Robert Lederman has been very vocal about the rights of art vendors selling goods in SoHo. He founded A.R.T.I.S.T. (Artists’ Response To Illegal State Tactics) in 1993 in order to fight the “legal and political struggle for full First Amendment rights involving the creation, display and sale of art on NYC streets –This is not about politeness or respect for police officers, but rather about surviving the experience, he offers his sage advice as artists’ rights activist who has won numerous lawsuits about being falsely arrested.
How To Be Arrested, Safely
by Robert Lederman, President of A.R.T.I.S.T.
The recent deaths of African American males at the hands of police officers in Ferguson Missouri and Staten Island NY have resulted in widespread protests, riots and a great deal of controversy over police methods. Civil Rights leaders, politicians, activists and reporters
have given these incidents tremendous attention.Unfortunately, completely missing from the national debate is some very simple but crucial information about how members of the public, regardless of age or race and regardless of guilt or innocence should behave when stopped by the police, or when being arrested. This is not about politeness or respect for police officers, but rather about surviving the experience.
Leaving aside our subjective opinions on whether or not American police are brutal, racist, poorly trained or overly militarized, the unquestionable fact is that most people react inappropriately to being stopped, questioned or arrested. Having been arrested myself more than 50 times (though never convicted) I’d like to share my experience in the hope that even one such tragic incident as the deaths in Ferguson and Staten Island can be avoided. The advice I’m giving here is what I’ve learned to do so as to protect myself from being injured or killed by the police.
The key point is to neither do or say anything that could cause the police officer confronting you to think you are going to get violent,
use a weapon or attempt to escape arrest. Police officials, schools and parents should instruct children from an early age how to safely respond to a police confrontation.
When a police officer orders a driver to pull over and then approaches
the car, that officer is in a heightened state of alertness. His or her adrenaline is pumped up and they are armed with a gun. They have no idea whether the driver of the car is peaceful or if they have a weapon, are high, drunk, violent or crazy. The very first thing you need to do so as to protect yourself is to put both of your hands where the officer can see them. The two best places are out the drivers side window or to have them on the steering wheel.
The very worst thing you can do as the officer approaches your car is to reach under the seat, in the glove compartment or in your backpack, fanny pack or handbag. You might innocently think that reaching for your ID at this time is a good idea, since asking for your ID is likely to be the first thing the officer will do. No matter how well-trained a police officer is, and no matter how innocent you maybe, reaching for something at this time is guaranteed to make that officer suspect you are reaching for a weapon and to react accordingly.What I do before reaching for my ID, whether on the street or in my car, is to say to the officer, “I am reaching for my ID. I do not have a weapon. Is that OK?” Make sure that your hands remain in view at all times. Move slowly and deliberately and do what the officer is telling you, especially if they say to remain still.
2. Street Stops
On many occasions I have witnessed police in the process of arresting someone other than myself. The defendants often make the following, sometimes fatal, mistakes.
3. Wildly gesturing as they claim to be innocent.Aggressively walking towards the officer.Shouting, either cursing at the officer or shouting to their
friends to come and help them. Attempting to pull their hands away when the officer attempts to
subdue or handcuff them. Reaching into their pockets, pants, jackets, backpacks etc.
- Trying to escape from a police car or from the handcuffs. As we can plainly see from videos of some of these recent incidents,
the police are trained to never back down once they begin to make an arrest.They will always meet resistance or force with much greater force. You cannot win by physically fighting with the police. The time to protest
and fight against police is in a court, where you have a better than
even chance of winning.Trying to pull your hand away when an officer attempts to handcuff you or twisting your body, will almost surely lead to a violent response. If there is more than one officer present, you can expect a pile on of all the officers, exactly as is seen in the video of the Staten Island
choke hold incident that led to the needless death of Eric Gardner.Regardless of what one thinks about police tactics or about racism in America is there any question that if Mr. Gardner had simply allowed
the police officer to place handcuffs on him that he’d be alive todayand facing a very minor charge for selling loose cigarettes?
The facts in the Ferguson Missouri shooting of Michael Brown are farless clear cut but the witness reports generally agree that as asuspect in a petty robbery Brown was stopped by the police who then attempted to arrest him. At some point he got away from them, and was shot. The police claim there was a struggle for the officers gun, which may or may not be true, but it seems fairly certain that Brown was in custody however briefly, possibly inside the police car, and then got away. If he had simply remained in the patrol car he’d be alive today and facing a very minor charge of theft.
None of what I’m suggesting is meant as a defense of the police nor as an accusation against the victims of these police shootings. These incidents are tragic because they were totally avoidable.
Everyone in this country, especially those who live in high crime areas where being stopped by the police, justifiably or without
justification, is a routine occurrence, should have a plan in place for surviving these incidents. Chose your battles wisely.
“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will
not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies
but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not
know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single
battle.” – Sun Tzu
The writer is an artists’ rights activist who has won numerous
lawsuits about being falsely arrested.
> Robert Lederman
pass it on..