Comply to Stay Alive: How to Survive a Brush with the Law

Photo by Jim Donnelly

Photo by Jim Donnelly

By: Jim Donnelly

It seems everyday we log onto Facebook or turn on the news and see another story about cop and a suspect getting into a tussle – a situation where the general public gets to act as judge and jury in regard to a situation they know nothing about – just what little they see on video. Then right away it becomes a free for all on cops. It becomes an “Us vs Them” mentality and that’s just not fair. We need cops.

I’ve been working the streets of South Florida for over 30 years with a TV camera strapped to my shoulder. I’ve seen the underbelly of South Florida and trust me, it’s not pretty.

Armed or unarmed, to me, it doesn’t matter. If you choose to fight with a police officer, to disobey lawful orders, you get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

It’s been my observation that the ones who have the biggest problem with the way law enforcement does their job are the ones breaking the law. The ones that don’t respect the laws are the ones that fight being arrested and ultimately are the ones who scream police brutality the loudest.

Heck, lets face it; no one wants to be arrested. Trust me, no officer wants to arrest anyone. That is, anyone that is obeying the law. The moment the officer decides to make the arrest is the time most problems arise. Lets not for one-minute act like the people we are talking about are saints. The “suspect” the officers are trying to arrest is assumed to have broken the law in one way or another. Yes, the suspect has rights, but resisting arrest is not one of them. Armed or unarmed, to me, it doesn’t matter. If you choose to fight with a police officer, to disobey lawful orders, you get what you get and you don’t get upset.

Comply and you will remain alive. It’s that simple.”

When I was brought up, I was taught to respect the officer and do what I’m told. I may not like the attitude of the officers I encounter, nor may I like their decision-making skills but because I’ve ultimately shown respect to the badge, I have never had a situation get out of control. I respect the law and do whatever I’m told when confronted by a person wearing a badge. Sometimes I have to swallow my pride, but I’ve always been able to walk away from the situation. Its not because of the color of my skin, it’s because of my attitude. Black, white, yellow, brown, skin color does not matter to an arresting officer although many seem to want it to matter. Do what you are ordered to do. Comply and you will remain alive. It’s that simple.

In my line of work I have to work side by side with law enforcement. Sometimes they want the media there; most times they don’t. Lets get something straight: just because you have a TV camera on your shoulder, doesn’t make the officers treat you any better., on the contrary, most officers despise the media and do whatever they can do dissuade us from hanging around or seeing anything that is going on, including intimidation. Is it right? No. Sometimes the way they treat us is humiliating, but it doesn’t give me the right to disrespect the officer and not follow his/her orders.

We in the media have rights too and more often than not the front line officer, following orders given by someone up the line, violates those rights in order to keep from getting in trouble with his/her superiors. Even though I know my rights, fighting this officer will only cause trouble for me. But I still have a job to do. In order to do my job I have to push the limits every night and that has put me face to face with good and bad cops alike. Luckily I was taught that respect always wins out.

Lets talk about that word, “respect”. You may not like an officer or the way you are being treated. However, that gives you no right to be disrespectful, no matter what color your skin. It sure as heck doesn’t give you any right to refuse to be arrested or to fight with the officer. But, given the recent outbreak of online videos, you may have noticed that some people disagree with me on this point. Those, not surprisingly, are the ones who scream police brutality the loudest; the ones fighting being arrested.

According to Captain Brad McKeone of the Coral Springs Police Department, the best way to deescalate any situation is to comply with the officers’ commands. “Make no mistake about it. If we are making an arrest, we will win,” he said. “That is our job and we will do our job to the best of our ability. You don’t have to like it but we will win. That is NOT the time to fight. Fighting will only cause more problems for you at that point. It is better that you stay calm, do as you are told and then use the legal system to fight your cause. The time to fight is not during the arrest.”

After hearing that statement I asked myself, “Would Michael Brown still be alive today if he had just “complied” with the officer’s commands?” I had to say yes, I believe he would still be alive. Ask that same question of any of the fatalities that have happened in recent years involving police during an arrest. Had the suspect just “complied” and done what he or she was ordered, would they still be alive today? If the answer is yes, then what are we fighting about? Suddenly the argument isn’t about how the officers handle the arrest, but about how the suspect behaved.

Would Michael Brown still be alive today if he had just “complied” with the officer’s commands?” I had to say yes, I believe he would still be alive.”

If one were to stop and objectively look at each of these arrests, and judge not only the behavior of the police but also how the suspect behaved, they would think differently about the situation.

