IT'S AS SIMPLE AS 'YES, SIR.'
I was running a marathon the other day and at about mile 25 or so the course went up over a bridge that connected a neighborhood with downtown.
Near that bridge there stood on post one of the dozens of police officers who guarded our way as we ran.
As I approached this officer, a car driven by a young black woman – teens or 20s, it looked like – drove toward him on the closed street. He motioned to her to get off the street – pointing toward a side street – but she, through an open window, demurred and said, “I’m going home.”
The officer repeated his directive and she repeated her refusal.
She was travelling very slowly, but still rolling, and he in a firmer tone of voice told her to stop.
He then positioned himself squarely in front of her car, extended his left hand toward her in a stop signal and, with his right hand, unsnapped the retention device on his pistol and rested his palm on it, and ordered her to turn the vehicle off.
She stopped with the bumper inches from his legs.
She said, “No, I’m going home.”
He keyed the microphone on his shoulder with his left hand and again, in a stern voice, ordered her to turn the vehicle off.
She refused and inched the car forward into him.
I stood there in amazement, looking on.
He repeated his order, telling her to turn the vehicle off. She refused and inched it into him another time or two.
He keyed the microphone again and spoke into his shoulder.
Over and over he repeated his order, in a loud tone of voice, his hand resting on but not gripping his gun. She kept the car running, and refused, and I stood there in amazement at this standoff until the backup car arrived.
Then I ran on to the finish, puzzled by what I had seen.
And amazed at a defect of culture that has crept into our society and which fuels an insolence and disrespect for authority so hateful and strong that it leads to conflict and sometimes death.
Somehow, in a society of laws, some of us have lost the simple ability to say, “Yes, sir,” and comply when dealing with law enforcement officers. In some parts of society especially, insolence and antagonism toward police officers is part of the “culture.”
It is a tragic stupidity.
Because when dealing with a police officer, there is only one response, it is to comply and say, “Yes, sir,” or “Yes, ma’am.”
It’s that simple.
That doesn’t mean you’re admitting guilt, it doesn’t mean you’re a suck up, it doesn’t mean you won’t file a complaint later at headquarters, it just means you’re a citizen – a good citizen – and you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.
No matter the scenario, when an officer gives you an order, obey it.
If there’s an issue, later on, after the affairs of the moment have passed, it can be addressed. You can always talk to a sergeant later, you can go down to headquarters tomorrow, you can write all about it on Facebook, but right now, in the moment, simply obey. Be compliant and respectful. This is a simple process, don’t screw it up by being an idiot.
If the officer says turn off the car, turn off the car. If the officer says stand over here, stand over here. If the officers says be quiet, be quiet. If the officer says go home, go home.
Listen and do.
And be polite about it.
That’s not kissing ass, that’s saving ass – yours and the officer’s.
Because there are countless horrible incidents, including real tragedies, that have come about because someone was too stupid, arrogant or hotheaded to simply comply with a lawful order.
The entire mess in Ferguson, Missouri, came about because a guy refused to obey a simple order, and now he’s dead. In my hometown of Rochester, New York, a fleeing parolee refused the simple order to stop, and an officer, a young father, is killed.
And the other day at the marathon, because a young woman was too pigheaded to simply obey the order to turn down another street, she was involved in a tense standoff and encountered who knows what difficulty with the law.
The police are not the enemy.
The police are us.
It is their duty to enforce our laws – the laws we, through our elected representatives have enacted.
And it is our job to obey the laws.
And the people who enforce them.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2014