A Different Agenda
A St. Paul police officer suggested local citizens run over protestors. He told the citizens they won’t be charged with a crime if they handle the inevitable accident in a certain way. I have some thoughts on this.
My first thought was: “@$%# this guy.” Upon further reflection, well, that’s still up there.
I am going to be fair here and say the police officer that publicly tells people to commit vehicular homicide is a rare one. I’m comfortable saying his views are not commonly shared by people with badges. Also, despite the verbal jujitsu he recommends, you’re probably going to have to deal with the courts if you collide with a pedestrian.
But the bigger picture is the disconnect between what a police officer wants and what you, the not-police officer, want.
Someone may believe a police officer has their best interest at heart. This is not the case. Police officers have the best interests of the community at heart, even if it’s in a twisted way like the guy above. But an individual is not a community, and police officers have no problem whatsoever interrogating and locking up a person if they feel that person is dangerous or has broken the laws of the community.
As a member of the community, I am happy police are on the job. As an individual though, I’m nervous and unhappy when I’m dealing with a police officer (at least when it’s not in my professional lawyer capacity). Will this police officer think I’m a threat to the community? Will he or she give me a ticket? Lock me up?
This is the disconnect. What a police officer wants to have happen is not necessarily what I want to have happen. We have different agendas. The officer wants to keep the community safe, and I want to make it home to see my family, and ideally not have my insurance rates go up or have to be a defendant in court later.
The officer’s job is to keep the community safe. If the officer suspects I’m not doing that, my responsibility is not to make his job easier (or plow into protestors… seriously #%$# that guy). Because of that, if the officer asks me if I broke the law, or any questions that could lead to evidence I broke the law, I stay silent. If the officer asks me if he can inspect my car or my person or my home to find evidence of a crime, I say no. The officer has a job to do, but it’s not my obligation to help him do it, to my own peril.
If a police officer orders you to do something, like staying still to be frisked or getting out of the way while they execute a warrant, the law says you are required to obey. Not doing so is a crime. But there are many, many interactions where it is a your choice on how much you want to help an officer investigate you. I recommend not at all.
The police are public servants and the community is better for them. But when you’re in their sights, your life could get a lot worse, very quickly. When you and the officer’s goals diverge, remember to protect yourself.
If you or someone you know ended up on the wrong side of a police investigation, feel free to give me a call.