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Home  >  Topics  >  Patrol Issues

August 13, 2012
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Lt. Dan Marcou Blue Knights
with Lt. Dan Marcou

Guess what? Criminals come in all colors

Police officers are required to stop only after developing reasonable suspicion and arrest only after establishing probable cause

Years ago, a federal investigator interviewed a local officer after receiving a complaint that the officer had violated the civil rights of a man.

The complainant claimed that he was just walking along a highway. The aggrieved individual proclaimed he had done nothing wrong to warrant being harassed by the police and was stopped because of his color.

During the interview, with the arresting officer the investigator discovered the complainant had left out some important facts...

The No-Look Look
The officer observed the man hitchhiking and walking with traffic on a state highway, which was in itself a violation. The suspect acted nervously when he saw the squad. He stutter-stepped as if he was about to run and then stopped and did the “no-look look.” He ceased hitchhiking and began walking quickly away along with traffic. He was partially in the traffic lane staring straight ahead. The officer said this behavior was not only suspicious, but it was illegal and endangered the suspect. Cars on the state highway had to go around him to avoid hitting him.

If all of that did not constitute reasonable suspicion the officer explained, “The man was wearing what looked like the uniform pants of an area prison farm.”

The contact revealed the man was a walk-away from the prison farm, whose absence had as of yet gone unreported.

The federal investigator cleared the complaint as “unfounded.”

Racial Disparity
This officer was falsely accused and subjected to an investigation. As unpleasant as it sounds it is a much preferred procedure to the way law enforcement is treated today, when accused of racial bias. Numbers are compiled and sweeping indictments are made about all of law enforcement.

The studies are often analyzed by individuals and groups, who have an extreme anti-law enforcement bias to begin with. One such individual, when releasing information on one such study started the press conference revealing a pre-existing mind-set. She said, “There are no surprises here.”

Every study done on racial bias has been inaccurate for several reasons.

1.) These studies do not eliminate from consideration all calls/arrests, where race was given by victims as a descriptor.
2.) They do not eliminate domestic violence cases, where mandatory arrests are required.
3.) They do not eliminate mandatory sentencing cases.
4.) They do not eliminate every stop made, where the driver had tinted windows.

The only things eliminated in these studies are all pertinent facts and justifications.

Officers Heavily Scrutinized
These anti-law enforcement number crunchers fail to acknowledge police officers are already the most openly and heavily scrutinized public servants in the nation.

Police officers are required to stop only after developing reasonable suspicion and arrest only after establishing probable cause. Every one of these stops is individually scrutinized by the officers’ commanders, district attorneys, defense attorneys, courts, and the media.

The facts of cases are heard by American juries, who take their responsibilities seriously. In all but a few isolated instances guilty people are sent to prison. The legal issues from the stop to the conviction are also scrutinized by judges sitting on benches in municipal courts all the way to the Supreme Court.

The anti-law enforcement lobby will not be deterred by this argument. They will merely observe, “The entire system is corrupt.”

Case by Case
The Federal Agent mentioned at the beginning of this article did not run a computer program of 700,000 contacts and accuse thousands of innocent officers of racial bias. He took a single complaint and investigated it. It was not pleasant for the officer involved, but after the facts of the case were revealed, the officer found himself vindicated. This is how reports of any injustice done, including racial bias should be handled; one complaint at a time.

When community leaders draw unsubstantiated conclusions from fact-scrubbed-statistics suggesting every officer in a city, state, and even the country is going out on the street and pursuing people because of their color it accuses innocent officers of an egregious offense with neither the possibility of conviction, nor acquittal.

This is an injustice.

People and groups, who ignore the criminality of suspects and distort honorable intentions of police officers, are making a dangerous profession even more dangerous.

A Dangerous Distraction
Street officers must understand that color is used by suspects as a tool. It is one of the sub-categories of the “Do you know who I am?” bluster often used by suspects to intimidate an officer into inaction, or distract them while suspects maneuver to take action.

Be neither intimidated nor distracted by a suspect, or an organization that pulls the color card on you. You do not arrest people in percentages, you arrest them one suspect at a time. They find themselves in handcuffs because of their criminality, not their color. If you allow the color-distracter to work on you on the street you may discover the one color-coded fact a police officer needs to avoid being made aware of.

We all bleed red.

Here is the conclusion I have come to after an extensive 33-year study of my own. Criminals come in all colors.

So that’s enough talk about color. Treat everyone with respect, trust no one, and as J.D. Buck Savage would say, “Watch the hands!”


About the author

Lt. Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor, and Nobody's Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou





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