Good Stop or Chicken Sh#t?

What small infractions are police supposed to ignore? And at what cost?

By Jim Glennon  |   Dec 9, 2016

On Nov. 1, 2016, at approximately 1:15 a.m., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Officer Lucas Jones stopped Jerime Mitchell because the rear license plate on his SUV failed to have illumination. It ended with the subject resisting and an assault on the officer. A shot was fired and the motorist was paralyzed—a motorist with drugs, scales and an apparent intent to distribute.

So let’s start at the beginning to understand the violent ending.

Good stop? It depends on who you talk to and where their biases lie.

Many believe that such a stop is ridiculous—legalistic and draconian and a chance to pick on the poor— perhaps a subterfuge for racism. Stops and tickets for such small infractions clog up the court system, create ill-will between the public and the police, and continue the mistrust.

Others believe that it’s a great reason to make the stop. It’s illegal to drive without an illuminated plate, even though most people don’t even know they have an issue. Stopping the offender gives officers the opportunity to engage the public, educate them, let them know of the violation. It gives an officer the chance to practice their human relations skills. In addition, it takes many unlicensed, revoked, and suspended drivers off the street and helps in solving other crimes and locating people out on warrants.

I personally think it’s a good stop.

Why? Because while naysayers will point to the potential ill-will it would generate, they refuse to see the opposite potential: a font of goodwill when the officer issues a warning without ticketing for the minor infraction, all with a pleasant demeanor.

A grand jury declined to charge Officer Lucas Jones for shooting motorist Jerime Mitchell. Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden announced that the decision was based on Jones firing his gun “out of fear for his life.”

Proactivity is very much misunderstood by those outside the profession. The idea isn’t to harass. It’s to detect and deter crime. The idea is to give notice that police are present. Those who are intent on committing crimes and victimizing the helpless have an obstacle: us.

But, it also gives officers the opportunity to show their compassion and willingness to listen and consider the plight of others. Officers need to take that opportunity when they can.

In this case, marijuana was detected, an arrest was initiated, and a decision by the motorist was made. His decision was to resist, attack, and run.

Many will say the shooting wouldn’t have happened if the officer didn’t make such a—and this is one of the more memorable the terms I’ve read used—“chicken shit” stop.

What’s the alternative? To never stop a motorist for a broken tail light? Then what? What other democratically established laws should we stop enforcing?

Police aren’t looking to inflict violence. But once they engage someone in violation of the law, much of the onus for what happens next is on the subject. Police are, after all, providing an essential and often dangerous function of this democracy.

Handcuffing good police work will only result in the innocent being victimized and in my opinion this was good police work.

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Jim Glennon
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is the owner and lead instructor for Calibre Press. He is a third-generation LEO, retired from the Lombard, Ill. PD after 29 years of service. Rising to the rank of lieutenant, he commanded both patrol and the Investigations Unit. In 1998, he was selected as the first Commander of Investigations for the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes (Homicide) Task Force. He has a BA in Psychology, a Masters in Law Enforcement Justice Administration, is the author of the book Arresting Communication: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement.