The best way to handle being detained by police (Opinion)
When a New Jersey police officer goes to work, he thinks about many things. I imagine among them, somewhere in the back of the officer's mind, is "will I be coming home when this shift is over?"
I'm sure not on the list is becoming a YouTube sensation. But in this ever-changing world in which we live in, being caught on video has become a realistic expectation.
In Point Pleasant we have a video that, according to Dan Alexander's story on NJ1015.com, "shows five officers struggling to place the man, since identified by police as Zakee Murphy, 29, of Garfield, into handcuffs on the boardwalk late Sunday afternoon."
An onlooker had described the incident as one where several police struggled with an arrested Murphy for having an open beer. Police Chief Joseph Michican says the altercation and arrest happened because Michican wouldn't give his name or cooperate with police.
From Dan's article: "An officer pushes aside a bench that Murphy tries to use for support, and police surround Murphy, trying to pull him down. Murphy, who is not wearing a shirt, stands on one foot before being brought down by an officer and continues to flail on the boards. ... Murphy gave a false name and walked away from police ignoring orders to place his hands behind his back, the chief said. He was processed and released from police headquarters, according to (Police Chief Joseph) Michigan."
Furthermore from the statement Michigan gave, according to the article, "No excessive force was used on Mr. Murphy. In fact officers in the middle of the attempting to restrain Mr. Murphy can be seen removing a bench from the area to prevent an injury. Mr. Murphy and all involved officers walked away unharmed and he was safely removed from the scene."
When I looked at this video I was thinking this all could have been avoided if Murphy had just cooperated with police. Instead of trying to stand or lean on the bench when they're trying to take him down, just go down. You can deal with the reason later at the station with your lawyer, which the court will appoint if you cannot afford one.
Being detained by a police officer is already a tense situation. Tension is high for both of you. So what's the best way to deal with the situation that will make both you and the officers comfortable? Retired police detective (25 years) and current New Jersey 101.5 personality Eric Potts told me what you should do:
- "Don't argue."
- "Follow directions."
- "Don't make sudden furtive movements."
- "Don't reach into your pockets unless you are told to do so."
- "If you're asked to exit your vehicle it is lawful."
Potts went on to tell me: "The Supreme Court has ruled that a police officer can get the driver out of a vehicle to speak with them on the side of the road. Don't demand to know why you've been stopped before showing your credentials. The police officer wants to know who they are dealing with and doesn't want to start arguing about the stop's lawfulness prior to getting credentials. Once they get your credentials they will inform you of the reason for the stop."
As for the ticket, Potts says:
- "Don't argue the ticket on the road."
- "Go to court and argue in front of a judge."
What if you're being arrested?
- "If you're being arrested, comply and follow directions."
- "You can prove yourself innocent in court."
"Never resist arrest. Resisting leads to physical confrontation. (That includes resisting) passively, by not cooperating, not putting your hands behind your back, not getting on the ground or defiantly standing your ground," like on the Point Pleasant video, he said.
Potts says you don't need to throw a punch to be considered resisting.
"Cooperate and once the officer has the situation under control, you can tell them what you are doing. If you're arrested, you have the right to remain silent. If you choose to remain silent, advise the officer that you are exercising that right and wish to speak with a lawyer. Remain calm and don't escalate the situation. An officer has no idea what your intentions are. Remember that until the officer has the situation under control it will remain tense," he said.
So if you're in the crowd, witnessing police officers dealing with detentions what should you be seeing?
"If you're in the crowd you should see everything above. The police should not punch or kick unless there is a reason. Punching a person on the ground isn't necessarily netting out street justice. It could be to get the person to comply, forcing them to put their hand behind their back, etc," Potts said.
Potts closed with this: "People need to realize that police work isn't always pretty."
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
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