and take away my badge…..don’t scream at me that you pay my salary……
Sunil Dutta, a Professor of Homeland Security at Colorado Tech
University, has been an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department
for 17 years. The views presented here are his own and do not represent
- M.A. Homeland Security, Naval Postgraduate School, United States Center for Homeland Defense and Security, Monterey, CA, (2012)
Ph.D. Plant Biology, University of California, Davis (1995)
- M.S. Plant Physiology, University of Florida, Gainesville (1989)
- B.S. Botany, Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar, India (1986)
Sunil Dutta is a full time law enforcement professional working in Los
Angeles. He has been with the LAPD for sixteen years. His assignments
have included Watch Commander, Internal Affairs Investigator, patrol officer,
and Collision Investigator…..Prior
to joining the LAPD, Dutta was a scientist with a specialization in
biochemistry (host-pathogen interactions, plant hormones, carbohydrate
metabolism, and regulation of dormancy). He is an amateur musician….
be honest, once we recovered from the shock (that was an Indian speaking??), we
were ready to admit that Dr Dutta has penned an impressive op-ed. Based
on his bio, we guess that he hails from a Punjabi or Haryanvi background. He is
the “first” Indian-American law and order conservative that we
have ever heard from (or heard about). Also he is quite a sharp-spoken biologist (we
know a few of them).
As for the rest, yes…excellent advice…for (black, brown) young males in the USA. When we first learned to drive it was drummed into our rebellious heads (incidentally, by a black tutor) that in case the police ordered you to pull over, you must come to a stop….slow and easy (with hazard lights ON), keep your windows lowered, and your hands visibly placed on the wheel at all times.
If they ask you to step out, immediately comply, while keeping the hands held high. Under no circumstance, do you keep the hands in your pockets. Do not make any sudden movement. Never crack jokes, be courteous, always address the “racist pig” as “Officer.”
The response to our indignant whys was an angry whisper: Brother….do you want to die?
No Officer Dutta, we do not want to die. And we respect you for doing a tough job. And yes – as you have admirably pointed out – if the police can afford military grade weapons they can stretch the budget to include a video camera. The absence of video is baffling, but then if you think twice….it all makes sense.
A teenager is fatally shot by a police officer; the police are
accused of being bloodthirsty, trigger-happy murderers; riots erupt.
This, we are led to believe, is the way of things in America.…..It is also a terrible calumny; cops are not
No officer goes out in the field wishing to shoot anyone,
armed or unarmed. And while they’re unlikely to defend it quite as
loudly during a time of national angst like this one, people who work in
law enforcement know they are legally vested with the authority to
detain suspects — an authority that must sometimes be enforced.
Regardless of what happened with Mike Brown, in the overwhelming
majority of cases it is not the cops, but the people they stop, who can
prevent detentions from turning into tragedies.
street, I can’t even count how many times I withstood curses, screaming
tantrums, aggressive and menacing encroachments on my safety zone, and
outright challenges to my authority. In the vast majority of such
encounters, I was able to peacefully resolve the situation without using
force. Cops deploy their training and their intuition creatively, and I
wielded every trick in my arsenal, including verbal judo, humor,
warnings and ostentatious displays of the lethal (and nonlethal)
hardware resting in my duty belt.
One time, for instance, my partner and
I faced a belligerent man who had doused his car with gallons of gas
and was about to create a firebomb at a busy mall filled with holiday
shoppers. The potential for serious harm to the bystanders would have
justified deadly force. Instead, I distracted him with a hook about his
family and loved ones, and he disengaged without hurting anyone. Every
day cops show similar restraint and resolve incidents that could easily
end up in serious injuries or worse.
Sometimes, though, no amount
of persuasion or warnings work on a belligerent person; that’s when
cops have to use force, and the results can be tragic. We are still
learning what transpired between Officer Darren Wilson and Brown, but in
most cases it’s less ambiguous — and officers are rarely at fault. When
they use force, they are defending their, or the public’s, safety.
though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if
you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton
or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me,
don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a
racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge.
Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?
I know it is scary for people to be stopped by cops. I also
understand the anger and frustration if people believe they have been
stopped unjustly or without a reason. I am aware that corrupt and bully
When it comes to police misconduct, I side with the ACLU:
Having worked as an internal affairs investigator, I know that some
officers engage in unprofessional and arrogant behavior; sometimes they
behave like criminals themselves. I also believe every cop should use a
body camera to record interactions with the community at all times.
Every police car should have a video recorder. (This will prevent a
situation like Mike Brown’s shooting, about which conflicting and
self-serving statements allow people to believe what they want.) And you
don’t have to submit to an illegal stop or search. You can refuse
consent to search your car or home if there’s no warrant (though a
pat-down is still allowed if there is cause for suspicion). Always ask
the officer whether you are under detention or are free to leave. Unless
the officer has a legal basis to stop and search you, he or she must
let you go. Finally, cops are legally prohibited from using excessive
force: The moment a suspect submits and stops resisting, the officers
must cease use of force.
if you believe (or know) that the cop stopping you is violating your
rights or is acting like a bully, I guarantee that the situation will
not become easier if you show your anger and resentment. Worse,
initiating a physical confrontation is a sure recipe for getting hurt.
Police are legally permitted to use deadly force when they assess a
serious threat to their or someone else’s life.
Save your anger for
later, and channel it appropriately. Do what the officer tells you to
and it will end safely for both of you. We have a justice system in
which you are presumed innocent; if a cop can do his or her job
unmolested, that system can run its course. Later, you can ask for a
supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if
you believe your rights were violated. Feel free to sue the police! Just
don’t challenge a cop during a stop.
An average person cannot
comprehend the risks and has no true understanding of a cop’s job.
Hollywood and television stereotypes of the police are cartoons in which
fearless super cops single-handedly defeat dozens of thugs, shooting
guns out of their hands. Real life is different. An average cop is
always concerned with his or her safety and tries to control every
encounter. That is how we are trained.
While most citizens are courteous
and law abiding, the subset of people we generally interact with
everyday are not the genteel types. You don’t know what is in my mind
when I stop you. Did I just get a radio call of a shooting moments ago?
Am I looking for a murderer or an armed fugitive? For you, this might be
a “simple” traffic stop, for me each traffic stop is a potentially
dangerous encounter. Show some empathy for an officer’s safety concerns.
Don’t make our job more difficult than it already is.
members deserve courtesy, respect and professionalism from their
officers. Every person stopped by a cop should feel safe instead of
feeling that their wellbeing is in jeopardy. Shouldn’t the community
members extend the same courtesy to their officers and project that the
officer’s safety is not threatened by their actions?