David R. Henderson  

Some Practical Advice

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Sadie Hawkins Rant... Law School: No News Is Bad New...

Play the Hand You're Dealt

One of the things I do around the margins with my students--it's not part of the curriculum--is give them my "words of wisdom" about dealing in the world. A lot of it has to do with playing the hand you're dealt. So, for example, many of them are the way I was some years ago, thinking that the best way to deal with police, when suspected of something you didn't do, is to explain that you didn't do it. That's the wrong answer. Here's why. All you need do to get the point is watch the first 27 minutes. This is the best law professor's talk I have ever seen. And if you don't want to watch the follow-on talk by the cop whom he invited to refute him, watch only the first one or two minutes of the cop's talk.

If you've seen the video of the cop stopping the late Sandra Bland, your sympathy is probably with her sticking up for her rights. This young, promising woman is now dead. And, whether or not she committed suicide in jail, she would not have ended up in jail had she acted differently. I am not defending the cop; he acted horribly.

But I am getting back to my point: play the hand you're dealt. When you get stopped by a cop who is acting unreasonably, recognize that and be compliant. That's what I do. I once was stopped by a cop who started yelling at me for speeding. A ticket? I get that. I was speeding. But once I saw how he was, I did what I could to calm the situation. A little tip here that a younger friend of mine didn't understand and it got him in trouble: Never tell a cop to calm down. They never need to calm down because, by definition, they're calm. And I paid the ticket and went to traffic school to get the point off my record. (And, by the way, that particular traffic school, taught by that particular person, was valuable, unlike another one I went to 14 years later. You could argue that it saved my life the next year when I got in a pickle on I-80 near Denver because the scenarios we had worked through--what should you do if?--got me thinking about other scenarios I hadn't thought about. I could have sat thorough 8 hours and stewed, but I didn't. Back to the principle: play the hand you're dealt. Make the best of it.)

So what would I have done if that ugly man--I'm not talking about physical looks here--Texas Trooper Brian Encinia, had stopped me. I would have lowered the window, kept my hands on the steering wheel in a 10 to 2 position, and, when he told me to put out my cigarette, complied without arguing. And I would have lived. So I think that Jacob Sullum's thoughts here are valuable, with a couple of tweaks. Jacob writes:

Given the practical power that police have to mess with us and the wide discretion they have in exercising it, an attitude of meek subservience may seem advisable. That expectation is not fair, reasonable, or compatible with the principles of a free society. But it is demonstrably safer than the approach that Bland took, which was based on the assumption that she was a citizen whose constitutional rights should not be blithely violated by an authoritarian bully with a badge and a gun. I do not by any means fault Bland for questioning Encinia's authority to order her around for reasons unrelated to her traffic offense, any more than I fault Jessica Cooke for questioning the Border Patrol's authority to detain her at an internal immigration checkpoint in upstate New York. To the contrary, both young women showed exceptional bravery in standing on their rights. But as the outcomes in those cases (an arrest and a Tasing, respectively) show, such resistance to arbitrary power is brave because it is dangerous.

I do question "meek subservience." What I advocate is politeness and compliance. There's a difference. I'll give an example. Once I was stopped by a Pacific Grove cop who had attitude. I figured out quickly that I should be polite and comply with what she said. But then she said, "Do you know what I stopped you for?" I actually didn't because I was pretty sure I had stayed at the speed limit and I couldn't think of anything else I had done that was illegal. But even if I had "known" what she stopped me for, I would have said what I did say: "Actually, officer, I don't." Let her explain. Why incriminate myself?

While I'm on "playing the hand you're dealt," I'll mention one other thing that I hear professors complain about where I think that even though the complaint is valid, they would be better off, unless they're on an admissions committee, playing the hand they're dealt: the quality of the students. A large percent of my American students seem to have forgotten, if they ever knew, basic algebra. Do I think that's bad? Yes. But I don't complain about it. Instead, I work out examples in class and then give different problems using algebra on problem sets. Then I grade harshly when they blow it. Some of them learn from that.

What I'm trying to get across, possibly successfully and possibly not, is that it can be very empowering for you to recognize a situation and then use what power you have to do the best you can for yourself.

One last example that might make the point. When I deal with angry cops, I think of how I dealt with my father when he got irrationally angry. I pictured him as a big angry bear. You don't morally judge a bear; he does what bears do. I didn't morally judge my father--or, at least, tried not to appear to judge him in the moment. I just treaded carefully.




