Tragic police encounters begin, in the vast majority of cases, with a breakdown in communication.
When police officers encounter someone who runs, someone who fails to follow their lawful orders, or someone with a defiant or disrespectful attitude, that encounter quickly results in failed communication and inevitably ends in escalation.
“Failure to comply” is a major source of arrests in this country and it shouldn’t be.
None of us — regardless of whether we are black or white, young or old, rich or poor, angry or calm — has the right to ignore or refuse to comply with the lawful orders of a police officer.
If you don’t want to get arrested, if you want to be respected, then regardless of who you are show respect for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect and serve the community in which you live. You’ll be surprised by the results.
It may be difficult for some who feel that they are being profiled, disrespected or treated unfairly to follow this advice. But even if these feelings are entirely justified, the advice is no less valid.
Racism represents a cruel and intolerable assault on human dignity that no man or woman should be expected to endure. Feelings of hopelessness and injustice run deep. These issues give rise to intense emotions. But they do not excuse a failure to comply with lawful police authority.
Any emotional, disrespectful or defiant response during a police encounter increases the likelihood of an escalating police response — exponentially. Regardless of the circumstances, you need to comply with the lawful orders, commands and instructions of all police officers and you need to do so promptly and politely. In addition to being legally required, it may save your life.
It will help to follow these five guidelines:
— Don’t break the law.
— Show complete respect for the police at all times.
— When interacting with the police, be open, honest and forthright. Do not attempt to hide or conceal anything. Keep your hands out of your pockets where they can see them. Do not make any sudden moves whatsoever.
— Do exactly as you are told without delay and without objection. Never argue with a police officer. If you have an argument to make, save it for the district attorney, your lawyer or the judge.
— Do not involve yourself in police matters that do not involve you personally. Do not attempt to make arguments on behalf of someone else or in any way interfere with a police officer who is doing his job.
If you follow this advice, you will be far less likely to have any problem whatsoever with 99 percent of the police officers you encounter. You will be less likely to be arrested and you will come home to your family alive and well.
If you choose to disregard this advice, understand that you do so at your peril. Police are human. They make mistakes. They have stressful jobs. They are constantly involved in high-risk encounters filled with uncertainty. They have families at home. They will protect themselves. They carry guns.
A civilized society cannot long endure if people are allowed, let alone encouraged, to challenge or interfere with police on the street. If you want to live in a civilized society, then you need to understand, accept and embrace this concept.
Failure to follow the lawful orders of a police officer, interfering with a police officer and resisting arrest are all crimes punishable by fines or imprisonment — for good reason. Without these rules, all members of society would be at greater risk.
Parents should insist that their children follow this advice — and they should provide an example to their children by following this advice themselves.
George J. Chanos served as Nevada’s 31st attorney general. He is the author of “Seize Your Destiny: A Roadmap to Success.” For more information visit GeorgeJChanos.com.