How To Bend Over and Please A Cop (Update)

Ever wonder how to avoid being arrested?  Some would suggest that the answer is to not do anything wrong, but that’s an iffy proposition at best.  At Atlantic Cities, Mike Riggs relays the advice of former “FBI field agent, a SWAT sniper, an instructor at the FBI academy, and a Miami police officer who set Florida records for felony arrests” Dale Carson.

This is where things get, ahem, sticky:

Dale Carson is a defense attorney in Jacksonville, Florida, as well as an alumnus of the Miami-Dade Police Department and the FBI. So he knows a thing or two about how cops determine who to hassle, and what all of us can do to not be one of those people.

It would be one thing for Carson’s “advice” to be promoted as the thoughts of an ex-cop, speaking from the copper perspective. But that’s not quite how it comes across.  By first noting that he’s a defense attorney, thus ascribing credibility to Carson as not only a duly admitted member of a learned profession, but one who toils to preserve the sanctity of the accused and respect for the Constitution, readers are left to believe that this is how criminal defense lawyers urge people to behave.

Uh, no.

Carson has four golden rules, the first of which is, “If police can’t see you, they can’t arrest you.” The simplest application of this concept is that if you plan on doing something illegal, you should do it in the privacy of your home. Yes, you can be arrested while at home, but you can’t be profiled sitting in your living room, and profiling is what you’re trying to avoid.

Initially, no lawyer would offer advise as to how to commit a crime and get away with it. That’s plainly unethical and unlawful. We are not in the business of promoting crime, and the idea that anyone would suggest such a thing is disgraceful.

Now if Carson’s point is to avoid conflict with the police at all costs, then suggesting people hide in their homes rather than enjoy the world in peace makes a little bit of sense. If his point is to encourage safe criminal practices, then he can’t and shouldn’t. But even so, if you plan to smoke some dope in private, you still have to get the weed somehow. Either you go out to meet your source of supply or he comes to you. It’s not exactly a foolproof plan.

The rule extends to activities that are perfectly legal. “In 21st century America,” he writes, “as long as you’re not committing a crime, you should be able to wear the wildest clothes you want, roam the streets when you feel like it, and lean on a light post or hang out at some wild club if it amuses you.” “Should” is the key word. In reality, cops love hassling people who stand out, even though it’s not illegal to, say, have a Buckeyes bumper sticker that looks like a pot leaf. If you drive a sports car or a lowrider, you’re more likely to attract a cop’s attention than if you drive, say, a gray Honda Civic. Same goes for clothes, hairstyles, tone and volume of voice. Be boring.

Got that? All the things that make life worth living, that you chose to do because you live in the land of the free and the home of the brave? Carson says you’re just asking for trouble.

But it gets worse. Far worse.

What if I can’t be invisible to police?

If police want to hassle you, they’re going to, even if you’re following the above tips as closely as possible. What then? Every interaction with a police officer entails two contests: One for “psychological dominance” and one for “custody of your body.” Carson advises giving in on the first contest in order to win the second.

And how, pray tell, does this FBI agent cum criminal defense lawyer propose to accomplish the win?  Suggestion Number One:

Winning the psychological battle requires you to be honest with cops, polite, respectful, and resistant to incitement.

But, but, but…Suggestion Number Two:

He also says you should be dignified—unless it looks like you’re about to lose both the psychological contest and the one for custody of your body. In which case, you should be strategically pitiful.

Strategically pitiful? What the heck does that mean?

 It’s debasement time. Start with crying. Bawl hard while begging for a notice.

Bawl? As in cry?

If crying fails, and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to not go to jail, Carson advises you to “foul yourself so that the police will consider setting you free in order not to get their cruiser nasty.” Vomit on your clothes. Defecate and urinate in your pants. Then let the officers know what you’ve done.

Okay, this has gone on long enough.   Ironically (maybe), at his own website, Carson gives this advice:

If you are arrested Jacksonville criminal lawyer Dale Carson says give police your name and address, then shut the heck up. Saying too much to police can get you in more trouble and cause you to forfeit certain rights.

So let’s take the vomit on oneself advice with a grain of salt.

If Dale Carson is trying to offer suggestions for how to demean yourself sufficiently to avoid arrest at any cost, that’s one thing. If this is a joke, that’s another thing. But to suggest that this reflects the advice of criminal defense lawyers is absurd.

[Warning: rough language ahead.]

