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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Being rude to the police: dumb, not criminal

...and it is only dumb because it will be treated, often successfully, as criminal. But not this time:
Man who gave trooper the finger has charge dropped
A harassment charge has been dropped in the case of a 35-year-old Colorado man who faced prosecution for displaying his middle finger to a Colorado State Patrol trooper. 
The State Patrol said in a statement late Friday that it asked that the case be dropped. 
The American Civil Liberties Union had argued that while the gesture may be have been rude, it amounted to protected free speech. 
According to the ACLU, Shane Boor was driving to work in April when he saw a trooper pull over a car. As Boor passed by, he extended his middle finger in the trooper's direction. 
Boor was later stopped and received a criminal summons ordering him to appear in court to answer a criminal charge of harassment, which carries a possible six-month jail term.
Ed Brayton notes:
We've got a whole lot of police officers in this country who truly believe that they cannot be questioned or criticized the way any other citizen can, that their tender feelings being hurt allows them to harass and arrest people who have broken no law. If you dare to question them, they'll arrest you for "disorderly conduct," that famous catch-all crime that really means "annoying a police officer."
If you flip off another person, you can't be arrested for it. Yet this officer actually believed that flipping him off was an arrestable offense. We need some serious retraining for police officers in this country. And we need to start penalizing those who overstep their legal authority in a big way.
Let's unpack...

Is flipping off a police officer rude? Yes, because flipping people off is a deliberately rude act.
Is being rude always bad? I don't think so.
Was it wrong to be rude to a police officer in this instance? Probably, because a person doesn't deserve contempt simply for being a cop.
Was it dumb? Probably, if you think it's dumb to endanger yourself.
But, should such an act be considered endangering oneself? Not in a better world.
Is this a better world? Sadly, no.

Was flipping off the cop an act of civil disobedience? Maybe; there's no way to tell from the article. But if that is why Boor did so, then my hat's off to him. To my rather odd civil liberties-loving mind, the idea of one person being rude to a cop because he hates cops is repellant. But the idea of everybody doing so, to make a point, is awesome. Forget Everybody Draw Muhammad Day; let's have Everybody Flip Off a Cop Day.

Police are, or are supposed to be, public servants.  It does not amount to advocating hatred or denigration of them to say that expressing contempt for them is no worse (and no better) than doing so for anyone else. Certainly not to say that the idea of someone being arrested for it, let alone imprisoned, is absolutely insane.  Yet it is also insane how many officers do not appear to realize that "contempt of cop" is not a crime.  And, most disturbing of all, how many people don't realize it.

Dumb, not criminal. Thanks again, ACLU.

6 comments:

  1. Of greater concern to me is the tendency for police to arrest or confiscate cameras of people recording police activities. Some states have actually passed laws making it illegal to film or record a cop during a stop or any other interaction between police and a citizen. But until a cameraman is willing to go the distance and ask for a trial, there isn't standing to test the law in court.

    It seems to me that since the Patriot Act, police (wrongly) feel they have more powers than they actually do.

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  2. Sweet. I flipped off a cop, and she stopped what she was doing to chase me down and lecture me. Then I had to be nice and fake contrition.

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  3. IIRC, in Illinois it is a class 1 felony (the same as rape) to record a police officer.

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  4. Iwas driving home from work one afternoon and was doing the speedlimit when a local city cop passed me doing 30miles over the limit. When I stopped at the red light I rolled down my window and asked hime what the speed limit was on the street he ha no comment turned his red lights on and ran the red light when I came up yo yhe next light he was there and said Iguess the speed limit doesn't apply to you. No comment I thought that police where to lead by example I guess this doesn't apply to all police

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  5. i flipped like 4 cop cars off they were all driving in a row and all they did was take my information and try to make me to repeat myself like a fool but I just yah, ahh and waved my hand.. dumb bitch

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  6. i flipped like 4 cop cars off they were all driving in a row and all they did was take my information and try to make me to repeat myself like a fool but I just yah, ahh and waved my hand.. dumb bitch

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