BLACK PEOPLE’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING A POLICE ENCOUNTER
The history of brutality and beatings by police officers in the United States of America is steeped in racism and remains a systemic issue. A long number of unarmed black men are killed each day by white extremist that have infiltrated American police departments. (1) Politicians aggrandize that the American judiciary is just and has persuaded the families of black victims to rely on this cockeyed institution which often deems the murders of our loved ones “justiﬁable homicides”. As black urbanites, we lack support from federal, state, and local government institutions; therefore, we must create practical solutions to control this enormous problem perpetuated by police. We could start by following Black People’s Guide to Surviving a Police Encounter.
1. SILENCE IS GOLDEN
Black people must understand that in order to survive a police encounter, we need to exercise our Freedom from Compulsory Self-Incrimination, in others words, we must keep our mouths shut. When police stop and ask black people questions to “assist with their investigation”, it’s likely because police believe you – the black person – to be a suspect. Black people questioned by police are rarely witnesses. If detained by police, only give your government issued ID or driver’s license.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself” and this is exactly what you’ve become when you speak to the police. Everything you say will be used against you and framed to fit the prosecution’s case.
2. PLAY POSSUM
One of the best tips for surviving a police encounter is FREEZE. Unless you are actively filming your encounter with police, do not grab things from your pocket, reach for things near you or make any sudden movements that could be later characterized as erratic. In several U.S. states, police do not need a valid reason to use deadly force. Sudden movements around trigger-happy police will give them a reason to say you were reaching for a weapon and will provoke them to shoot you. The word “freeze” translates into “I will shoot you if you don’t stop!”
You can also “tranquillize” your body by going limp. Police now have body-worn cameras and the best evidence against a rogue police officer is the video of them bludgeoning a tranquillized body that looks like it’s already dead. In other words, play POSSUM.
3. DO NOT RUN
Another tip to surviving a police encounter is DO NOT RUN. Running, as movements, provoke critical incidents. Even if your sprints match Usain Bolt’s time, a bullet is always faster and deadlier. Running from the police (in their view) is prima facie evidence that you’ve done something illegal. Rarely does “I was afraid of being shot” defense work for black people because they are not alive to testify to being afraid. The golden rule is: “In the midst of law enforcement’s movement and chaos, I will keep still.” Stillness is a very powerful alibi against resisting arrest.
4. DO NOT ARGUE, DEBATE FACTS OR EXPLAIN
DO NOT ARGUE OR DEBATE FACTS with police, instead ask questions:
- “Am I free to go?”
- “Am I being detained?”
- “Why am I being stopped?”
- “What crime do you think I committed?”
- “Why do you think it was me who committed the crime?”
- “Will you let me get advice from an attorney before you question me?”
- “Can we answer these questions when my attorney is present?”
Asking the police questions forces them to reveal their case to you instead of volunteering information you think is harmless but later may be used to build a case against you. DO NOT EXPLAIN anything to the police. To be testimonial, a “communication must itself, explicitly or implicitly, relate a factual assertion or disclose information” that is “the expression of the contents of an individual’s mind.” See Doe v. United States, 487 U.S. 201, 210 n.9 (1988). For instance, if police ask you, “Did you just come out of that bank?” and you say, “Yes, but I wasn’t the one who rob it.” Not only have you disclosed information outside of the officer’s questions but you’ve implicitly given a factual assertion and such assertion can be used against you (even if you weren’t the one who robbed the bank). What’s critical is that police believe you to be a person who robbed the bank. Silence is your only true friend in encounters with police, it’ll never betray you.
5. THE ONLY WEAPON NEEDED IS A CAMERA PHONE
Ever since a bystander filmed Rodney King being beaten by police in 1991, the power is now in the hands of witnesses and victims, since so many of us now have camera phones. The camera phone is your defense and proves the police committed a crime.1)VOX: Why Recording the Police is so Important by Dara Lind and Joss Fong (Jul 6, 2016) It’s the only weapon needed to stay alive during a heated police encounter. You’ll want to stream the video to Facebook or Periscope in the event the police snatches your camera phone and moves to destroy the evidence. Having a good cop-watching2)PeacefulStreets, Cops Tackle and Arrest Guy But No One Knows Why (Mar 17, 2018) crew like #peacefulstreets on standby to film the integrity of the encounter is always helpful. Streaming to the previously mentioned platforms automatically leaks the evidence to the public before law enforcement seizes the opportunity to edit the video and frame the narrative. Absolutely no knives, guns or vapours, as these items give police an excuse to shoot you if you are black. If you are a black registered gun owner and you have a gun in the car, don’t tell the police. That’s right, DO NOT TELL THE POLICE. Remember tip #1, Silence is Golden? In the event you are charged with unlawfully carrying a firearm, your authenticated paperwork and valid registration can exonerate you.
If you do have an unregistered weapon on you or in your vehicle, DO NOT REACH FOR IT! It is likely you’ll be transported to jail, so the highlight of this tip, as the others, is not to avoid being taken into custody but avoid your life being stolen from you and your family.
6. EXHIBIT DECORUM
Racist cops believe all blacks are criminals, more urban and aggressive and have a greater capacity to kill. This is most often the result of implicit and explicit racism. Although blacks in the United States are disproportionately murdered by police, statistics show white offenders kill more police officers. For instance, from 1980 to 2013, there were 2,269 officers killed in incidents and 2,896 offenders. The racial breakdown of offenders over the 33-year period was on par with the 10-year period: 52 percent were white, and 41 percent were black.3)The Washington Post, Are Black or White Offenders More Likely to be Killed by Police? (2015)
To offset the bias that you are aggressive, exhibit decorum. That doesn’t mean you need to say, “Yes sir” – what this means is be comfortable in your own skin, pay attention to your movements and your environment and control your emotions. It must be consciously programmed (or unconsciously) that “Cops are trained marksman. They have guns and the power of the government to kill with impunity. Any movements or phrases spoken will be construed as belligerence or an overzealous attempt to get away with a crime. Don’t move or say anything.” If you lose self-control, everything else will fall. Using these tips increases your chance to come home safe and alive
Questions about whether this content constitutes legal advice? Read R.F.E.S. Disclaimer here.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||VOX: Why Recording the Police is so Important by Dara Lind and Joss Fong (Jul 6, 2016)|
|2.||↑||PeacefulStreets, Cops Tackle and Arrest Guy But No One Knows Why (Mar 17, 2018)|
|3.||↑||The Washington Post, Are Black or White Offenders More Likely to be Killed by Police? (2015)|