This is a profoundly disturbing editorial. It's an op-ed written by a police officer in the Washington Post, and its message is very simple:
"If you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?"
I wish I could tell you that this article betrayed a sense of the absurd, or that it was meant in some kind of satirical fashion. It isn't. His argument is simple: you have no idea what's going on for that cop or what the cop is going through. The cop has the right to use whatever force is needed. So if you don't want to get shot, do everything the cop says, never argue, never object. Later, he says, you can "ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated."
To list a few of the exceptionally obvious things which this ignores:
(1) All of the arguments that you don't know what a cop is going through, that this "routine traffic stop" is actually very dangerous for them, and so on, apply just as well to the person being stopped. In fact, especially if you don't look white and upper-class enough, that routine stop is even more
dangerous for you than for the cop: the cop doesn't know if you're armed and willing to become violent, but (by Dutta's own admission) you do
know that the cop is. Saying that people being stopped need to be respectful and do what the cop says, but that the cop isn't under any such obligation to anyone else, is an invitation for violence.
(2) These post facto remedies which he suggests are incredibly limited in their value. Go ahead and lodge a complaint; it will promptly be filed in the appropriate place. Under the POBOR (Peace Officers' Bill of Rights, a California law) and similar laws elsewhere, you get all sorts of guarantees here: for example, that if a decision is made in regards to your complaint, you will be notified of that decision within 30 days. It does not guarantee, for example, that a decision will actually be made, and in fact it guarantees that if a decision isn't
made within a year, the officer will face no consequences from it. The police have a tremendous
degree of immunity, and outside of very exceptional situations, are investigated only by an internal system.
(You can read the text of the POBOR here: https://www.cslea.com/legal/pobor
. Other states have similar laws, but you should check your own state's laws for the details)
(3) If a police officer does something wrong during a stop, it can have serious consequences for you, which will not be redressed no matter what. As far as the police are concerned, an arrest isn't a "consequence," since the courts can easily throw it out; but go ahead and explain that to your employer when you're telling them why you didn't come to work. Being threatened and harassed every time you walk out the door in your neighborhood isn't a "consequence," because if the cop didn't have a good reason, they wouldn't have done anything.
Knowing that you might be publicly bullied and humiliated, in front of your children, your spouse, or your employer, that you may be searched, beaten, or arrested at any time -- and that such things happen routinely to you and everyone around you -- is something acceptable, in the view of this editorial, because you have the right to file a grievance later with the same organization which has decided that this behavior is, at a baseline, OK.
My purpose here isn't to say that people should be rude or threatening to cops. I'm saying that the obligation of police and citizens is a reciprocal
obligation. It is absolutely true that the work of police is dangerous and complicated, and they require certain allowances in order to be able to do their jobs; however, if you translate that to "they must be granted unlimited authority over the citizenry, and must never be challenged, except after the fact and in very limited ways," then the police have been set up to become villains, not heroes.
Dutta's attitude is profoundly corrupted: he has taken the real and reasonable fears of police about doing their jobs, and expanded it into a notion of the police as being a class above the public, with tremendous powers of force and coercion, and subject to not even contradiction. If you heard this sort of statement from soldiers, you would think you were living in a military junta; if you hear this from police officers, you wonder if they
think we are living in a junta.
for the link.