Monday, September 27, 2010

Citizens' Handbook on Police?

Police officers are trained for dozens of hours over several months in how to deal with citizens in various situations. If the news is any indication, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to know how to deal with them. Perhaps we should all have a handbook.

I first thought of this topic when I saw another physical assault by a police impersonator in Spokane. Anybody who knows how to use probably understands how easy it is to get your hands on authentic-looking police attire--the picture to the right is for a uniform sold on the site. Consequently, police impersonation is not an uncommon crime. In fact, the danger posed by police impersonators is so serious that the Oregon government thought it prudent to advise citizens on how to spot and avoid becoming a victim of police impersonators. The advice in some cases is uncooperative enough to have been unfathomable several years ago. For example, Oregon tells you to try to stop in a well-lit area with people around, lock your door, and keep your car and flashers on. One would hope that Oregon officers are also trained to understand such actions as safety measures rather than defiance and "contempt of cop."

In addition, Washington has had more than it's fair share of repercussions for non-defiant suspects recently. The infamous stomping-epithet incident comes to mind. More recently, a Seattle police officer shot a man to death when he did not comply precisely and immediately with the officer's orders. John T. Williams, a Native American man, was a wood carver. The officer told Mr. Williams to stop after spotting him with a wood carving knife in one hand and a piece of wood in the other. He was partially deaf and did not hear the officer at first. When Mr. Williams finally turned to face the officer, the officer unloaded four shots, killing him. It is still unclear whether or how Mr. Williams' turning to face the officer was an act of aggression. Two articles are here and here.

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