Comply Don’t Die, Live to Have Your Day in Court

Barbara A. Schwartz

The slogan “Comply Don’t Die. Live to Have Your Day in Court” was created to highlight this unmistakable fact: if citizens complied with an officer’s lawful commands, no force would need to be used.

If the news media led with this fact instead of immediately throwing cops under the bus after every use of force incident or officer involved shooting caught on videotape, then the citizens might understand the realities of use of force and cops might have an easier go of it.

If ethical journalism existed today, the news media would report both sides of every story.

That’s not going to happen. Especially when it comes to policing in the age of viral videos.

How can law enforcement educate the populace about the realities of using force?

How should law enforcement get across that officers do not chose the level of force used against a citizen? That the citizen’s behavior and compliance determines the force used by the officer.

How do we get across to citizens that officers carry firearms to save lives, not to take them?

Or, that officers react. They don’t attack. And make sure citizens understand the difference.

Comply Don’t Die. Live to Have Your Day in Court was born from the frustration of trying to get these messages across to citizens, crooks, and cop-haters.

Unfortunately, the responsibility to educate civilians falls onto the individual officer. Even while engaging in a fight, the officer must continue to use verbal skills to persuade the citizen that compliance is in their best interest.

Words used are important and the officer needs to stress that the citizen’s actions are determining the level of force employed against them.

The officer has to educate the resisting citizen in the heat of the moment, when the officer may be fighting for his/her own life.

Use Slogans to Educate One Person at a time

Use these slogans or make up your own:

Comply Don’t Die. Live to Have Your Day in Court.

Officers react. They don’t attack.

Officers carry firearms to save lives, not to take them.

Ask your friends and family to share these slogans. Appeal to your friends and family to post the slogans on their social networking sites with an adequate explanation of the realities of use of force. 

Those of us who support officers don’t have the advantage of having microphones before us or getting time on the evening news. We have to get our messages out in other ways. But educate we must.

The street cop has to take on the responsibility of getting the word across. Have a script ready and memorized for that moment when you have the stage to educate.

Hail any law enforcement agency that takes up the cause and creates programs to reach out to the community to educate citizens about the realities of use of force.

Force Looks Ugly on Video

No matter how lawful the use of force an officer employs, it will always appear worse recorded on video. That is the nature of capturing a six-dimensional event in a two-dimensional video format.

Citizens resist arrest because they don’t want to go to jail. They don’t want to surrender their freedom. Their survival instincts kick in, adrenaline flows, and they fight the officer or officers. The citizen in survival mode can become infinitely stronger than they appear on video considering age, gender, stature, or physique.

It may take five officers to overtake a resisting grandmother. That’s the nature of resisting. That’s not the officers’ fault. That’s how the mechanics of the human being works.

Another Issue to Get Across

The video taker who stands on the sidelines recording instead of assisting the officer must be educated as well. If they would jump in to help, they might keep the resisting citizen and officer from sustaining injuries or worse a loss of life.

No Warning Signs

The officer doesn’t know prior to an encounter if a person is suffering from a mental illness or deficiency or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. People aren’t required to wear a neon sign or t-shirt with a warning for the officer. 

Officers must judge the cognitive capacity of the person they are interfacing with by observing their behavior. A judgment call made, at times, under dire circumstances. 

Persons with impaired mental capacities who cannot understand a peace officer’s lawful commands should be hospitalized or supervised by those same friends and family members who hire lawyers and call press conferences to denounce the officer’s actions.

Officers Are The Stakeholders

Officers must educate. They are the stakeholders. Citizens need to be informed about the truth regarding use of force: that when a person fails to comply with lawful orders, that person and that person alone, is to blame for the officer having to resort to force.

Educating the public is the only way to stop blaming the officer.

Each of you must “step up to the plate and educate.”

Oh, my. Another slogan.

Barbara A. Schwartz writes exclusively about the brave officers of law enforcement. She serves and supports those who serve and protect.

Copyright©2019 Barbara A. Schwartz  All Rights Reserved.

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