In these days of citizen publishing, any asshole can write a book, and many do.  Carson’s book, Arrest-Proof Yourself, may be one of the worst, most disgusting attempts at eliminating freedom and dignity for the sake of safety and police avoidance ever written. That it exists at all is an affront to humanity.

Which leads me to the obvious question: Why would Mike Riggs, who has shown little reluctance to stand firm against the excesses of police, choose to “foul himself” by writing about Carson’s advice?  I suspect Riggs was smiling ear to ear while tapping out the words of this post, wondering whether anyone anywhere wouldn’t start laughing hysterically at such absurdity.  What a wag, that Riggs is.

Update: Or my expectations of Mike Riggs was unduly wishful?



30 thoughts on “How To Bend Over and Please A Cop (Update)

  1. AP

    Carson’s advice reminded me of your post on Patrick Fitzgerald former federal prosecutor, now white collar crime defender. This former cop’s advice was similar to how you summed up Fitzgerald’s:

    Cop out
    Cave in and trust the largesse of the government to provide your salvation

    We can now add “Cower” when in the presence of state power. I guess that sound’s a whole lot nicer that “shit your pants when you see a cop”.

  2. Gideon

    This has to be a joke. It’s the stupidest thing I’ve read all week. God I hate “prosecutor turned defense attorneys”. Not impressed by Riggs at all.

  3. Mike Riggs

    I didn’t expect to get called out for this post, which bothers me, because I have a lot of respect for Scott, Mark Bennett , and @gideonstrumpet, all of whom inform my worldview and all of whom are disappointed (or flat-out disgusted) with what I wrote.

    Scott asked on Twitter if I was joking, and I said that while I found some things funny, other things in the book genuinely challenged my belief about how to interact with cops. The more people I talk to who have been run through the ringer, the more I wonder about how to balance risking arrest and conviction and the lifetime of punishment that follows, and protecting one’s dignity and constitutional rights during police encounters.

    I’m not nearly as sure-footed as I might seem about how to get that balance right, and have no qualms with eating humble pie.

    1. SHG Post author

      You’ve done some excellent work writing about the system, but it gives rise to a myopic sense of where along the spectrum of dealing with the police to draw the line. The constant internet parade of horribles leaves all of us with a sense of fear and outrage. I can understand why the line has begun to blur for you, but I hope that this makes some sense of it and helps to put it in better perspective.

      No reasonably sane criminal defense lawyer would suggest a person antagonize a cop. While some more radical pundits urge people to try to deliberately goad police, that’s inviting arrest, if not tragedy, and serves no one’s interest. At the same time, no reasonably sane criminal defense lawyer would suggest demeaning oneself in the ways Carson suggests. Ever.

      There are some basic rules to apply to minimize the risk of being arrested for contempt of cop, or worse yet, being harmed, without resorting to debasing and humiliating oneself.

      Be calm and respectful. By respectful, I mean do not be disrespectful. I do not mean be obsequious.

      Be cognizant of the First Rule of Policing, and do nothing to give rise to concerns that you are a threat to the officer.

      Be quiet. This is not related to the invocation of right to counsel or right to remain silent, which sadly requires some technical knowledge to invoke correctly, but to not talk incessantly, not be annoying, not be confrontational. There is nothing offensive about being the strong silent type. Keep talk to a minimum. Trying to talk (or cry, vomit, urinate or defecate) your way out of it is more likely to piss a cop off than basic quiet.

      Will behaving this way guarantee you won’t be arrested, beaten or worse? No. Neither will Carson’s advice. But then, you will have done what you can to limit the damage of an arrest while maintaining normal human dignity. Neither police nor anyone else have any respect for weasels, cowards or whiners.

      So, while the line is drawn slightly differently in every instance, one thing is clear: Needless antagonizing police is too far to one side. Needlessly demeaning yourself is too far to the other side. When blind fear of arrest and its consequences pushes you to consider doing as Carson suggests, you have definitely gone too far. While fear prevents us from doing stupid things, it can also drive us too far so that we get stupid in the other direction. I think that’s where you went a bit wrong, and I hope this helps to provide perspective to the question of where to draw the line.

      1. Mark W. Bennett

        Carson’s advice is cop advice: “on your knees, boy.” Soiling yourself isn’t going to keep you from being arrested for anything serious; it’ll just make the ride more uncomfortable.

        The criminal-defense lawyer’s imprimatur very rarely has any force. The public doesn’t care what we think about the Fourth Amendment, or the War on Drugs, or stand-your-ground in the Zimmerman case.

