Sunday, September 21, 2014

Autism and Police Encounters

You are out driving or walking around and a police officer stops you. What do you do? Thanks to a torrent of horror stories on the internet, this is a scary situation. Sadly, most officers don't want to take the time to understand you unless they already know you pretty well. Then there's the matter of their personal opinions of you or autism (or any medical condition). When you find yourself faced with an authority figure, there are several things to keep in mind so you can avoid being another youtube statistic.

So let us begin with a police incident. You are pulled over or stopped for questioning by police. Don't be like the man in the video. When an officer gives you an order, you may as well comply with it. In fact, DO JUST THAT. You will save yourself a great deal of pain and anguish. For that matter, if you follow a few basic steps, you can avoid even getting to the point where they want to arrest you. Give the police a hard time and you will be arrested. If they decide they are going to arrest you anyway, there is little you can do about it. So:

1: Be pleasant and answer their questions. If asked for ID, provide it or explain why you don't have it. Be honest and polite.

2: If they want to do a pat down, let them. You may see this as a violation of your rights, but we'll get to what to do about that in a moment. Be open about what you have in your pockets. You really shouldn't be carrying anything illegal anyway. Same goes for if they decide to cuff you. Don't resist them, they'll only get nastier and you'll wind up like the guy in the video. Not worth it.

3: Follow all instructions. You can file a complaint later.

4: Do not lose your cool. If you get a ticket, just take it. If you lose your cool, you will go to jail. Don't argue past stating your case for what's involved.

If you believe you have been mistreated or your rights have been violated, going Youtube on the cop is not the answer. You can have an investigation done by filing a report with the department's division of Internal Affairs. Anyone who witnesses something they feel is a violation can make such a report. But, for some reason, people would rather post Youtube videos. 

It's true that you don't have to answer their questions. You have that right, but depending on what they are investigating, you will only trigger them into an escalation. They have a job to do and the harder you make it for them to do it, the more likely you will go to jail.  In some cases you may be let go, but you waste your time being difficult like this next person:

It was obvious he wasn't drunk, but he was more interested in filming the officers and being difficult. If he simply said "no", he would have been on his way quickly. If you aren't doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about. Why make it more difficult for everyone involved?

Finally, the best thing you can ever do, is avoid being in situations where the police are going to get interested. This requires developing a level of street smarts and I will address those in my next article.

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