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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 Fer!son
"isso!ri and Staten Island #$ ha%e res!lted in widespread protests, riots and a reat deal
of contro%ersy o%er police methods. &i%il rihts leaders, politicians, acti%ists and
reporters ha%e i%en these incidents tremendo!s attention.
'nfort!nately, completely missin from the national debate is some %ery simple b!t
cr!cial information abo!t how members of the p!blic, reardless of ae or race and
reardless of !ilt or innocence sho!ld beha%e when stopped by the police, or when
bein arrested. This is not abo!t politeness or respect for police officers, b!t rather abo!t
s!r%i%in the e(perience.
Lea%in aside o!r s!b)ecti%e opinions on whether or not American police are br!tal,
racist, poorly trained or o%erly militari*ed, the !n+!estionable fact is that most people
react inappropriately to bein stopped, +!estioned or arrested. Ha%in been arrested
myself more than ,- times .tho!h ne%er con%icted/ I0d li1e to share my e(perience in
the hope that e%en one s!ch traic incident as the deaths in Fer!son and Staten Island
can be a%oided. The ad%ice I0m i%in here is what I0%e learned to do so as to protect
myself from bein in)!red or 1illed by the police.
The 1ey point is to neither do or say anythin that co!ld ca!se the police officer
confrontin yo! to thin1 yo! are oin to et %iolent, !se a weapon or attempt to escape
arrest. Police officials, schools and parents sho!ld instr!ct children from an early ae how
to safely respond to a police confrontation.
2. &ar Stops
3hen a police officer orders a dri%er to p!ll o%er and then approaches the car, that officer
is in a heihtened state of alertness. His or her adrenaline is p!mped !p and they are
armed with a !n. They ha%e no idea whether the dri%er of the car is peacef!l or if they
ha%e a weapon, are hih, dr!n1, %iolent or cra*y. The %ery first thin yo! need to do so as
to protect yo!rself is to p!t both of yo!r hands where the officer can see them. The two
best places are o!t the dri%ers side window or to ha%e them on the steerin wheel.
The %ery worst thin yo! can do as the officer approaches yo!r car is to reach !nder the
seat, in the lo%e compartment or in yo!r bac1pac1, fanny pac1 or handba. $o! miht
innocently thin1 that reachin for yo!r I4 at this time is a ood idea, since as1in for
yo!r I4 is li1ely to be the first thin the officer will do. #o matter how well5trained a
police officer is, and no matter how innocent yo! may be, reachin for somethin at this
time is !aranteed to ma1e that officer s!spect yo! are reachin for a weapon and to react
3hat I do before reachin for my I4, whether on the street or in my car, is to say to the
officer, 6I am reachin for my I4. I do not ha%e a weapon. Is that 789: "a1e s!re that
yo!r hands remain in %iew at all times. "o%e slowly and deliberately and do what the
officer is tellin yo!, especially if they say to remain still.
;. Street Stops
7n many occasions I ha%e witnessed police in the process of arrestin someone other
than myself. The defendants often ma1e the followin, sometimes fatal, mista1es.
a. 3ildly est!rin as they claim to be innocent.
b. Aressi%ely wal1in towards the officer.
c. Sho!tin, either c!rsin at the officer or sho!tin to their friends to come and help
d. Attemptin to p!ll their hands away when the officer attempts to s!bd!e or handc!ff
e. Reachin into their poc1ets, pants, )ac1ets, bac1pac1s etc.
f. Tryin to escape from a police car or from the handc!ffs.
As we can plainly see from %ideos of some of these recent incidents, the police are
trained to ne%er bac1 down once they bein to ma1e an arrest. They will always meet
resistance or force with m!ch reater force. $o! cannot win by physically fihtin with
the police. The time to protest and fiht aainst police is in a co!rt, where yo! ha%e a
better than e%en chance of winnin.
Tryin to p!ll yo!r hand away when an officer attempts to handc!ff yo! or twistin yo!r
body, will almost s!rely lead to a %iolent response. If there is more than one officer
present, yo! can e(pect a pile on of all the officers, e(actly as is seen in the %ideo of the
Staten Island cho1e hold incident that led to the needless death of <ric =ardner.
Reardless of what one thin1s abo!t police tactics or abo!t racism in America is there
any +!estion that if "r. =ardner had simply allowed the police officer to place handc!ffs
on him that he0d be ali%e today and facin a %ery minor chare for sellin loose
The facts in the Fer!son "isso!ri shootin of "ichael Brown are far less clear c!t b!t
the witness reports enerally aree that as a s!spect in a petty robbery Brown was
stopped by the police who then attempted to arrest him. At some point he ot away from
them, and was shot. The police claim there was a str!le for the officers !n, which may
or may not be tr!e, b!t it seems fairly certain that Brown was in c!stody howe%er briefly,
possibly inside the police car, and then ot away. If he had simply remained in the patrol
car he0d be ali%e today and facin a %ery minor chare of theft.
#one of what I0m s!estin is meant as a defense of the police nor as an acc!sation
aainst the %ictims of these police shootins. These incidents are traic beca!se they were
totally a%oidable.
<%eryone in this co!ntry, especially those who li%e in hih crime areas where bein
stopped by the police, )!stifiably or witho!t )!stification, is a ro!tine occ!rrence, sho!ld
ha%e a plan in place for s!r%i%in these incidents. &hose yo!r battles wisely.
6It is said that if yo! 1now yo!r enemies and 1now yo!rself, yo! will not be imperiled in
a h!ndred battles> if yo! do not 1now yo!r enemies b!t do 1now yo!rself, yo! will win
one and lose one> if yo! do not 1now yo!r enemies nor yo!rself, yo! will be imperiled in
e%ery sinle battle.: ? S!n T*!
The writer is an artists0 rihts acti%ist who has won n!mero!s laws!its abo!t bein falsely