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Demosthenes's avatar

Why would someone resist arrest?

Asked by Demosthenes (11647points) 3 weeks ago

Have you ever resisted arrest yourself?

Some pro-police folks point out that nearly every one of these headline-making police-involved shootings are a result of resisting arrest. So what I want to know is: why would someone resist arrest knowing the risks involved? What makes someone resist arrest? How should police react to someone resisting arrest?

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33 Answers

hello321's avatar

There are many reasons to resist, and most of them are very reasonable. Add to that the fact that when faced with a traumatic event, a person cannot be expected to act entirely rational and calm. Flight-or-flight reactions in the most healthy person can result in very unexpected behavior. Add to this a host of other possible mental issues, and you’re likely to have many people “resisting”.

So, yes – people can take risks in resisting or running if not doing so means guaranteed problems. If you’re going to end up in jail, lose a job, be unable to support your family, etc. it makes sense to run and resist.

Resisting is a very reasonable and expected thing from people. It’s human. So, dealing with people who resist is the main part of the job training police should have had if this is their job. If people resist – as they do – and the cops kill the person, mentioning the fact that the victim “resisted” as a way to make this anything other than a murder is disgusting. The only excuse pro-police people have for giving the police guns and extreme power is that they are professionals who are able to do their job (arrest people who resist without killing them).

The entire (as in 100%) of the burden for behaving a certain way during an interaction is on the police.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I can’t imagine any scenario in which I would resist arrest, no. It never ends well, and you get additional charges, so to me it’s common sense to comply.

chyna's avatar

As a white woman, I probably wouldn’t even think about resisting arrest. If I were a black man, I think the instinct is there to run because of their history with cops. The black army man that was pulled over because the cop didn’t notice his temporary tag and thought he didn’t have tags pretty much clinched it for me. The cop asks the army guy why he won’t get out of his car. The army guy says “because I’m afraid to.” Cop says “You’d better be afraid!”

I’ve got to stop watching the news. All of this hate and killing is getting to me.

janbb's avatar

First of all, it’s very easy for the police to use as an excuse for umvarranted violence, “Well, he was resisting arrest.” We don’t even always know if that was true or if it was reasonable for the victim to be arrested at all. In a traffic stop??

Second, a Black person could very well think that resisting arrest made sense. Cue Freddie Gray and Sarah Bland, for instance; one died in the police van on the way to jail and the other in jail.

The question smacks of privilege to me. I was stopped by cops a few times for things like going over posted speed and once when I unknowingly ran a red light. Neither time was arrest mentioned, neither time was I told to get out of the car, and I didn’t even get a ticket. As an older white woman, I probably reminded them of their mothers.

It seems a poor lack of either imagination or empathy to question why certain populations would resist arrest.

Demosthenes's avatar

@janbb Of course I’m privileged; I’ve been pretty open about my privileged background. Just because I ask this doesn’t mean I can’t imagine a possible reason to resist arrest or have no sympathy for those who are killed by police. I want to hear what you all think—hence the question. I come across an argument (i.e. that everything would be hunky-dory if these people didn’t resist arrest) and I come here to hear the other side of it.

kritiper's avatar


stanleybmanly's avatar

panic, intoxication, mental illness, disorientation, bad judgement

But underlying all of the above is the simple fact that “resisting arrest” is the go to justification for police abuse and any fkup resulting in the process. If you duck a billy club or collapse after failing to duck why not charge you with resisting arrest?

zenvelo's avatar

It is teh reason the police use to kill people. Most people don’t resist arrest, but they do ask “why are you stopping me?/why are you questioning me?/why are you pointing that gun at me?” All of those questions are considered as “resisting arrest”.

Ask a question, get killed by cop.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Desmosthenes I hear that a lot here, too. My mom’s advice was to keep your head down and comply, because in the 70’s, there weren’t as many protections for citizens rights.

I can’t even imagine acting as @zenvelo, and questioning them, because to many LEO’s that’s seen as ‘antagonizing’.

Perhaps police brutality is the cause and resisting is the effect, regardless of color. Just supposition, of course.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Sass was formerly a guaranteed avenue to swift and certain retribution.

si3tech's avatar

@Demosthenes I see no logical reason to resist arrest.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Never. When I started driving my dad cautioned me that if I have to deal with the police you do exactly what they tell you to do.

JLeslie's avatar

I can see being terrified as a single woman to being handcuffed by the police, especially if I had done nothing wrong and the whole interaction seemed trumped up. I was raised to be afraid of being with a cop alone. It would depend on the circumstance. Black people are afraid basically for the same reason I would be, that the cop will hurt them.

