“Comply or Die” appears to be the prevailing attitude among too many police in minority neighborhoods:
Do exactly what I say, and we’ll get along fine.
Do not question me or talk back in any way.
You do not have the right to object to anything I may say or ask you to do, or ask for clarification if my demands are unclear or contradictory.
You must obey me under all circumstances without hesitation, no matter how arbitrary, unreasonable, discriminatory, or blatantly racist my commands may be.
Anything other than immediate perfect servile compliance will be labeled as resisting arrest, and expose you to the possibility of a violent reaction from me.
That reaction could cause you severe injury or even death.
And I will suffer no consequences.
It’s your choice: Comply, or die.
People have been saying that Eric Garner should not have resisted. Mike Brown controlled his own destiny. Several fat jokes about Garner. Saying his pre-existing medical conditions killed him. Many posters stopping just short of openly claiming the dead men got what they deserved. And this is what they say openly on the internet. (Imagine what the password-only forums are like.)
Someone named haziz spells out the rules in more detail:
My 5 tips on how black and others can survive a police encounter with police are very simple and if you stop and think about it make a lot of sense:
1.Do NOT under any circumstance ARGUE with police out in the street. You cannot win an argument with police out in the field.
2.2. Do NOt raise your voice, but stay cool and calm. Do NOT make any quick or aggressive movements. Remember the police officer does NOT know you and will react to protect himself or those around him.
3.Police know that hands kill, so always keep your hands in plain sight. Before you move your hands ask permission, officer I need to go into my back pocket to get my ID, is that OK with you?
4.NEVER run from police even if you are innocent. When you run you create a heightened sense that something must be wrong here.
5.DO NOT resist arrest – if you do one of three things is going to happen:
a.You are going to get beat down till you stop resisting
b.You are going to get injured or accidentally killed
c.And you are going to have charges taken out against you
They have no idea how chilling that sounds to the rest of us.
That’s why the bad cops who abuse their power are not the only ones to blame.
Decent cops who stand by and say nothing while despotic cops act out, must ALSO believe that “comply or die” is reasonable, or else they would not cover for one another. The DAs and prosecutors and judges must also believe in “comply or die”, otherwise the system would fall apart.
So I ask those of you who make excuses for the police, to at least TRY to put yourself in the shoes of the people who live under this kind of rule.
Can you even imagine a cadre of these autocrats walking around with loaded guns and itchy trigger fingers in your neighborhood? Labeling every male in the community a thug and believing that doing their job means kicking “thug ass”? Wearing an attitude that says: you’re all animals and it was lack of seniority that drew me the assignment in this zoo? I don’t want to be here any more than you want me to be here. I just want to put in my hours and go back to my neighborhood far away from here where there are no people like you to deal with.
Tyrannical cops wear their entitlement disorder on their sleeves thus:
When I am on the job it’s your responsibility to make my life as easy as possible and don’t do anything that might get me angry or otherwise set me off: Just do exactly what I tell you, precisely and without delay, no matter how unreasonable.
If I decide I want to frisk you, let me. If I decide I want to arrest you, let me. If this is the fifth time I’ve hassled you this month, let me. My whim counts for more than your dignity. My right to delay you just because I can is more important than anything else you may have to do today. Even if you were just minding your business and haven’t done anything wrong, or have no idea why I picked you out for special attention, just get on the ground when told or spread yourself across the patrol car, or put your hands behind your back for the cuffs. Let me take you away without raising your voice above a whimper, or preferably, without saying anything at all unless I order you to.
Submit quietly and cooperate with your own oppression.
Or I may kill you.
And if I kill you, it’s your fault, not mine. I’ll say you resisted. I’ll say you were combative. I’ll say I believed you were a threat to me, and the powers that be will side with me. No one outside of the neighborhood is going to believe you or stand with you. Even if my actions are captured on video.
By the way, while you are subjugating yourself to me, a little sir yes sir Officer Sir, and is this OK with you sir would be nice along with it. Look at how many police forces prefer to have men who served in the military. Is it because they got used to hearing sir yes sir from everyone around them, or they had to say it themselves and now want someone else to say it to them? Either way, too many of them have an unhealthy thirst for the exercise of power.
Knowing or sensing just how much their rule is resented adds to their fear that everyone is out to get them. It makes their trigger fingers quiver on the taser or the pistol all the more when confronted with a man or boy who will not bow and scrape and respect mah authoritah.
What would be normal teenage backtalk or harmless alpha male headbutting in a different context turns into a license to kill.
Sounds much too similar to the way a battered woman is expected to cope with an abusive spouse: When she does exactly what I tell her to do, everything’s OK. If she steps out of line she knows what will happen! It’s her fault that I hit/injured/killed her! She should not have talked back! She should have just done what I said when I said it! She should have figured out what I wanted without my having to say anything! Tamir Rice should have known to drop the toy gun! Akai Gurley shouldn’t have been walking down the stairs with his friend! Don’t they know how much stress I am under, and how I respond when things aren’t exactly as I want them to be? I have to react in an instant the moment anything gets the slightest bit out of my control. Too many zookeepers have been mauled by lions for me to take any chances!!!
Eventually people get fed up with living like this. Eventually the tension builds to the boiling point.
Eventually their voices get heard. Eventually even people living outside the community notice what is going on.
Eventually everyone gets radicalized.
Right now I am so angry I am dividing the whole world into folks who believe in “comply or die” policing and those who do not.
“Comply or die” policing is better suited to a banana republic or a dictatorship than the country that refers to itself as the greatest democracy in the world.
Writer is freelance article writer and peace activist based in USA