COMMENTS (43 to date)
Brian Donohue writes:

Perhaps this is an appropriate as a follow-on article, and maybe it's good advice, but it sidesteps the main issue.

Don't give cops a reason to think you could be physically threatening to them, but beyond that, these people are public servants, and I see the advice you proffer as being offensive to pretty basic stuff about a free society.

I'm conjecturing here, but it is possible that this woman was pulled over for a trivial reason because she was black. Maybe this happened to her a lot. I would not react meekly to such an environment.

lrC writes:

Echoes of principles of maneuver warfare.

Avoid the unnecessary battle.

Never fight an unwinnable battle.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Brian Donohue,
I see the advice you proffer as being offensive to pretty basic stuff about a free society.
Then you missed the point. My advice is not “offensive” to pretty basic stuff about a free society. Rather, it’s advice for dealing in the unfree society we live in. The offender is the cop,not I.
I would not react meekly to such an environment.
And, if you were here, you might be dead. Here’s your gravestone: “Here lies Brian Donohue. He was in the right."

Tom Kirkendall writes:

Wise words, David.

I'm also interested in a related issue - how can we change the incentives so that officers such as Encinia are motivated not to abuse their power as Encinia did in dealing with Sandra Bland?

Let's face it. Encinia's misconduct in humiliating this young woman unnecessarily has become known only because that humiliation likely contributed to her committing suicide after spending the better part of three days in jail far away from her home. But for that tragedy, Encinia's misconduct probably would have gone unnoticed.

Perhaps this is simply an unavoidable agency cost of delegating the power to arrest indiscriminately to police officers. But my sense is that a truly civil society can construct a better way for officers to exercise that enormous power in a more judicious manner that Sandra Bland experienced.

YS writes:

Playing the hand you're dealt affects the whole game and how other people end up having to play THEIR hands.

Imaging where Civil Rights would be today if people followed your advise ....

Our culture and civil society can suffer from the tragedy of the commons if everyone takes the near-sighted approach of looking out for their narrow interest.

As Hayek knew, true law often emerges not from legislation but from common practices that become accepted by the majority. Being overly compliant sets multiple precedents and before long even looking at a cop the wrong way will be perceived as a slight and a probable cause.

It is our duty as citizens to morally judge each other even if occasionally this incurs individual costs.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Tom Kirkendall,
Wise words, David.
Thanks.
But my sense is that a truly civil society can construct a better way for officers to exercise that enormous power in a more judicious manner that Sandra Bland experienced.
Absolutely, and various people--I think on the Reason Hit and Run site--have discussed how to change their incentives.
One other thing, though. You write:
that humiliation likely contributed to her committing suicide after spending the better part of three days in jail far away from her home.
I don’t think we should assume, at this point, that she committed suicide. I hasten to add that I don’t think we should assume that she didn’t commit suicide. We should wait on the evidence.

David R. Henderson writes:

@YS,
All of your points are good ones.
That’s why, when I think I am relatively safe, I will confront a cop, and then be prepared to stop confronting when I see it leading where I don’t want. See this. It’s complicated.
One thing I will add, though, relating to the civil rights battle. There was relative safety in numbers and publicity. Were I one of those protestors, I might have taken risks with Bull Connor when there were 300 people that I wouldn’t have taken if one of them had pulled me over.

Tom Kirkendall writes:

I don’t think we should assume, at this point, that she committed suicide. I hasten to add that I don’t think we should assume that she didn’t commit suicide. We should wait on the evidence.

David, agreed. My use of the word "likely" is based largely on my experience in such matters. I have seen first hand the devastating impact that even a night in jail can have on even reasonably strong people. As a result, it would not surprise me if this young woman, in the depths of despair, took her life after spending multiple days in jail.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Tom Kirkendall,
Thanks for the clarification. Your use of the word “likely” in front of “contributed” instead of “committing” misled me. Glad to have it cleared up.

MichaelT writes:

David, would your advice to a non-Jewish citizen living in Germany during the 1930's have been "Keep your head down. Be nice to Jewish people in private, but ignore them in public to avoid suspicion by the authorities"? And then during world World War II, would you have told them to "not pass out anti Nazi literature or be critical of them in public, and whatever you do, do not risk harboring a Jewish person"?

I would also ask if you would have participated in the civil rights protests in the south during the 50's and 60's, as there were white protesters who were severely beaten, arrested, and even killed.

I ask this not out of self righteousness. We all show deference to illegitimate and immoral power on a regular basis, but at what point would you personally recommend risking one's safety to stand up for what is right?

