It deals with more than routine traffic stops and – WARNING: ILLEGAL DRUG USE DEPICTED. Therefore, this isn’t required viewing for any of my students who object to such depictions or whose parents object to such depictions. Be that as it may, this is America, and we still have rights of free speech when discussing our rights. If anyone wants to make the headline, “Teacher Fired for Discussing Civil Rights,” be my guest. Have mercy on me, but that does sound like a juicy headline, possibly with some suspension with pay for me and a termination settlement of an undisclosed amount.
At any rate, this is a discussion of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendments to the Constitution. When we talk about fighting for freedom, these are several of those freedoms we fight for. I know the kids in the videos are guilty, guilty, guilty (maybe not the second kid, but he may have been). So what? We have rights to defend ourselves against an excess of executive power. If there is cause for a search, it should be articulated by the officer in question. We do not have to testify against ourselves, and it’s tricky how we can waive that right by confessing to breaking a law. And no deal an officer can give us will ever be as good as what a lawyer can work out.
In light of the Gates affair, we all need to take some time to reflect on our rights and how to express them – and how not to express them. NEVER get angry with a police officer. Don’t even raise your voice or get snarky. Same with a teacher, private security guy, TSA screener, or ANY authority figure. That’s just inviting tough times to befall you. Gates shot his mouth off when he dealt with the officers. When the blues are in your living room responding to a possible breaking and entering 911 call, it’s not a good time to discuss racial profiling, let alone in a harsh or excited tone.
The thing with racial profiling – which may have also been a factor in the second incident in the video – is that if the officer isn’t using racial slurs it’s almost impossible to prove. It’s much more easy to prove a search was without consent, for example. As a teacher, I’ve been accused of being a racist by kids trying to get out of trouble and that only makes me madder. That leads to an escalation of the situation. It’s the same with police, and it’s why the video presenter makes such a strong point about being polite to whoever’s stopping you.
By the way, on the racist thing… when I point out that there are plenty of students of all makes and models in my classes that don’t get into trouble, the kid that’s calling me racist then accuses the other kids not in trouble of “acting white.” Way to stay classy, kid accusing me of racism.
Some of the officers portrayed here were aggressive in their tone. In my experience in dealing with police, that’s more the exception than the rule. However, they do exist, as do outright bad cops. If a police officer is already in a bad mood, verbal or physical escalation is not going to improve the situation. Running is the worst thing to do: it’s the universal admission of guilt. To paraphrase Chris Rock, if you run, the police are going to bring a beating with them.
As for the kids in the incidents… they really wouldn’t have had anything to hide if they weren’t doing anything illegal. In the second take on the third incident, the party host had to police her own party and be a bit of a jerk to the guy that wanted to use marijuana. Self-policing is an important thing to do. But even if the kids weren’t doing anything wrong, a really bad cop could have chosen to plant contraband on the scene and make an arrest from it. It’s happened before, and that’s why even if you have nothing to hide you need to assert your rights. Moreover, if you’re following the law – not speeding and keeping the party noise down – the police typically won’t even get involved.