From police provocation to police brutality

By Emily Ryan and By Emily Ryan

Citizens should not provoke police officers. They should treat police officers like armed robbers, in that they have guns and power over their lives. As contentions escalate surrounding the abuse of power by police, like in the situation of the Utah nurse, I have one response: the man has a gun, so do what he says as long as his requests do not put anyone in physical harm.  

Bad police officers exist. True story. They happen to be human; they have flaws. Nevertheless, I would rather have a police force than anarchy. Police serve a purpose in that they keep order, peace. I am so grateful to have them put their lives on the line every day, and their willingness to sacrifice for me mandates that I treat them with a certain degree of respect until an officer does something to lose it. Respect for police does not have to be earned because their position merits it.  

If police abuse  their power, they forfeit that respect. Furthermore, victims can work through the system to punish those officers. For example, the Utah officer was fired, and his supervisor demoted. However, working through the system involves waiting to seek justice until after you are free from a situation in which the officer has the power to end your life. Trust the system to punish bad police and protect the victims, but do not act until after you are safe at home.  

I acknowledge that the system may not work for everyone. However, with the alternative being death or a serious and lasting injury, living under the corrupt system is better than dying for the idea of a just one. This problem really is improving. For example, increased police accountability has resulted in body cameras. If you’re in a situation where a police officer is threatening you with a gun, and you’ve done nothing wrong, comply now so that you are alive to fight later.

In the case of the nurse from Utah, she was fortunate enough to suffer only a rough arrest and not the end of her life. However, had the officer been a little angrier or a little more rash, the provocation could have resulted in an obituary instead of the public outcry against how police abuse their power.

So, don’t talk back to a policeman, keep your hands on the wheel when you get pulled over, address him politely and follow instructions if they do not result in harm to other people or yourself. The Utah police officer wanted blood drawn. Was he wrong? Heck yes – I’m not arguing the police force’s infallibility. I am arguing that at the first signs of violence or endangerment of the victim, comply. Drawing blood will not kill someone, and if the officer might kill you if you do not follow directions, you can bet the court of law will not have a successful prosecution. Mitigating circumstances exist. Even if you are punished, this unfortunate consequence definitely beats death. The officer still has a gun.

However, the police officer will absolutely suffer the consequences of his actions. Justice might be belated, or even never come, but trust that your death does not bring that justice any closer. All that is accomplished is that you won’t be around to see the outcome.  

In a broader context, society has taken a negative view of police officers, almost like the falling out between a parent and a teenager. The romance of being a police officer has been shredded by increased publicity, cameras and reporting on a national level, just like adolescents’ eyes are opened to their parents’ shortcomings.  This falling out is totally understandable. However, while a teenager’s rebelliousness results in being grounded, society’s disillusionment with police officers results in people’s lives being lost. The stakes are not the same. Go ahead and rebel against your parents, but bite your tongue when a police officer tickets you incorrectly. Take it up with his superiors in a public office.

My purpose is not to diminish the strength of people who value justice and truth so much that they resist, nor excuse police officers’ actions. Rather, I implore people like the nurse from Utah to keep their hands on the wheel when a police officer approaches their car, to follow instructions when threatened physically by anyone with a gun and to think about their own safety as holding the most importance.