The Wicked Shall Flee,
Yet The Prudent Walk
Police make me nervous. I was once held and questioned for several hours because of a screw-up at the state license bureau. It was a small Ohio town and these boys got pretty belligerent before scratching their heads and deciding whatever kind of snafu I was caught up in wasn’t worth their time. I had nothing to tell them, nothing to hide and no idea what they were talking about.
I guess it stems from an acute awareness and subsequent aversion to trouble of any kind. I’d just rather not deal with the police unless I absolutely have to, and if an officer were to say, “Because I said so,” I might become a little upset.
See, the police have the guns and the power. Get yourself sideways with a jackass cop and your day is fucked. Who you gonna’ call then? Who will protect and serve when the police get creative?
Here in America, under the Fourth Amendment to The United States Constitution, we used to have pretty clear cut protection from unreasonable search and seizure. It’s getting harder and harder to discern, though, with today’s unprecedented fears and anxieties gripping the citizenry.
I’ve often wondered then, if we the people have or ever had a certain inalienable right to flee. From trouble. From anything. From the mere sight of a police cruiser, for example.
Knowing what I know — and my situation is not unique — I want nothing to do with an interrogation of any sort. Not doing anything wrong, just don’t want to be there. Is it a crime for me to walk away? What if I run?
These questions and some fascinating discussion ensued nearly ten years ago when Illinois v. Wardlow came before the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue had been in doubt since Terry v. Ohio ruled that officers can stop a citizen for questioning upon ‘reasonable suspicion’ of wrongdoing.
The Wardlow case took the question further: Is flight at the mere approach of police sufficiently suspicious to warrant a stop?
The Illinois justices said no. They held to a decision “protecting the right of law-abiding citizens to eschew interactions with the police.” Even if these rights were exercised “at top speed.”
The U.S. Court wasn’t buying it. Flight, they determined, is sufficiently suspicious and is quite different than going about one’s business. The majority ruled that simply running in the opposite direction of a stop justifies further investigation.
Fine. I will walk. (Theoretically, walking away is still protected by the constitution.) I will exercise my right to eschew police interaction and walk away from impending woe. This philosophy is perhaps best expressed in a Bible quote Justice John Paul Stevens used in his dissenting argument.
A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself,
But the simple pass on and are punished.
Proverbs 22:3 KJV