Michael writes:

This seems like extremely sensible advice, but isn't race the elephant in the room in this issue? I don't think it actually changes the advice (keep your cool around cops), but the average expected outcome varies wildly with race.

If you're white, keep your cool so they don't throw the book at you. Otherwise, particularly if you're a black man, keep your cool so they don't kill you.

Jon Murphy writes:

Excellent advice.

When I was in high school, I took a Constitutional Law course. Unfortunately, I wasn't in it for too long (other grade issues required my attention be focused elsewhere), but I do remember explicitly something the teacher (a retired defense lawyer) said:

"The side of Route 6 [the local highway] is not the place to argue your rights. That is what a courtroom is for."

David R. Henderson writes:

@Michael,
This seems like extremely sensible advice, but isn't race the elephant in the room in this issue? I don't think it actually changes the advice (keep your cool around cops), but the average expected outcome varies wildly with race.
Exactly. And it was precisely it doesn’t change the advice that I didn’t mention it.

Brian Donohue writes:

@David,

I was a short 16 year-old. I got pulled over at least a dozen times for trifles between 16 and 17.

Now I'm 50. I never get pulled over for trifles.

Society feels much freer to me as a middle-aged white guy than it did as a short, teenaged punk.

What do you know about the unfree society in which Sandra Bland lived?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Brian Donohue,
What do you know about the unfree society in which Sandra Bland lived?
I don’t know, just as I’m guessing you don’t. My advice is almost universal on this. Barack Obama, in his present job, could get away with asserting his rights. A bunch of other people could too. I think she didn’t get away with it. It’s hard for me to understand what you’re disputing, or even if you are disputing.

Brian Donohue writes:

@David,

You are correct that I don't know a whole lot about the unfree society in which Sandra Bland lived.

Which is one reason I'm careful not to use this incident to illuminate the universal virtues of "keep your head down, don't rock the boat, do what you're told".

I like your stuff, and, like I said, maybe it's good advice, but I think it is odd and jarring to land on this as the key story line here.

JLV writes:

A million old white guys have told black folks to "keep their head down" when confronting by abusive authority figures. This has not historically worked particularly well.

The world doesn't need another lecture about how black people should just put up with abuse hurled on them.

RohanV writes:

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
- George Bernard Shaw

Of course, as Mr. Henderson points, sometimes it doesn't end so well for the unreasonable man.

About the "don't talk to police" advice, how should I respond when a policeman asks me a question without any Miranda prelude. And how does this mix, David, with your advice to be compliant.

For example, what if a police officer knocks on my door and asks if there any guns in the house? What would you say I should say?

David R. Henderson writes:

@JLV,
A million old white guys have told black folks to "keep their head down" when confronting [sic] by abusive authority figures.
Is that true? Evidence?
The world doesn't need another lecture about how black people should just put up with abuse hurled on them.
I don’t think you read my piece carefully. I was not saying that you should “just put up with abuse.” There are other ways. But, as Jon Murphy said above, "The side of Route 6 [the local highway] is not the place to argue your rights. That is what a courtroom is for.” And, now that we have the web, this is one of the things the web is for.
By the way, as you could tell if you read my post above, this is a “lecture” I give to everyone, not just black people.
@RohanV,
Of course, as Mr. Henderson points, sometimes it doesn't end so well for the unreasonable man.
Exactly. But beyond that, RohanV, look at the other ways of being “unreasonable.” They don’t all involve not complying with a cop who has a gun.

Ak Mike writes:

I can certainly understand the frustration expressed by Mr. Donohue, JLV and MichaelT; but I would urge you all to utilize the wisdom expressed by Mr. Murphy. You don't have to simply ignore abuse, but you must chose the right time and place to strike back. In the words of the late Mayor Richard J. Daley, "don't get mad, get even."

I've had police knock on my door, tell that they are investigating a (vaguely described) crime in the neighborhood, and start asking questions.

How would you respond, David?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Richard O. Hammer,
Tough call and contextual, but I know what I would do first. I would start asking them questions. What is the crime? Why are you knocking on this door? If they are vague on either, which I expect they would be, I would say, “I don’t wish to speak to you.” The other thing I do when ANYONE comes to the door is speak through the screen door and not open it.

