10 June 2014

Police Baiting and Passive Resistance

YouTube has a feature that suggests videos you might want to watch. In between the disc golf videos and the movie trailers and comedy skits, it tends to show me a fair number of videos of police activity. In general, I find these break down into five categories: (1) Abuse, (2) Mistakes, (3) Misunderstood Activity, (4) Humorous, & (5) Baiters.  I'm usually interested in seeing videos in the first three categories and often enough the fourth.  Unfortunately, at least in my video feed, the fifth category seems to be supplanting the others.

Baiters are the people who go around purposefully engaging in activity meant to arouse police suspicion and then act shocked SHOCKED!!! that police accost them. These are the guys who create houses that mimic the energy and heat production of a grow house, or walk through the middle of town with a pistol strapped to their hip and a rifle across their back, or violate a minor law where they know it won't be ignored (often trespassing or a minor traffic infraction). Of course, baiters set it up so that the whole thing is captured on video with the purpose of putting the video online (sometimes they even use the police car video gotten through FOIA requests).

It's a modern day way of counting coup. The baiter usually acts obnoxious and often engages in some sort of passive resistance. The objective is to make the police officer overreact just enough to make him or her look ridiculous. One of the great hypocrisies of this kind of behavior is that it assumes the police are the bad guys, but at the same time relies on their restraint. They want the officer to yell or shove or throw them up against the car and cuff them.  They assume the officer will remain professional enough that she won't beat the crud out of them with her asp, smash the camera phone, and "accidentally" erase the video in her car.

"I'm Not Resisting!"

 One of the most annoying parts of these videos comes when the baiter manages to cause a situation where he can engage in passive resistance. Typically this occurs when the officer has gotten to the point that she is issuing commands to the baiter or actually putting hands on him.  The  baiter will make statements diametrically opposed to reality such as "I'm not refusing to comply" when an officer has ordered him several times to leave a property he's trespassing on (most often as part a protest). Meanwhile, the baiter just stands there, not moving an inch. Even more common is the yell of "I'm not resisting!" as he jams his leg up under the steering wheel so he can't be pulled from the car or tenses his arms to his side so he can't be handcuffed.  I used to look at these and just chuckle a bit. However, after the first fifty or so, it started to get old.  It especially got old as it became clear that the first few people doing this were spawning copycats.

Depending on the flavor of baiter, the genesis of the copycats varies. Open carry baiters are most likely encouraged to act by the various Second Amendment listserves or electronic bulletin boards. Various crusaders for all sorts of (generally leftish) protests find instruction and encouragement all over the internet. Both these groups are cause oriented and their engagement with the police is understandable - if not excusable per se.

The ones that truly bother me are the traffic baiters. They don't seem to have any purpose but to count coup. They are neither defending a right nor trying to further a cause. They're just messing with the cops. Even more disturbing is that there is now an effort in Virginia to recruit people to do this. I've seen it on various community electronic bulletin boards and know there is a web page dedicated to it (no, I won't provide a link).  This is about causing trouble for trouble's sake.


Jake DiMare said...

Cool story bro.

So, when these videos show legitimate abuse of power, as they often do, what's your opinion of their value?

Joshua Snow Kendrick said...

How do you feel about cases where the police find a person and convince them to commit a crime? Or, more in line with this writing, offer them the opportunity to commit a crime, leaving the actual to choice to commit the crime to their free will? Do you claim that the person would not have committed the crime if they were not a criminal?

If a law enforcement officer is offered the opportunity to abuse power, and takes it, who does the resposibility lie with? The person who offered the opportunity or the person who acted wrongfully?

I wonder what your response to entrapment defenses is? Do you think that everyone, confronted with the opportunity to do wrong, has the capacity for such action? Or do you think the person who induced the wrongdoing should be held responsible for causing an otherwise good person to do something they shouldn't? Better yet, for just inducing anyone to commit an "out of character" act?

Ken Lammers said...


I think those videos legitimately showing an abuse of power are useful. Police are entrusted with direct power over people and any abuse of that power should be seen.

Anonymous said...

Police have an unmitigated duty to act professionally in the face of citizens exercising their first amendment rights to be jerks. We entrust to them the ability to deprive individuals of liberty often based on a bare assertion. We must expect nothing but the highest standard of service.

I frankly don't understand the point of your post.