“Let go of me! You’re hurting me! You can’t arrest me!” What would YOU do in this situation?

By Scott Buhrmaster  |   Apr 14, 2021

“When/Then” thinking—when this happens, then I will do this—has been recommended for ages as an effective self-training tool that can help you prepare for prompt, definitive, well thought-out action in a variety of situations. Investing in prior thinking into what you will do when faced with a challenging scenario can prove priceless in several ways…among them enhancing your safety.

With that, have you thought about how you would react in in a scenario like the one an Ulster Co., NY deputy recently faced? Here’s what happened:

The deputy pulled over 26-year-old Shana Shaw for making an illegal lane change and driving on a suspended license. After Shaw pulled into a spot in a parking lot the deputy approached her vehicle, informed her of her violations and asked her to step out of the car, which she did.

Shortly after exiting Shaw, who is now standing in the gap between the open driver’s door and the driver’s compartment, asked why she was told to step out. The deputy responds, “Because you’re under arrest.”

After a minute or so of claiming confusion as to why she was being arrested and arguing that she had done nothing wrong, Shaw makes a slight move toward the open driver’s compartment. The deputy notices this and quickly asks her to step to the back of the car. She doesn’t. Instead, she gets back into the driver’s seat and the deputy quickly reaches in after her and grabs her arm at which point Shaw begins screaming and struggling away from his grip.

For the next 6 or so minutes, Shaw screams and struggles inside the car while the deputy repeatedly asks her to stop resisting in a controlled, composed voice. In an effort to break free from the deputy’s grip Shaw leans over into the passenger compartment and at many points throughout the struggle one or both of her hands are not visible to the deputy.

Finally, a back-up deputy arrives and assists the first responding deputy with getting Shaw out of the car and cuffed.

From an outside view, some are claiming that the deputy could have backed away, utilized time, spoken more calmly and utilized deescalation tactics while waiting for back-up. Some may claim that the deputy’s persistent attempts to try to pull Shaw—who is actively and aggressively resisting—out of the car unnecessarily escalated the encounter.

Bottom line, according to Shaw, is that she is a 130-pound woman and posed no threat to two male police officers.

So, is there any harm in just allowing her to delay the arrest and move around in her car? Any problem with letting her make an unlimited amount of phone calls?

Well, that is the conundrum when it comes to deciding how to take control of someone who refuses to be controlled.

When do you initiate force, for how long and how much?

Another conundrum is how, when and for how long do you attempt to deescalate?

Officers have to balance these decisions and actions and they have to justify them.

They also have to be acutely aware of their safety. In the real world, people who seem harmless and incapable of inflicting harm on an officer are often the ones who do just that.

That reality is clearly detailed in additional footage we’ve spliced into the body cam footage of the Shaw incident you’re about to see. The added footage shows an encounter in Nashville, TN a couple of weeks prior where another suspect in very similar circumstances refused an officer’s order to get out of her car. See what happens…

Back to the original question. Have you thought about what you will do if someone you have pulled over refuses to exit their vehicle?

Are you prepared for definitive action? Are you ready to physically remove them from the vehicle as quickly as possible, potentially through the use of considerable force? Or would you be more apt to keep trying to reason with them and hope that your requests to get out will finally be acknowledged?

What about a Taser? The NY deputy threatened to Taser Shaw, who’s wearing a puffy down jacket. Would Taser barbs penetrate that? Would drive stuns work? Would you try that? What if she knocked the Taser out of his hand? What would your next move be?

How would you react in the face of 6 minutes of intense, close quarters screaming and baseless claims that what you’re doing is illegal? Are you training to remain calm, even under the most frustrating circumstances?

Just some of the things to consider.

Comments? Input to share? E-mail us at: [email protected]

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Scott Buhrmaster

Scott Buhrmaster is the CEO of Calibre Press, one of the leading law enforcement training and information providers in the industry. Scott’s tenure began in 1989 when he originally signed on with Calibre where he was involved in the creation and marketing of the organization’s popular training courses and award-winning textbooks, videos and online publications. At core, he was involved with the overall enhancement and expansion of the organization and he proudly continues that work today.