Faze writes:

There's nothing wrong with meekly accepting abuse from cops, racists or anyone else. What does it cost you to temporarily allow someone to act out a higher status role at your expense? A momentary humiliation. Meanwhile, you go on with your life. The basic spiritual task of adulthood is to develop the inner strength to experience life's many large and small attempts at humiliation without damage to our sense of self-worth. This is what allows us to accept hierarchies at work, to to obey traffic laws, and not get in fist fights with someone who looks at us cross-eyed on the subway.

ptk writes:

thanks for posting david.

as the son and grandson of chicago cops (1920s - 1960s), my dad told me at a very early age when dealing with police - would you rather be right and dead or wrong and alive? do what they say.

there's good and bad in every profession and when your profession places your life in potential danger in virtually every public interaction it might be fair to say you can develop an edge over time.

David R. Henderson writes:

@ptk,
would you rather be right and dead or wrong and alive?
Exactly.
when your profession places your life in potential danger in virtually every public interaction it might be fair to say you can develop an edge over time.
True, but you’re not justifying that edge in a profession that, after all, is safer than farming, are you?

sourcreamus writes:

Henderson's advice is very smart but it is not complete. If you anticipate a bad interaction then record it secretly on your phone. If you have an unanticipated bad interaction then write down what happened as soon as possible. Then immediately make a formal complaint. Follow up with your local politicians.
This is both safer and more effective than mouthing off to the cop during the stop.

Mike W writes:

What advice should one give to one's daughter?

http://www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Verdict-Anthony-Arevalos-Trial-San-Diego-Police-Officer-Sex-Assault-133829338.html

Mark V Anderson writes:

Video! You need to get video of transactions with police (of course only if they don't see it).

I think the point of David's post is that arguing with a cop, or even suggesting non-compliance, will not achieve anything. If a Black or White or Green argues with a cop at the side of the road, they do not accomplish anything. If anything, the cop will more likely take it out on the next victim (or you of course). The point of standing up for your rights is to improve the situation. There may be times that a cop treats you terribly and there is nothing you can do about it. In that case, deal with the hand you're dealt and take the abuse the best you can. Maybe then invest in inobstrusive video for the next incident. But don't try to stand up for your rights when it only makes the situation worse. That is brave but stupid and worthless.

Nice post, David.

SS writes:

To encourage police officers to behave and not engage in unnecessary brutality, all monetary judgements stemming from excessive force should be paid from the police pension funds. All cops would get a haircut on their pensions thus encouraging all cops to behave and/or report misbehavior and/or rogue cops.

Forcing law enforcement pension funds to pay for damages caused by misbehaving cops will help end police brutality and the code of silence. (Cameras are helping end the code of silence too.)

Anyone who says why should all cops have to take a haircut on their pension for the misbehavior of a few? Well why should taxpayers have to be taxed more to pay these judgements? Taxpayers pay the judgements and then continue to be abused by rogue cops. How is this fair? We need to find a way to “force” cops to control their temper and behave respectfully.

BTW, I think most cops are good, decent people, but we need to make/incentivize good cops to break the code of silence and weed out the bad cops. We also need to remind the police that they are there to serve us not the other way around.

Mike W writes:

Mark V Anderson writes: Video! You need to get video of transactions with police

Why didn't the judge ask for the video?

If this cop is not held criminally liable for Blanch's death the city should, at the least, be civilly liable for the deficiency of its police training and its court system.


David R. Henderson writes:

@sourcreamus,
Henderson's advice is very smart but it is not complete. If you anticipate a bad interaction then record it secretly on your phone. If you have an unanticipated bad interaction then write down what happened as soon as possible. Then immediately make a formal complaint. Follow up with your local politicians.
Good points. I didn’t mention the recording because I just assumed people knew that by now. But I shouldn’t necessarily have assumed. When a cop out of uniform who is a neighbor in Pacific Grove threatened me, I went on radio a few minutes later (I had been scheduled to discuss the economy on a local show), asked the interviewer’s permission to talk about the issue, and then gave as much accurate detail as I could. I then wrote down my memories as accurately as I could, had them notarized, and put them in my safety deposit box.

David R. Henderson writes:

@SS,
That’s a very clever idea. I always like to think through unintended consequences even of proposals I like at first, and so we should do so here too.

john hare writes:

I think most people here are missing the larger point of playing the hand you are dealt by focusing on law enforcement.

Do you confront your boss on every issue, or just the ones that give a reasonable chance of a decent outcome?

Do you argue every single point with your spouse, or do some give and take?

Do you insist on 100% perfection on every commercial transaction, (food orders etc...) or do you understand that there are issues all over and perfection is an illusion of a limited mind?

There is a spectrum of things in life that are not exactly as they should be that are often made worse by a confrontational attitude. Choosing your battles is just good common sense, avoiding the near certain losers is even better. This allows you to focus on the ones you can't avoid and on those you can win.

