“Comply first, complain later.”
Law Enforcement Representatives and Citizens’ Rights Advocates
A little over a month ago, I had “The Talk” with my nine-year-old son. It was not the sex talk, or the drugs talk, but the “How Not to Lose Your Life When Dealing With Law Enforcement” talk. Some may deem this an inappropriate age to have this discussion; however, given the climate of the United States of America, I decided that it was the perfect time to broach this life-or-death topic.
Advice I Gave My Son
My advice to him as a mother, first, and lawyer, second, was simple- comply. To make the evidence of compliance even more clear, I told him to not make any moves. If he is driving in his car, keep his hands on the wheel until the officer comes to the car. Do not even move to let down his window. Once the officer has reached the car, allow the officer to see him roll down the window. Listen to the officer’s instructions. Do not say any unnecessary words and do not make any movements without first notifying the officer that he is doing so. For example, if he is asked for his license and registration, tell the officer that they are in the glove compartment and that he has to reach into it to retrieve them. Bottom-line, do not intentionally do anything to antagonize the officer, because you don’t know what type of day he or she is having, and you do not want to end up on the wrong end of a bad day.
I have noticed that the issue of “The Talk” has become a lot more prevalent as of late and the opinions on what to do have varied. Some would say that I am teaching my son to be a “punk.” Those are exact words I’ve heard from people who say they aren’t going to raise their sons up to be “weak.” Nonetheless, while I know that dignity matters, and we all have rights, when it comes to this issue, sometimes, some of us really do have to choose to exercise our dignity in the moment or risk death? Is now the proper time to complain or can it wait? Even when you have the right to do something, is it prudent at that moment to do it?
Advice From Professionals
While I am by no means excusing rogue police officers, my number one priority is for my child- myself- to at least have a greater chance of leaving an involuntary interaction with law enforcement with our lives. If we are dead, we have no dignity or rights for which to fight. For more on this topic, I refer you to the Austin Bureau article, “On Traffic Stops, Experts Say Comply First, Complain Later.” In this piece, law enforcement representatives and citizens’ rights advocates give their tips on how to engage with law enforcement in a safer way.
What are you teaching your children about this issue? Do you have any tips to share?
To connect with me further, you may find me on Twitter at NowWithNicole.
The follow-up to this post may be read at, “Your Constitutional Rights When Stopped by a Cop and What I told My Nine Year Old Son.”