Use the same tactics you would use with a power hungry and controlling supervisor in your place of employment

Friday, May 29th, 2020

How do you safely intervene when cops are mistreating a prisoner?

Violent action won’t help. You will be arrested and likely beaten or killed as well. If you physically attack the cop, it might actually make it worse for the guy you are trying to protect.


You always want to give your opponent a “face saving” way out. You want your opponent to think that your idea is his idea and to embrace that idea rather than to fight it. The best way to deal with these police officers is to use the same tactics you would use with a power hungry and controlling supervisor in your place of employment.


Don’t let your rage make you ineffective. To verbally convince these officers that they are acting in error, you need to provide them with a better solution and make them think that the decision is in their own best interests. You may have to soften your angry tone and think a bit to make that happen.


The best thing to do is to approach another officer on scene who has less ego involvement rather than approaching the officer kneeling on the man’s neck.

Say something like:

“Hey officer, I just want to let you know that the guy on the ground appears to be suffering from a medical condition. I don’t know if the officer controlling him knows he’s kneeling on the dude’s neck. People are videotaping and it doesn’t look good. I just don’t want you guys to get in trouble.”

If someone approached me at a similar scene in that manner, I would most certainly go check things out and ensure that the prisoner is OK.

You don’t care about the officers’ well being. You openly hope that the officer does get in trouble. Remember, to be successful, you want him to think it was his own idea. You want the officer to think “Maybe that doesn’t look very good. I have to stop this before it gets worse.” Play the game.

If there is no one else on scene, I’d approach the officer and focus on the medical issues.

“Officer, let me help you. I’ve had advanced medical training and that guy doesn’t look so good. Let’s move him on to his side and away from the car so that he can breathe better and I’ll check him out for you.”

In that approach, the officer can yield authority to someone who is better qualified without losing face. Most cops know very little about medical treatment protocols. If you seem like you know more than he does, he may yield to your experience.

Another way that might work is:

“Officer, are you OK? I’m a martial arts instructor. Can I help you hold him down so that you don’t have to kneel on his neck? Just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it.”

That might get the officer thinking about the consequences of kneeling on someone’s neck and allow him the safety to “de-escalate” if he feels that you are helping him get a chaotic situation under control.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Passersby did try to intervene, but all four cops ignored them.

  2. Harry Jones says:

    Slate Star Codex ran a piece on the crucial distinction between an honest mistake and an irreconcilable conflict.

    This sort of talk seems like what I call the fallacy of assuming reasonableness. Some people are just bad. They cannot be reasoned with, they respect only force, and they must be held accountable for their actions.

    Either fire the bad apples or surrender to police violence.

  3. Harry Jones says:

    Lest my point be unclear: not everyone is capable of being shamed. Not everyone, given a face-saving out, will take it. The very worst people are beyond shame because they simply don’t know or care what others think of them.

  4. Kirk says:

    Much of the problem here grows out of something I’ve been pointing out for years: There’s been a severe decline in accountability and responsibility in this country and the predominant culture within it.

    Take, for example, the police officer recently reinstated with back pay, who hid behind a car and did not intervene during the shootings of all those high school students in Florida. The system we’ve set up and tolerate does not allow obvious and egregious cases like that guy to suffer any consequence at all.

    Does it then surprise you that four officers like the ones that killed this poor bastard in Minneapolis behave the way they do? Amy Klobucher already let the primary responsible party off at least once in the past, so why should he modify his behavior? The system has already validated his policing technique once before, so what the hell do you expect?

    There is a marked reluctance in our culture to actually hold people accountable for their performances and conduct. Nobody wants to be the bad guy, nobody wants to do the hard fair thing. We have plenty of thugs who’re willing to abuse the power they’re entrusted with, but there are vanishingly few who are willing to say “No” to these thugs as they’re up-and-coming.

    You have to ask yourself this: How do these “men” like Chauvin happen, in the first place? How did he manage to pass the selection process for becoming a police officer, and how did he manage to survive nearly 20 years on the job, and have multiple instances where his judgment was questioned in matters relating to deadly force?

    Root of it? Nobody was willing to be “that guy” who said no, this isn’t someone we want to give a badge and a gun to. Nobody was willing to observe him from his flank, and say “This dude is bad news for my organization, he’s a danger to the public, something needs to be done and I’m gonna be the guy to do it…”.

    Same syndrome with the black cop who shot Justine Diamond, same department, probably some of the same people involved in both these unfit specimens becoming and remaining police officers. Nobody has the balls to say “No”, or hold people accountable. It’s all too easy to look the other way, and mutter darkly about it all.

    American institutions across the board have this problem. Unions? Don’t even get me started. In Germany, I watched a craft union blackball a member and ban him from employment in their industry because other employees caught his ass stealing from their employer. The employer wanted to keep him, since it was his wife’s nephew, but the senior members of the union said “Hell no… He was stealing from all of us, and he’s never working in this industry again…”. They held him accountable, and meted out what they thought was a fair punishment, entirely out of the control of the company. In an American union, they’d have gone on strike to get him his job back, and that’s the fundamental difference between what we have going in this country and any sane set of management practices. None of our unions would do squat about something like that, and most of our professional organizations would also be looking the other way, studiously ignoring the egregious bad behavior of their members.

    This is a huge problem for us, and if we don’t start to recognize it and deal with it, it’s going to be one of the epitaphs on our grave-marker as a failed civilization.

  5. Sam J. says:

    “…They cannot be reasoned with, they respect only force, and they must be held accountable for their actions…”


    Cops are killing people for no reason at all all over this country constantly. Part of the problem is the agencies that are, by court order, used to test the applicants psy test. Guess who owns them? Guess who is responsible for setting the psy attributes they test for? Some of the reasons the police are like this is pre ordered and picked to fit a certain psy evaluation.

  6. McChuck says:

    Cops ignore the taunts of the people standing around because they’re almost always hostile. Do not approach cops making an arrest. They have good reason to believe you will attack them, because it happens all the time. (Somehow this never makes the news.)

  7. Harry Jones says:

    A few bad apples spoil each barrel. For every set S, get rid of every X in S that is a bad apple.

    That includes those who protect and defend the bad apples. Fire them.

    I don’t know if there are any good politicians, but if we deal with all the bad ones we can see who’s left.

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