[Waterbury Conn.] Police Chief Vernon L. Riddick Jr. brought a message of cooperation with police to a mostly African-American crowd of more than 200 people at Mount Olive A.M.E. Zion Church on Wednesday night.
If an officer stops your car, if they ask to search your person or vehicle, if they demand entry into your home, comply and then complain later to the department’s internal affairs office and police chief’s office if you feel your rights have been violated, Riddick said.
I understand the argument that you shouldn’t mouth off to cops. I get the argument that you shouldn’t needlessly provoke them. I certainly agree that you shouldn’t physically resist them. It could get you killed.
But this is a police chief who, in a town hall meeting spurred by a rash of shootings both by and of police officers, is asking that citizens submit without question if an officer requests to search a vehicle, home or person. In the interest of “cooperation,” he’s asking a black audience to give up their Fourth Amendment rights.
We empower the police to protect our rights. Much of the time, that involves protecting us from others who would do us harm. But it also means respecting our rights and refraining from violating them. The Fourth Amendment gives us the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. The intent behind the amendment was to protect us from the indignity and violation of our privacy when we’re subjected to a search that’s based on little more than a hunch — the intent was not to protect our right to later complain to internal affairs.
I realize things are tense right now. We should certainly respect and be aware of that when interacting with law enforcement officers. But to verbally refuse a request to search is an exercise of one’s rights. It isn’t a provocation. That Riddick and other police officials seem to see it as the latter is telling — and a big problem.