The other reason is if you are guilty and don’t want to get arrested.

@zenvelo Is that true that asking a question is seen as resisting?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Wait…my response didn’t answer the question.
Some people doth protest too much. They demand this that and the other from the police and it escalates from there.

JLeslie's avatar

@Dutchess_III Demand what? I can’t breath. You are hurting me. I’m afraid. I just see myself in all of these people. I don’t breath well if I am on my right side. Just lying on my right side in bed with my husband. I have serious cramping problems with my muscles. I know you have empathy for all of this police violence against minorities, but if someone is stating they are in pain or can’t breath and just want to be repositioned, the cops should be reasonable and believe the person. Healthy men have a problem knowing their own strength and what it is like to be unhealthy.

JLeslie's avatar

This is another type of situation I was warned about as a young woman. Is the person really a cop, especially in an unmarked car.

Dutchess_III's avatar

No. I was referring to the behavior before it gets escalated to that level. Some people, men especially, get combative and argumentative just because they were pulled over. I guess they see it as a challenge.

Jeruba's avatar

Fear. Primitive instinct. Panic. Impulse. Stupidity. Being crazy. Being loaded on drugs. Being unable to think a minute ahead and foresee consequences.

Not reacting to a fight-or-flight stimulus takes self-control. How much of that do most people really have, under pressure, if they haven’t been trained for it and rehearsed it?

I’ve never been arrested, but I’ve certainly had moments of panic (not having to do with cops or crime) when my mind went blank and I could not possibly have thought two or three steps ahead, much less considered the risks and weighed them rationally.

I wonder if someone who gets stopped by cops a lot, maybe even gets arrested a lot, is maybe too calm and compliant—thereby telegraphing to police that they’ve been through all this before. Maybe it’s a lose-lose the minute they decide to stop you.

zenvelo's avatar

@KNOWITALL This Army Lieutenant was threated with “obstructing justice” and “failing to cooperate” when he calmly stated, ” “I’m honestly afraid to get out of the car,”.

JLeslie's avatar

@zenvelo I saw that a few days ago. He had his hands clearly in sight, I don’t understand why the cops were so aggressive. The cops did nothing to reassure him that everything would be ok.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The more aggressive cop got fired.

chyna's avatar

^Finally. That happened back in December.

stanleybmanly's avatar

@hello321 Yes. He certainly did protest too much. And look what it bought him.

YARNLADY's avatar

The term is highly subjective. Saying “what did I do? could get you killed, especially if you are black.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Demanding to know What did I do????, then fighting the cops, as they tell you to get out of the car, will get you killed. It gets escalated. Men aren’t real good at desceclating shit.

JLeslie's avatar

The police are supposed to be trained in deescalating, it’s part of their job, it’s their responsibility. Not that I disagree that men generally suck at it, I agree with that, but it’s still their job.

Probably half the men who go into law enforcement are the type to escalate situations like that. You have the extremes in law enforcement, people who genuinely want to serve the public and make the community a better place, and people who like to fire guns, drive fast, have control, demand respect even when they don’t act respectfully, and have anger problems. The question is which cop is the one you are dealing with.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

The answers are going to vary widely, not only on the typical demographics, just as importantly, where it occurs. Even as a US citizen, I have no clue what the laws are from one state to another, only that they can vary. That goes for counties and towns within the same states.

In my hometown, I know a few lawyers and a police officer. I’m more likely to know the rules and possibly go along with the arrest, having contacts that might possibly bail me out. Should I be in an unfamiliar area, perhaps another country, I would want to know what crime was allegedly committed before going anywhere.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie We call those cops ‘hot dogs’, and they don’t last long here.
After an incident, one was fired and wanted to know what he did wrong. I don’t think some understand where that line is.

jca2's avatar

I’ve never been arrested or came close to being arrested, but one scenario I can envision is the person thinks there’s no reason to be arrested, and tries to argue their way out of it. Or maybe the person tries to argue because, for example, they thought they took care of the warrant but due to some administrative issue, the warrant remains. The list goes on and on about what people might be protesting about. Then things get heated, cops get impatient because they don’t like having their authority questioned, and the cops start tossing people around.

@Dutchess_III: Thank god for video because the only reason there was any discipline to the cops who pulled over the Army guy was because the Army guy is now filing a lawsuit. Since the event occurred in December and we’re just hearing about this now, in April, is only because of the lawsuit. Otherwise it would be another abuse of black men that just gets swept under the rug.

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