Recently there has been a lot of discussion about non-compliance and refusal to follow what has been perceived as unlawful orders by police officers. In every U.S. state, there is a law which prevents citizens from resisting, delaying, or obstructing an officer in the performance or attempted performance of the officer’s duty.
In other words, it is illegal to resist, obstruct, or delay an officer in the performance of duty. Now, before we get into a circular discussion of what is the lawful performance of one’s duty and whether it is appropriate to disobey, let me start by pointing out that if the officer is violating someone’s constitutional rights, there are other avenues within the American judicial system to appropriately address that issue. Therefore, there is absolutely no reason not to comply with the direction of a police officer.
If those directions are determined later to be unlawful, then your recourse is through litigation, not heat-of-the-moment non-compliance, which will more likely than not lead to an arrest in which force is met with force. As a citizen, you may feel justified in resisting, but to do so will most likely result in charges being filed against you and an increased level of force to gain compliance, which I have already said is absolutely necessary in a police officer’s line of duty. In law enforcement, this reality is known as the use of force continuum.
Hypothetically, let’s assume all the accusations levied against law enforcement officers today are true. If there truly is a national crisis in police racism and excessive use of force, why on earth would anyone ever fail to comply with an officer’s instructions?
If the police are truly brutalizing minorities, why would anyone of color ever fail to comply? Simple logic would require self-preservation, which would dictate a different response, because the expectation would always become the reality, and injury or death would always be the expected outcome for noncompliance.