifications of a person’s chosen course of action. Therefore, I will not read any comments that begin with, “Yeah, but the law says…”
Here’s the real deal: Unless you plan to fight with the police, there is no good reason to disobey the commands given by an officer while that officer is pointing a gun at you. None. You see, the fact that you are 100 percent, absolutely, without question in the right will not matter a bit if you are shot full of holes. Your estate might get a large payout, but as my grandfather used to say when he saw me doing something stupid, “It’s a long time dead.”
Here’s what I know as a police officer (and I believe every other cop will agree with me): I’m going home alive. Do you know what else I know about any given situation? Nothing. I do not know the intent of the person involved. I do not know what led up to the incident. I do not know what the person will do next. So, I look for clues. Things such as the level of cooperation or the use of aggressive language give me some indication as to what type of person I might be dealing with. If I see angry language, a gun and a lack of cooperation, the intensity of the situation goes way up until we start removing some of those elements from the equation.
If you are in the right, and the police put you on your face, handcuff you, embarrass you in public, kneel on your back to hold you down, hurt your bad shoulder or make an unlawful arrest that violates your rights, get a lawyer and file suit. But do it yourself while you are alive.
Cops make mistakes. Some cops do not know all the state statutes. A few cops break the law. But all cops react to dangerous situations by taking control of those situations and not relinquishing control until they believe everyone is safe. You can expedite that process by complying with their commands even if you disagree. Handle the situation later (in the courts if you need to).
Remember, we are the responsible citizens. We work with the police. If the police do something wrong, the best course of action is to cooperate until you can speak to a lawyer.