“Police are specialists in violence. They are armed, trained, and authorized to use force. With varying degrees of subtlety, this colors their every action. Like the possibility of arrest, the threat of violence is implicit in every police encounter. Violence, as well as the law, is what they represent.”—Author Kristian Williams
How do you protect yourself from flying fists, choking hands, disabling electrified darts and killing bullets?
How do you defend yourself against individuals who have been indoctrinated into believing that they are superior to you, that their word is law, and that they have the power to take your life?
Most of all, how can you maintain the illusion of freedom when daily, Americans are being shot, stripped, searched, choked, beaten and tasered by police for little more than daring to frown, smile, question, challenge an order or just exist?
The short answer: you can’t.
Now for the long answer, which is far more complicated but still leaves us feeling hopeless, helpless and vulnerable to the fears, moods and misguided training of every cop on the beat.
If you ask police and their enablers what Americans should do to stay alive during encounters with law enforcement, they will tell you to comply (or die).
It doesn’t matter where you live—big city or small town—it’s the same scenario being played out over and over again in which Americans are being brainwashed into believing that anyone who wears a government uniform—soldier, police officer, prison guard—must be obeyed without question, while government agents, hyped up on their own authority and the power of their uniform, ride roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.
For example, a local law enforcement agency in Virginia has started handing out a guide—developed in cooperation with a group of African American pastors—on how to interact with police. The purpose of this government resource, according to the police, is to make sure citizens feel “comfortable” and know what to do when interacting with police in order to “promote public safety and respectful interaction.”
Curiously, nowhere in the “Guide to Interacting with Police” is there any mention of the Constitution, or the rights of the citizenry, other than the right to remain silent.
In fact, the primary point stressed throughout the bilingual guide aimed at “building trust and cooperation,” is that citizens should comply, cooperate, obey, not resist, not argue, not make threatening gestures or statements, avoid sudden movements, and submit to a search of their person and belongings.
The problem, of course, is what to do when compliance is not enough.
I’m not talking about the number of individuals—especially young people—who are being shot and killed by police for having a look-alike gun in their possession, such as a BB gun. I’m not even talking about people who have been shot for brandishing weapons at police, such as scissors.
I’m talking about the growing numbers of unarmed people are who being shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.
Killed for standing in a “shooting stance.” In California, police opened fire on and killed a mentally challenged—unarmed—black man within minutes of arriving on the scene, allegedly because he removed a vape smoking device from his pocket and took a “shooting stance.”
Killed for holding a cell phone. Police in Arizona shot a man who was running away from U.S. Marshals after he refused to drop an object that turned out to be a cellphone.
Killed for behaving oddly and holding a baseball bat. Responding to a domestic disturbance call, Chicago police shot and killed 19-year-old college student Quintonio LeGrier who had reportedly been experiencing mental health problems and was carrying a baseball bat around the apartment where he and his father lived.