Policophobia: Fear of Police is Real But Can it Be Used as A Defense
In a previous post entitled “Black Men May Have Reason to Run from Police”, we reported on the Massachusetts Judicial Court writing an opinion acknowledging certain individuals (specifically Black males) may have a legitimate reason to flee police that’s unrelated to guilt or innocence. Basing that opinion on years of research from countless studies, the court made this controversial assessment in the glaring heat of America’s strained race relations. And while this opinion should finally open the eyes of the naive, we think it only begs an answer to the next logical question. Do Black men have a legitimate reason to resist the police?
Given the endless tales of Black Americans being profiled, hunted and targeted for the most insignificant of infractions by law enforcement, it’s not unreasonable to expect the eventual development of well founded fears of any interaction with the police. When a Black person is stopped, questioned and searched by law enforcement, they have every reason to believe their lives could end within seconds. And of course, nothing will be done about it.
Think of it, you’re coming home late from a party after dropping off friends. You’re alone in your car when a cop’s lights begin flashing in the rear view mirror. You’re not armed, there’s no drugs in the vehicle, your license and insurance are legit and you have no criminal record. You also know, that don’t mean shit in the middle of the night. You’ve heard the stories. “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” looks good on a bumper sticker, but it won’t stop a cop’s bullet fired in haste. If this is your situation, you are faced with three choices. And all of them are bad.
Choice number one: freeze, comply and possibly die. Choice number two: hit the accelerator and hope your hooptie can out run a police cruiser. Choice number three: fight back anyway you can as soon as you feel an ass kicking or false charges are in your future. Yes, fear can trigger the first law of nature. The law of self preservation. The will to live and live freely often gives rise to the flight or fight response. And for some, that response can be so overwhelming, it can’t be controlled. Unfortunately, historically, fear as a defense has been almost exclusively reserved for the police when there’s a violent confrontation with Black Americans.
If the citizen’s fear gets the better of them forcing anything but choice number one, that citizen had better have one hell of a lawyer, because they’ll face charges of resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, along with whatever else prosecutors will gladly throw at them. With both these charges being felonies, if convicted (highly likely) that citizen’s life is effectively over. In New York state, the mandatory MINIMUM sentence is two years prison time, in addition to fines, fees, restitution and post release supervision. Try finding another job with that shit following you around forever.
Although law enforcement has the weapons, the badges and the authorities to kill at will, it’s the police officer’s fears that’s given consideration during encounters with the public. The idea that citizens could be afraid of those hired to serve and protect them runs counter to everything law enforcement supposedly stands for. But that fear is real and it’s always present. And some have began speculating that fear was established intentionally in certain communities, as it’s no secret, some cops use fear as just another tool to enforce the law. To some cops, striking fear in the hearts and minds of certain communities is the only way to police them.
Bottom line: Sadly, America is not quite ready to admit many of its citizens legitimately fear law enforcement in this country. And until it does, anyone relying on the “I feared for my life” defense against excessive force, police brutality or worse, will have an historic hurdle to overcome in any court of law. And while we know this post will undoubtedly stir up some volatile reactions and comments, we also know someone had to broach this issue in light of the “routine killings” of unarmed citizens by the police. Podcast below.