In recent months the country has seen a significant level of violence between some police officers and other members of the community. The well-documented incidents beg the question, how can citizens and police get along, so that cops will serve and protect? With this question in mind, Officer Anthony Nolan visited Bryant University, on Febraury 19th, to talk about what to do when stopped by a police officer. And more importantly, the answer to the question, how can we avoid more bad interactions, like what happened in Ferguson, Cleveland and Ohio, in the future?
One of the most important things to remember is that there are a lot of good police officers, but there still are a handful of bad apples making them all look bad. The good officers are the ones who have pride in what they do, and will treat people as they would want their families to be treated. They are dedicated to the safety of the community and the values of justice, peace and unity. The bad officers treat people disrespectfully, and unequally, and are characterized by misconduct, verbal abuse and other inappropriate behaviors. One of the problems is that a good police officer may be too intimidated by a bad one to stand up. In that case, what can other people do?
The best thing is for us to be aware of the law and our rights. This knowledge gives us a chance to catch a possibly bad police officer, and that will cause hesitation on their part. For example, police officers are required to provide you with a racial profiling card, which details what to do if you believe that you were stopped for an unspoken reason. If this is not given after the ticket, then it will likely be a case of racial profiling. It is also the officer’s duty to respect your rights, and the stop must have a reason behind it, and not that they just think they have the authority. In addition, if the police officer does not specifically say “stop,” or that you are detained, then you are free to go, unless the officer actually grabs you. Another option is for a person to use their phone camera if it looks like the officer may be getting out of line. This is a two-way street, and there are things the driver can do to prevent additional problems with the police.
The most important of tips is to not panic, which is what happens in a lot of stops. Things such as flailing your arms around and refusing to answer the questions gives the officer an additional reason to write you up, or keep you stopped longer. It is also not a good idea for somebody to run their mouth to the officer. An officer may also egg you on to fight a ticket in court for the overtime pay. However, while getting the ticket is not a good time to argue against it, in other words do not get into a debate. Also, another thing that an officer will likely ask for is for proof that your car is insured. They are not required to contact your insurance company, so you will need to have your insurance card in the car. If the insurance card is expired as of the stop, then it will be an additional thing to write you up for, but it cannot be the reason for the action to have happened in the first place, and your car may also be towed.
Doing what the officer asks is also important, for example they can ask you to take your hoodie off for identification, if you resemble somebody that has done something wrong. This is usually only during a legal stop however. Another thing that may cause a stop is if you are from an area where there is a lot of wrongdoing. Finally while an officer may egg you on, you should not attempt to egg them on, especially to shoot you. Ultimately, people need to be bold enough to have conversations about what is going on, or these bad interactions are going to keep happening. Regardless, the best thing to do is to keep up to date on the laws where you live, for all possible aforementioned situations, and realize that all communities are different. The officers, for their part, will need training for how to deal with problems that an attitude can cause, so that there are less overreactions. However, it is up to the police departments to provide it.
That still leaves the question: how can people get along with the police in their community? A particularly strong solution is known as community policing, where relationships are built between the police and others. This is so that the public gets used to the officers, and the officers can get used to what goes on. This will make people less nervous when a police officer has to stop them, which will lead to better interactions.