Working in the Unknown

Updated: July 18, 2016


By RU Rob

Imagine if you will, being deployed to Afghanistan. You are there for one purpose, to fight and win. Every day you know that when you leave the wire, the odds are high that you will be engaged by someone trying to kill you.  You are prepared for that moment and have made peace with yourself that it could happen at any time but celebrate every time it doesn’t. You count down the days until you end the deployment and head back to the safety of your own country.

Now, imagine being back in the good ole’ United States of freaking America.  You leave the house every day to head to work but the odds are stacked against you.  You don’t know what your day is going to look like, who you will come in contact with, or even if you will make it home at the end of your shift. You know that at any moment, everything can go sideways. Every day presents the opportunity for you to be verbally accosted, beaten, shot or even killed. It’s rarely predictable, but still could happen any moment.

Just from that description it sounds totally ludicrous that someone would subject themselves to that torture every day, right?

Yet, every single day, some 900,000 men and women do it in one form or another.  They are Police Officers, sworn to protect and serve.

These men and women are subject to anything and everything the minute they clock onto their shift. Responding to calls that are vague, stopping cars with unknown occupants, and often stepping into an already tense situation with people who are under the influence of something or another. More often than not, when responding to these events, these officers are initially by themselves, with only a radio and a prayer for a quick response should the need arise.

This is what you, the average American citizen, need to understand.

When an officer decides that you need to be placed into handcuffs—and yes, you can legally be placed into handcuffs without being arrested—that officer is now on high alert. This is the time that there is the highest probability of things going from sugar to shit.  If you are with a group of people, if you are agitated, if you have a previous arrest record with violence, if you are one big-ass mother ‘effer, and anything else you can possibly think of is going through that officer’s head as they prepare themselves to place the handcuffs on you, while making themselves vulnerable at the same time.

Police 5There is an old adage in the history of police; ASK, TELL, MAKE.  Unless there are extreme circumstances, most officers will ASK you to place your hands behind your back. This is not the time for you to decide to turn to face the officer. This is not the time to tell the officer, no. This is not the time that you should pull away from the officer either. If you do not comply with the instructions of the officer, chances are that they will then TELL you again what to do.  If you still refuse to comply with what they are saying, they will MAKE you do so.  Make is a strong word, but they are going to do it with whatever force is reasonable.

Everything in our legal system is about reasonableness. What is the reasonable amount of force to use to get someone into handcuffs?  Sometimes it can be as simple as verbal commands or may escalate to the physical control of the subject, pain compliance, physical strikes and even force that could be deadly. Every situation is different but the common threshold derives from the U.S. Supreme Court Case Graham v. Connor.  “The reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”

Decisions and actions made by police officers are judged by that “reasonableness.” Why? Every officer is different, that’s why. A six foot three inch, 240lb physical specimen of a man has different abilities opposed to that of a 5’6” 120lb female. What is reasonable for him is not the same for her.

Remember, there are no rules of engagement on the street. It is all about what is reasonable.

So the next time you see or hear of an officer involved incident, take a little time to think about the entire picture as opposed to the 15 second video clip that is looping on every single news channel.

Remember that officer, who is just trying to make it to the end of their shift.



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