Amid mounting criticism of police response in Ferguson, Mo., a 17-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department who has taught at Colorado Tech University responded to claims of excessive force and the violation of First Amendment rights in a controversial editorial Tuesday in The Washington Post.
In it,wrote regardless of what happened in the killing of 18-year-old Michael 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.”
Dutta’s essay is comprehensive, highlighting dangers of the job, fear and police training that includes learning how to exercise restraint.
Policing isn’t in the top 10 of dangerous jobs. By Sunil Dutta’s insane logic, we should take unquestioned orders from commercial fishermen.
— Quinn Norton (@quinnnorton) August 19, 2014
But it was one passage in particular that drew a largely negative response on social media:
Even 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?
The tone of this article by Sunil Dutta exemplifies that excessive force that compels so many of us to fear those designated to protect us.
— Ezra Tafari Rose. (@KissMyLisp) August 19, 2014
Dutta: 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
— Antistuff (@antistuff) August 19, 2014
This piece accurately describes the problem with policing in US. Dutta’s position is the problem not the solution http://t.co/FIKYIs5R8l
— Boyd Cothran (@BoydCothran) August 20, 2014
Some agreed with the Dutta’s point about exercising restraint and cooperation but argued that it takes both sides to keep the peace.
I think there is wisdom in not escalating on both sides @thepartycow
— Criminal Justice (@CTUJustice) August 20, 2014
@Kheradihr I will reiterate that in most cases, not being a problem keeps a problem from arising. Then again, that applies to both sides.
— FullSpectrumNerd (@legionnaireone) August 19, 2014
Dutta wrote that police are accused of being “bloodthirsty, trigger-happy murderers” but that “no officer goes out in the field wishing to shoot anyone, armed or unarmed.” Still, he does acknowledge that corruption exists:
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.
To Sunil Dutta. No, We don’t think police are “bloodthirsty, trigger-happy murderers,” We just don’t trust them that much.
— Ted Rheingold (@tedr) August 19, 2014
Dutta also noted that no one has to submit to an warrant-less stop or search of a home or vehicle.
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. … 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.
Sunil Dutta: If you are charged after an illegal search, our system presumes innoncence & you’ll get the best (ie. nearest) public defender.
— Michael Fearnow (@bogeymanweather) August 20, 2014
I have a great deal of respect for police officers. But this essay: http://t.co/XHz0FZ7ARa is disturbing. Dutta teaches criminal justice.
— Toby Ziegler (@Toby_Ziegler) August 19, 2014