If someone hated cops and despised law enforcement they will totally ignore how the suspect behaved and just blame the cops for everything. No inmate ever likes the jailor. Law abiding citizens will side with the police, people who lack a respect for the law will argue otherwise.

The mentality that it’s OK to fight the cops because there are a few bad cops out there is just not acceptable. We can’t make up our own laws as we go along. We are a society based on laws. The police enforce those laws. We have to obey those laws or we will have anarchy. Who likes anarchy? Criminals. Like death and taxes there are bound to be bad cops. Lets deal with those cancers as they are discovered but the time to decide who is good and who isn’t is not at the time of arrest. Comply and fight your battles through the proper channels. At least no one gets killed and everyone walks away to fight another day.

It is common knowledge that all cops carry weapons. If the suspect chooses to fight or threaten the officer to the point the officer feels his/her life is in danger, then deadly force is acceptable, or as it is called, justifiable, like it or not. You’d be surprised how quickly you feel your life is in danger when you are behind a badge.

It’s easy to sit back and judge an officer from the comfort of a newsroom or living room. The problem is, police officers don’t get that luxury. So, in order to be fair, the Coral Springs Police Department set up a day full of very interesting scenarios for media members to participate in to get an actual feel for what police officers face every day.

There is no way for the general public to experience these terrifying situations, so in the coming weeks I will write a series of articles about those different scenarios so you can better understand what cops go through on a daily basis.

Honestly, they scared the crap out of me – even after working the streets for 30 years, I can honestly say I had no idea what it was like on that side of the law.

I don’t ask that you agree with me. I really don’t care if you do or don’t. I won’t respond to posts attacking my character or my opinions. That’s not why I’m I’m doing this. I’m writing these articles because I believe we need police officers in this world. I think we have begun to accept lawlessness as a way of life. We live in a world where people disrespect the President of the United States on a daily basis so why should they have to respect the police? We are losing respect for our police officers and that is not acceptable. Maybe, just maybe, after reading these articles you will have a little better understanding of what police officers are forced to deal with day in and day out. With that knowledge may come a little more respect. Have we really come so far from 9/11 when anyone with a badge was a hero?

Who was it that said, “Can’t we all just get along?” I’ll bet it was someone who wishes he could go back and show the police a little respect.

About Jim Donnelly

avatar Jim Donnelly is an Emmy Award winning journalist with over 30 years of experience reporting news in South Florida and beyond. Through his company Image Masters Photography he has also provided services for many of the Fortune 100 companies. He has provided services for the Marlins, Heat, Dolphins and NASCAR as well as providing breaking news coverage for all of the major news outlets in South Florida and major networks around the world. Jim is a member of the Coral Springs Sports Commission and has a long history of volunteer work with the city as well as with the School Board of Broward County.

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  • samuraidad

    Thank you a thousand times over for your article. You stated what we have always said just comply and you will be okay. In fact it may be more of a benefit than you realize. I had my share of arrest while on the streets of Miami Dade County and 99% were smooth, you always get those that want to push the bar and they still made it to the jail.

    • Jim Donnelly

      You are welcome. Hope you like today’s article.

  • jhkilroy

    How come when a video “surfaces” it NEVER seems to match the officers version of events ? Im not talking about dash cams or vest cams … Im talking about the ones they dont know are there… all of a sudden the written report does not match… very strange… the laws are meant for EVERYBODY sure seems like ” friends of the force ” never get traffic citations – I wonder how many wives or husbands and children of police ever get speeding tickets…. sure would love to know those stats…. how many times have you seen a cop car from another city SPEEDING through Coral Springs…. no worries his fellow officer will not write him up, it’s all good… When police do not follow the law it build contempt for it.

    • Jim Donnelly

      Hey John, I’ve read quite a few of your 502 comments and it seems you do an awful lot of bitching and complaining but I have yet to see anything positive or helpful to the situation. How about you stay on topic, try to be productive and let’s see if we can work together as a community and come up with ways to get people to stop breaking the law and to respect the officers commands when they are given – otherwise, I really don’t care what happens to the law breakers. There wouldn’t be a video to surface if the cops weren’t needed in the first place. But that’s their fault too isn’t it! Be part of the solution, not part of the problem!

      • jhkilroy

        Rodney King thanks you.

  • Janey WhoDat-Diano

    THANK YOU for writing this article! FINALLY, a voice in the media that tells it like it is. My brother is a police officer and I can only pray that he makes it to retirement in a few years. I won’t breathe easy until he does…

    • Jim Donnelly

      Thanks! I just try to tell it like I see it! Hope you like today’s article!

      • Janey WhoDat-Diano

        How can I get links to the new articles you post? I found this one on the Coral Springs PD Facebook page that I follow…