One personal issue for me is the opinion that a substantial portion of econlog is ivory tower with a somewhat tenuous connection to the real world. I mostly avoid pushing my perception of this in favor of attempting to understand the mindset of people from a very different world view. There are perfectly selfish reasons for this tactic ranging from the profit of understanding how others think, to the possibility that I am wrong on some of the issues.

John Fembup writes:

The clip linked below is now new (and, watch out, it's Chris Rock).

But it's worth watching even if you've seen it many times before.

Enjoy:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uj0mtxXEGE8

JK Brown writes:

The key thing to remember in dealing with the police is they are better at street law than you. Also, they have friends coming to help, you don't. The police have been trained and performed dozens of stops/questioning. They see emotional response as a weakness and provoke it to get admission, or to justify arrest. They are always assessing a situation as to probable cause for detention and arrest. You on the other hand are probably been manipulated if you don't keep your head.

Your focus must be on your survival. To survive a compliance with police, 99.9999% of the time, the best strategy is politeness and calmness.

Politeness and calmness does not preclude verbal courage, i.e., exercising your rights instead of arguing about them. That means not agreeing to searches even in the face of ridicule, threats of arrest or inconvenience, or intimidation. It means establishing your status by asking "May I leave". If granted leave, leave. If not granted, then you are on your way for your lawyer to argue the questioning was in custody/under arrest requiring Miranda Warning. Keep in mind, if the police do not try to use questioning or searches against you in court, there is little recourse even if say the search was patently illegal.

Also, keep in mind, the SCOTUS itself has ruled that, while personally a police officer may be good people, professionally, the police are untrustworthy. Or as the justices put it, the police may lie to citizens (suspects) with impunity. But police are not required to tell you when you are a suspect so assuming they are lying at all times is the only logical course of action since police can't be held accountable for deceptions.

Oh and stick to the facts. If asked if you know why they pulled you over, the only factual answer is "no". Even if you were speeding, you still don't "know" why the officer pulled you over. You may look like the guy who just shot his favorite dog. Don't let them get you into making assumptions regarding questions.

Jacob Shepherd writes:

Compliance may be the safer option in the moment, but as a free society compliance just allows officials abusering their authority to exercise that authority unjustly and serves to further entrench that unjust authority - with the expectation that future unjust activities will be complied with just the same. I will not fault Bland for asking a reasonable question and I will continue to fault the officer for his unreasonable behavior. I refuse to blame the person who was arrested because a person with a personality unwarranted of a police officer got his ego bruised.

It is well past time for police at all levels to be removed from the job for such interactions with the public, whether or not they result in the death of a person and regardless of who is responsible for that death. Police are entrusted with a fearsome power and likewise must be held to a higher standard. It is unfortunate for those wearing the badge with pride and honor to have their reputations stained by association with the likes of this officer.

Grant Gould writes:

Not long ago a police officer in Oklahoma was found to have been raping women during traffic stops: http://newsok.com/oklahoma-highway-patrol-trooper-is-arrested-on-sexual-assault-kidnapping-complaints/article/5342164 . Do you advise "politeness and compliance" in those cases as well?

If the police know they will always receive politeness and compliance then at least some of them will take every possible advantage. It is a power no human may be trusted with.

Complying with the police is a tragedy of the commons. You may individually be better off complying, but only because others elsewhere are keeping the police honest by not complying.

Jesse writes:

I have an interesting analogy. My father still lives in the house he bought in the late 70's. I grew up there then, and it was fine - safe, at least. But since then, it's gotten quite bad.

I'll be frank with the setting: he's a white man in his mid 60s, the neighborhood is at least half low income housing, and a little over half black.

He knows he needs to move ultimately, but until he does, he wants to stand his ground and not keep his head down. Example: he was mowing his lawn last year and a young man and woman were talking to each other on his sidewalk. The man sort of backed onto the grass in front of where my dad needed to go, and when my dad got there, he stopped about 10 feet away and asked if he could move aside. The man stared at him and turned back to continue talking. After a short while, my dad repeated his request. The man walked aside but began a tirade of shouting things at my father. Dad put his headphones on and continued to mow.

Recently, I suggested that my father would have been wise to just mow around the man and come back to that spot later. Persisting with his request on another day might have resulted in a much worse outcome. But my father disagreed with me, because he has a right not to be pushed around in his own yard.

