The links are here:
I specifically am just going to hit on the topic at hand, which is police officers. It is timely, as we've had a few bad cops in Anchorage lately ourselves (and a few more). First, I'll say that most police officers do a tough job and most do it fairly well. They deal with the worst dregs of society, put themselves into physical danger, and keep getting out of bed every morning. They don't write or even agree with the laws that they are charged to enforce. Bad laws and bad incentives have a lot to do with the "War on Drugs" and militarization of police. I will also say that Alaska police, especially the state troopers, seem to have a much more "community policing" oriented mindset where they try and win voluntary compliance via discussion more than some other departments.
Most police officers are probably nice folks with families. I've shot with some. I know some former cops. I worked with police officers on a regular basis as a traffic cop in college.
However, I will say that there is almost nothing positive that can come out of an interaction between me and a police officer on the street. If an officer approaches me and initiates a contact, he wants something. He is fishing for reasonable suspicion and the worst case is to detain me. If he can detain me, he can then fish for probable cause to arrest me. In all these outcomes, the best case is that I continue about my business; it isn't like I'll get ten bucks and an ice cream cone for waiting around while he conducts a search. The worst case is that I end up arrested. In an interaction with a police officer, the best outcome I can hope for is that I'll be as well off -- and no better off -- than I was when I began the interaction. I suppose that I might improve the cop's attitude towards my demographic, or CCW holders, or people of my profession, but that's a pretty minor, uncertain, and abstract benefit when weighed against the risk of arrest.
People say that if you have nothing to fear, then there is nothing to worry about. I kind of disagree. First off, everyone should be in fear of breaking the law. We all break laws every day, probably without even being aware of them. Furthermore, many statutes are so malleable that "contempt of cop" can very quickly lead to some sort of charges, even if they're trumped up. If you're carrying a firearm -- even legally -- then you're in especially dangerous legal territory. Police have a tremendous amount of discretion and in any "he said/she said" situation you're screwed.
I want to cooperate with police, especially local law enforcement who help keep the community safe. However, I also am realistic and understand that if I've been selected for a stop, it is because the cop smells smoke and wants to find a fire. In Alaska, where you have a duty-to-inform that you're carrying, I avoid police encounters when carrying a firearm because no good can come of them. I wouldn't consent to a search if asked. I'm not going to give more than the minimal amount of information. I don't carry a lot of junk in my car.
You don't have to be a dick about it. In fact an attitude that will get you in trouble faster than many other things, I think. The best strategy is probably:
- Prevent: Minimize clutter in the car, don't carry illegal items, don't be a felon/skip bail/have open warrants, don't use drugs. If you use prescription drugs like a painkiller after surgery then have the paperwork handy.
- Script: Think about what you'll say if detained and rehearse it. "Am I free to go?" is probably safe, and it will determine immediately if you're detained or not. If you are not free to go, then you can say, "May I ask why I am detained?" to ascertain the officer's reasonable articulable suspicion. If they ask you to submit to a search or more questions, you can reply with something like, "Actually, I have an engagement I'm on my way too. I don't consent to a search or more questioning. I would like to be on my way, please."
- Depart: Don't stick around, don't bait the cop, just leave.
- Record: If possible, record the encounter. If laws allow you to do so, I'd be covert about it.
- STFU. If things come down to it, shut up and it is time to ask for a lawyer.
The fundamental issue for me is one of cost/benefit. The costs to me of even a casual interaction with police are extremely high. The benefits to me are diffuse and abstract: I suppose my cooperation might help in solving a crime, but if I had crime-solving information I'd probably volunteer it anyways. I might also build the police officer's respect for my demographic but that's a very abstract benefit.
How could one fix this? First, with trust. If I trust the individual officer that is interacting with me and feel that he has a genuine interest in a pleasant, non "business" discussion, I'd be willing to interact with them more. Another way would be reducing or eliminating vague criminal statutes. There are many crimes on the books which require neither a guilty mind nor a harmful act. It is easy to run afoul of these. A third way would be reducing the consequences of interactions; if police issued summons to appear (in lieu of arrests), if arrest records (NOT convictions) weren't computerized and put into a federal FBI database forever, or if any casual contact didn't go into a police database to be stored forever, then that might help as well.
I want to have a good, healthy, productive relationship with local law enforcement based on mutual respect. However, I think you're foolish if you aren't cautious. Mas Ayoob is part of the "club" so he might not understand the caution that ordinary citizens feel when they run into their local police.