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John Whitehead's Commentary

Comply or Die: The Only Truly Compliant Person in a Police State Is a Dead One [SHORT]

John Whitehead

Americans aren’t dying at the hands of police because of racism.

For that matter, George Floyd didn’t die because he was black and the cop who killed him is white.

Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes, died because America is being overrun with militarized cops—vigilantes with a badge—who have almost absolute discretion to decide who is a threat, what constitutes resistance, and how harshly they can deal with the citizens they were appointed to “serve and protect.”

These warrior cops may get paid by the citizenry, but they don’t work for us and they certainly aren’t operating within the limits of the U.S. Constitution. As retired Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis warns, “The system is corrupt. Police really are oppressing not only the black community, but also the whites. They're an oppressive organization now controlled by the one percent of corporate America. Corporate America is using police forces as their mercenaries.”

Now, not all cops are guns for hire, trained to act as judge, jury and executioner in their interactions with the populace.

However, the unfortunate reality we must come to terms with is that the good cops—the ones who take seriously their oath of office to serve and protect their fellow citizens, uphold the Constitution, and maintain the peace—are increasingly being outnumbered by those who believe the lives (and rights) of police should be valued more than citizens.

It doesn’t matter where you live—big city or small town—it’s the same scenario being played out over and over again in which government agents, hyped up on their own authority and the power of their uniform, ride roughshod over the rights of the citizenry.

Indeed, if you ask police and their enablers what Americans should do to stay alive during encounters with law enforcement, they will tell you to comply, cooperate, obey, not resist, not argue, not make threatening gestures or statements, avoid sudden movements, and submit to a search of their person and belongings during encounters with the police.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the right, it doesn’t matter if a cop is in the wrong, it doesn’t matter if you’re being treated with less than the respect you deserve: if you want to emerge from a police encounter with your life and body intact, then you’d better comply, submit, obey orders, respect authority and generally do whatever a cop tells you to do.

In this way, the old police motto to “protect and serve” has become “comply or die.”

This is the unfortunate, misguided, perverse message that has been beaten, shot, tasered and slammed into our collective consciousness over the past few decades, and it has taken root.

This is how we have gone from a nation of laws—where the least among us had just as much right to be treated with dignity and respect as the next person (in principle, at least)—to a nation of law enforcers (revenue collectors with weapons) who treat “we the people” like suspects and criminals.

At a time when growing numbers of unarmed people have been shot and killed for just standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety, even the most benign encounters with police can have fatal consequences.

The problem, as one reporter rightly concluded, is “not that life has gotten that much more dangerous, it’s that authorities have chosen to respond to even innocent situations as if they were in a warzone.”

Warrior cops—trained in the worst case scenario and thus ready to shoot first and ask questions later—are definitely not making us or themselves any safer.

This nationwide epidemic of court-sanctioned police violence carried out with impunity against individuals posing little or no real threat has all but guaranteed that unarmed Americans will keep dying at the hands of militarized police.

Consider just some of the scenarios in which unarmed Americans have been shot and killed by police:

Killed for taking public transit.

Killed for standing in a “shooting stance.”

Killed for holding a cell phone.

Killed for displaying air fresheners from a rearview mirror.

Killed for behaving oddly and holding a baseball bat.

Killed for opening the front door.

Killed for being a child in a car pursued by police.

Killed for approaching police with a metal spoon.

Killed for holding a tree branch.

Killed for crawling around naked.

Killed for hunching over.

Killed because a police officer accidentally pulled out his gun instead of his taser.

Killed for wearing dark pants and a basketball jersey.

Killed for telling police you lawfully own a firearm.

Killed for leaving anywhere at all when a police officer pulls up.

Killed for driving while deaf.

Killed for shopping at Walmart.

Killed for being homeless.

Killed for brandishing a shoehorn.

Killed for playing in a park.

Killed for having your car break down on the road.

Killed for being in your own apartment.

Killed for staying up late.

Killed for holding a garden hose.

This is what constitutes “law and order” in the American police state.

Making matters worse, when these officers, who have long since ceased to be peace officers, violate their oaths by bullying, beating, tasering, shooting and killing their employers—the taxpayers to whom they owe their allegiance—they are rarely given more than a slap on the hands before resuming their patrols.

Much of the “credit” for shielding these rogue cops goes to influential police unions and laws providing for qualified immunity, police contracts that “provide a shield of protection to officers accused of misdeeds and erect barriers to residents complaining of abuse,” state and federal laws that allow police to walk away without paying a dime for their wrongdoing, and rampant cronyism among government bureaucrats.

It’s happening all across the country.

This is how perverse justice in America has become.

If you’re starting to feel somewhat overwhelmed, intimidated and fearful for your life and your property, you should be, because as I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the only truly compliant, submissive and obedient citizen in a police state is a dead one.

WC: 1064

ABOUT JOHN W. WHITEHEAD

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president The Rutherford Institute. His books Battlefield America: The War on the American People and A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State are available at www.amazon.com. He can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.

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