For those who view Sandra as doing the right thing in standing up to a jerk police officer, what advice would you give your own father in a similar situation? There have been burglaries, plenty of violence and a couple shootings per year within a couple blocks - is there something heroic in him becoming a victim for something like this?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Grant Gould,
Do you advise "politeness and compliance" in those cases as well?
No. I would advocate resistance. I do see a big difference between a jerk telling someone to put out her cigarette and a rapist. I hope you do too.
By the way, what would you advise, Grant?
Complying with the police is a tragedy of the commons. You may individually be better off complying, but only because others elsewhere are keeping the police honest by not complying.
That’s a good point, but it also works the other way too. Many cops seem to be hopped up because they’re expecting the worst. If, alternatively, they knew it was very rare, that they would get resistance, they might change too. The net effect is not obvious to me. Is it to you?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Jacob Shepherd,
I will not fault Bland for asking a reasonable question and I will continue to fault the officer for his unreasonable behavior. I refuse to blame the person who was arrested because a person with a personality unwarranted of a police officer got his ego bruised.
I agree. If the late Ms. Bland were asking my advice, I would give the advice I gave above. It’s not about blame. As I wrote in my post,"I am not defending the cop; he acted horribly.” It’s about survival.
It is well past time for police at all levels to be removed from the job for such interactions with the public, whether or not they result in the death of a person and regardless of who is responsible for that death. Police are entrusted with a fearsome power and likewise must be held to a higher standard.
I agree. But recall the title of this post: “Some Practical Advice.” Our agreement that he should be fired has zero value in the moment of confrontation.

Moebius Street writes:

It bothers me that a couple of folks in this thread want us to consider Ms. Bland's race, and how she would have felt. I don't want to do this. While I'm not perfect, I genuinely try to be completely agnostic to race. And that means, quite literally, "don't take race into account". If we want to colorblind, we've got to get on with the program and *really* be colorblind.

@Richard O. Hammer
You ask what you should do when questioned. Technically (although I'm not a lawyer and don't intend to give legal advice) I believe the right answer is to ask "Am I under arrest or am I free to leave?". And when they say you're free to leave, do so without answering any further questions. And if they do arrest you, still don't answer any questions, but state that you must first speak with your lawyer.

Of course, it's easy for me to just type that. And I have to admit that I haven't been great about putting my money where my mouth is. Here's an anecdote of how I failed to do that, and how it almost got me into trouble.

One morning a police officer knocked on my door, and wanted to ask me questions about whether I'd seen anything earlier in the morning. This seemed completely innocuous, and I knew I hadn't done anything wrong, so I let him in. In my kitchen, he asked me if I'd seen anything that might relate to a complaint about a motorist having their window show out with a BB gun. I told him I hadn't seen anything at all, he thanked me, and when on his way.

But here's what could have happened...

I had been skeet shooting with a friend the previous day, and for some reason I still had a handful of empty shotgun shells sitting on a table across the room. If you're not aware of this, "BB" is actually the size designation of the pellets found in some shotgun loads.

It would have been perfectly reasonable for the cop to see those empty shells, speculate that I got my BB ammunition by opening up the shells (now leaving them empty), and filled up my BB gun to go shoot at cars. I'm no lawyer, but that seems sufficient circumstantial evidence for him to haul me in on.

I don't know whether the cop saw those shells or not, but I think I was pretty lucky. Although I was completely innocent, there was something sitting there that I hadn't thought about, that might have tended to incriminate me. All I was trying to do was be helpful to the cop, but I could have gotten myself into some difficulty. Even though I was innocent and had nothing to hide, the best course of action was probably to avoid talking to the cop, or at least to not be so helpful, and handle him at arm's length rather than inviting him in out of the cold.

Rich Berger writes:

I watched the video including the traffic stop prior to Bland being pulled over and the officer seemed very calm and businesslike until she refused to put out her cigarette. You can't tell from the video but she may have been blowing smoke in his face or letting it waft into his face, hence his polite request that she put it out. Things went downhill from there as the cop became agitated and she became abusive and insolent.

Apparently, this is not her first run in; she has a list of incidents involving driving uninsured and impaired -http://www.nbcchicago.com/investigations/Suburban-Woman-Found-Dead-in-Jail-Had-Previous-Encounters-With-Police-316025661.html

It is likely that the cop found this all out when he ran a check on her. I think he said he was going to give her a warning on the lane change (he missed her rolling through a stop sign) before the blow up.

A real charmer. If I behaved like she did and got my ass kicked for it, I don't think I would be blaming someone else.

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