What’s A Cop To Do?

Barbara A. Schwartz

The populace, press, and politicians cry foul when an officer uses necessary or reasonable or justifiable force.

What should an officer do when a subject fails to comply with lawful orders or evades because they don’t want to go to jail?

Should the officer say: “Oh, you don’t want to go to jail today. That’s fine. I’ll let you go. Be sure and turn yourself in at the station when you’re ready for jail. At your earliest convenience.”

Yeah, right.

In my forty-five-year involvement with law enforcement, I only once encountered an individual who wanted to go to jail. Hank had no job. He had medical issues. When he needed new glasses or medical attention he would pull a property crime—a home or vehicle burglary or shoplift—and make sure he got caught. He plead guilty because he wanted to go to jail where he got three-square meals a day, a roof over his head, and all his medical needs taken care of at taxpayer’s expense. At one of Hank’s sentencing hearings, a detective from my hometown department testified that it would be a greater punishment to not send Hank to jail.

But most crooks aren’t Hank.

Most crooks don’t want to go to jail and that motivates them to resist arrest, fight officers, and sadly, far too often, seriously assault or kill an officer.

If we asked the populace, press, and politicians if they’d rather the cops let crooks go instead of using force, what do you think the answer would be?

Maybe cops should cease using force to affect an arrest. Let murderers, rapists, robbers, child molesters, drunks who kill with their cars, and other violent offenders go free without consequences.

How long before the populace, press, and politicians would scream that the cops aren’t doing the job they are paid to do?

My question is this: What’s a cop supposed to do?

Crooks don’t want to go to jail. They will resist arrest, fail to comply with lawful orders, lie about who they are, fight officers, and evade on foot or via vehicle.

Should officers not use force to arrest people? Let them go free to commit more crimes? Not chase them in vehicle pursuits?

The answer to the question is: cops will keep using the lawful force required to take crooks into custody. Use of force will continue to be captured on video and never look pretty on the news. The cop always comes up looking bad.

Put the blame where it belongs.

Imagine what it would be like if the talking heads on television and the politicians criticized the crook for resisting or for committing crimes in the first place?

Instead of negatively critiquing the cop who is trying to perform his lawful duties.

Let’s put the blame on the crooks who violate criminal or traffic laws. They have a choice whether or not to comply or resist arrest. The officer reacts to their behavior.

If everyone followed the law, cops wouldn’t have to arrest and wouldn’t have to use force when called for to affect an arrest.

That’s the simple truth.

Officers Don’t Want to Use Force

An officer told me that he doesn’t want to use force. He said, “I can get hurt. Might be as simple as a bruised knee, but I end up black and blue from the fight. I don’t want to punch someone. It hurts my hand. I don’t want to shoot someone, I can get sued, indicted, lose my job, and have to live with it for the rest of my life.”

Cops use force to affect a lawful arrest. Officers use deadly force to stop a threat and save lives, not to kill.

The people who criticize cops need to understand the job officers have been asked to do.

Can’t have it both ways.

If the populace, press, and politicians want people to go to jail, then cops must use force.

Since Ferguson, officers throughout this country have dialed back on proactive policing because the populace, press, and politicians protest the use of force.

Can’t have it both ways.

Cops are tasked with putting crooks in jail. Unless they go willingly, force may be necessary.

That’s the simple truth.

Time to stop the criticism of good cops doing the job that society has asked them to do.


Copyright©2019 Barbara A. Schwartz  All Rights Reserved.

No part of this article may be reproduced in any manner without the expressed written consent of the author.

Barbara A. Schwartz has dedicated her life to supporting the brave officers of the Houston Police Department. She is certified in first responder peer support by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) and the Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support (LEAPS).