        They might, however, care about our advice for avoiding arrest, which is why Carson shouldn’t have been described as a criminal-defense lawyer—not, at least, without getting a counterpoint from someone who wasn’t once a cop.

        1. SHG Post author

          That could explain why I wrote about Mike’s ascribing cred to Carson as a criminal defense lawyer rather than promoting his advice as an ex-cop.

          1. John Barleycorn

            You are just jealous.

            Seems Dale, according to the front page of his web site not only cites his book but he gots him some other skillzzs as well.

            “…teaches interview interrogation techniques, the psychology of sex crimes and other courses, through classes at the police academy and the Glynco Federal Training Facility.”

            Better watch some reruns of COPS tonight and brush up.

            His web page is on the first page of google results with the appropriate input. Loads faster if you are playing the theme song for COPS though.

    2. Gideon

      Disappointed here. Just idiotic advice from this guy. I mean, even the Onion folks would’ve written a better parody than Carson.

      But no long-term foul. I write clunkers all the time.

    1. SHG Post author

      The sense of futility toward interactions with the police is a very real problem for those who are deluged daily with abuse, atrocities and misconduct, but real world survival (assuming you’re not in it to become a martyr to a cause) requires that we maintain a clear head, a sophisticated understanding that police are ordinary human beings with probably more power than mortals should have and not every interaction ends up on the front page of the newspaper.

      What it does not mean, and must never mean, is that the only way to survive a police interaction is to willingly forfeit our dignity. It won’t save anyone, but will most assuredly eviscerate any hope of improving the outcome of police interactions.

    1. SHG Post author

      I saw that as a red herring bit of advice. After all, it’s hard to articulate consent with a small penis in one’s mouth.

  4. Wheeze The People™

    As much as I would like to say the referenced advice for dealing with the fuzz totally sucks, as a wee youngin’ of just seventeen years old, some of the suggested tactics did work for me, I’m now ashamed to say . . .

    Flashback to 1979. An open Saturday night backyard house party with a rock & rock band, open keggers, hundreds of underage kids drinking themselves silly, and, as usual with such things, after an hour or so, lot o’ cops come to break it up. Meaning ~10 squad cars full of police, intent on putting a load of proverbial turds in the party punch bowl . . .

    I’m standing out in the front yard, along with dozens of other people, a bottle of beer in each hand, when I observe the swarm of cops pulling up in the middle of the street, right in front of the house. So I start walking in the opposite direction, away from the swarm, still holding on to my two brewskis for dear life, thinking I had gotten a jump on the party poopers . . .

    Unfortunately, my escape plan wasn’t going as well as I had thought. When I was about a couple hundred feet down the sidewalk, I heard a copper say, “Hey, you, come here”, but I just kept walking, hoping he wasn’t talking to me. Well, a few seconds later, still holding both beers, out of the corner of my little eye I spy a cop at nine o’clock. He says, “You, turn around” and I do, sensing I had no other good choice. Then, and to this day I’m still astounded by this, I turn around and the cop is already swinging his Billy club my way, perfectly and precisely smashing the bottles of beer in my hand, leaving me then only holding on to the necks on the now empty beers. My jaw kinda dropped . . .

    Things got interesting, and fast. Cop sez to me, “You didn’t follow my order.” And I respond that I didn’t know he was talking to me. Then he sez, “Slim, you’re going to jail!!” and proceeded to use just two of his fingers to carry me back to the squad car, using just the back middle belt loop on my Levi’s as a handle (Crazy as it might seem now, I wore size 27 pants back then and weighted literally half of what I do today). As I was being carried down the street by this big brute cop as though I was a little girlie-man, I decided the only possible way out of jail was to act the girlie-man part and so I pleading with him. “Please, don’t take me to jail. Please, please. This is the first time I’ve ever been arrested. I’ll never drink again if you let me go. I’ve learned my lesson. Please, please”, I continued to plead. Cop doesn’t say a word . . .

    Finally, we arrive at the cruiser, and he opens the back door with one hand while still holding me by my pant with two fingers. He proceeds to throw my in the back seat and by that time, I’m pretty much crying that my parents are going to kill me if I end up in jail. Next thing I know, the cop grabs me by the arm, abruptly pulling me out of the car, and sez, “This is your lucky day, Slim. Get the fuck out of here, now!” . . .

    But yes, on that day, I lost a bit, or more, of my human dignity . . .

  5. Anonymous

    If LEO were instructed to give more warnings and cuff fewer citizens, LEO needs to learn that they lose no dignity or masculinity points when they issue Warnings rather than arresting more people.

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