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November 6, 2016

Confrontation with Police

Reuel S. Amdur

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This anatomy of a confrontation with police is based solely on the account of the event given by the civilian who was involved in the conflict with police. It is being credited for two reasons: it details his own stupid, impulsive, antagonistic behavior without any attempt to cover it up, and some of the police behavior alleged in this instance has been seen in other cases. So what happened?

Craig—that’s the name we’ll use—was stopped by a policeman for a traffic offense.  Craig argued with him, denying the offense.  During the exchange with the officer, he repeatedly referred to the officer as a “fucking pig.” 

The officer demanded his license, registration, and proof of insurance, and Craig continued to argue.  He asked permission to reach inside his jacket for the license.  It appears that the request may have been ignored.  The officer ordered, “Get your ass out of the car!”  “I told him that I was concerned for my safety and if he holstered his pepper spray, I would exit the car.” 

At that point, the cop hit him in the face, kneed him in the abdomen, pepper- sprayed him, and called on his radio for backup.  Craig told him, “I’ll feel more comfortable getting out of the car when backup arrives, you fucking pig.” 

The cop kept kneeing him and pulling on him.  Then backup arrived at the passenger side.  Cop number one called out, “Stop biting me!”  Craig shouted, “I’m not biting you.”  At the same time he was being hit.

Craig was then forced from the car and thrown on the ground, where he was kneed and hit and pepper-sprayed again.  According to Craig, “I was lying on by back with the cop’s leg on my chest and neck.”  Said the cop, “Stop resisting arrest and lie on your stomach.”  “How can you expect me to do that when you are on my chest?”  Again, “Stop resisting,” along with blows and knee jabs.

Six or seven police cars were at the scene and he was taken to the police station and charged.  His lawyer managed to arrange a deal with the prosecution to avoid a criminal conviction—community service at a food bank and $1,000 donation to a charity.  And by the way, he had to take an anger management course.  A wise provision, but one obviously needed by a certain officer as well.

So what do we make of this situation? 

In the first place, Craig’s behavior and language were inappropriate, to say the least, and inciting as well.  From his account, he did not physically attack the policeman, though his refusal to leave the car could be seen as resisting arrest. 

He should have cooperated at the start, and when the situation escalated to the point when asked to exit the car, he should have done so.  Blame rests on him for his conduct and language. 

Arguing about the merit of the traffic charge belongs in court, not in a heated debate with the officer.  But the officer also has some culpability in this situation—big time.

We expect more from the police? 

Particularly disturbing is the tactic used too frequently to shield police in illegal administration of physical punishment: cries of stop resisting, stop biting, stop fighting me, while the person is doing none of these things.  If you see an altercation with police, be alert to this tactic.  Notify police headquarters, defense lawyers, and media.

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