This week we’ll revisit the subject of my last column which addressed efforts that we might make in order to avoid the escalation of potentially tense interactions with police. I had suggested what I feel is the simple act of complying with the instructions given by law enforcement officers. I had no intention of doing a follow-up, but three responses to that column are worthy of discussion.
I remain convinced that compliance truly is the easiest pathway to avoiding conflict — or minimizing escalation of an already testy situation with police. LEO’s, like most human beings, are in a more comfortable zone when people aren’t challenging them. Who among us wants to heighten tensions with a person who has a gun? Seems to me that anyone who would work to make a LEO uncomfortable in a questionable situation is truly asking for it – but that’s just me.
OK then. One reader from Westminster wrote the paper disagreeing with my thought that it’s simple to comply with a LEO’s orders. To make her point she listed a number of examples – with apparent sarcasm. And sarcasm’s fine. I speak it fluently. She compared the simplicity of complying with police with: “If you are poor, simply make more money. Want to be a success, simply don’t fail. Having marital problems, simply stop arguing.”
Clearly, she and I are on different wavelengths. Each of her examples involves the decisions/actions of others. Making money requires someone to pay you. Almost always, success involves others, and without question it takes at least two to stop an argument. Here’s the difference. Deciding to comply with a LEO’s instruction (in order to remain as safe as possible) only involves one person. You, alone, are the decider — comply/don’t comply. No phone call, no consultation required. It is simple. Do you want to avoid a bump on the head, a possible arrest or worse? Easy! Choose compliance. You won’t know until you try it.
Perhaps easier than avoiding contentious interaction with police, how about this? How about maximizing your effort to avoid any negative contact or interaction with law enforcement? How’s that for a novel approach?
It was another reader who prompted this new thought, emailing me directly with the question “Why is so little attention paid to why the police needed to interact with the individual [in the first place]?” In many, many cases a separate incident precipitated the officer contact — shoplifting, attempting to pass suspected counterfeit money, outstanding warrants for prior offenses, an active assault with a knife, etc., etc., etc. Such is repeated, seemingly, day after day after day. The bottom line? Misbehavior attracts law enforcement. With that in mind, it seems that this reader’s contribution might be more basic than mine. Simply put? Behave yourselves. Thanks.
Lastly, another reader from Westminster labeled my column, and me by extension, as “racist and authoritarian.” He implied that I wrote “…if a policeman shoots a Black guy, it is the Black guy’s fault.” I’ve said no such thing — ever. Aside from my stating “I’m not a person of color” the word “color” was not used in that column. Nor did I mention any specific color — not one. My intention was to give advice to the young people who tend to be confrontational with police. I don’t care what color they are. Let’s help the young’uns — all of them. Would the reader approve of that, or would he favor some over others?
Being called a racist by a total stranger who’s never spoken with me no longer gets my attention. Generally, it’s a careless, fraudulent accusation which certain groups like to throw out there for shock value. In recent times, it’s become so common it’s now boring.
But let’s see what we can do to deconstruct his unfounded assertion using logic — if that’s permitted these days. I encourage people to comply with police instruction in order to keep themselves safe. Richard thinks I’m writing about “Black guys.” If that were true, then I’d be trying to keep “Black guys” safe. For this, Richard calls me “racist and authoritarian.” Something’s twisted somewhere.
I’m just an old, white guy who wants everyone to both behave and stay safe — you, me, whomever. For the record, and to the reader from Union Bridge who wrote to the paper Saturday, May 8, I know who George Floyd was — also Michael Brown and Rodney King and Medgar Evers and Huey Newton, among others. How about yourself?
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Rick Blatchford writes from Mount Airy. His column appears every other Tuesday. Reach him at email@example.com.