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Riot police clear demonstrators from a street in Ferguson

“People have erroneous assumptions about how violence unfolds.

If you’re deciding to block or defend yourself once a guy is already throwing his sucker punch, you are 9 times out of 10 too late.

I’m not making any claims to know what happened in Ferguson with the shooting; it could be every inch the homicide that many people seem to think it was. But the reality is that cops are having to work in a universe where they do a traffic stop and someone pulls out a gun and shoots them in the face.

So they have to assume that is a possibility no matter what you look like, no matter what kind of car you’re driving… You see them unbuckling the strap on their holster as they just walk up to give you a ticket. That’s because they don’t have the luxury of time. They can’t wait to see you produce a gun and say ‘OK, now my lethal force option is beyond reproach.’

So the only mode to be in with a cop — no matter how much of an asshole he might be — is to stay compliant, and then you sue him later. In the middle of negotiating with a cop, no matter how unjustified the arrest may seem, that’s not the time to be telling him he’s an asshole or talking about how you’re such a good guy and this is a violation of your civil rights.

The sheer fact that a cop has a gun on his belt makes any contact a potential lethal encounter for him.

So if you just go hands-on a cop, push a cop, he doesn’t know that you’re not going for the gun on his belt. He doesn’t know that you’re not going to push him into a car and he’ll be knocked out, and then you’re going to grab his gun.

So it’s all deadly from a cop’s point of view. Very few people understand that.

I had a friend who was stopped by a cop recently. This is a middle-aged Jewish guy who is, in his mind, the least dangerous person on earth, thinking why on earth is a cop stopping him. But my friend said something to the cop, then the cop unlatched the top restraint on his gun, and my friend said, ‘What? You’re going to pull out your gun on me?’

And the cop said, ‘What does a bad guy look like?’

And that just cut through the misunderstanding for my friend.

My friend knew he was not a bad guy; but there’s no way for the cop to know he’s not a bad guy. People are just not aware of that, and they’re interacting with cops and it’s dangerous everybody.”


Sam Harris, riffing in an interview with Joe Rogan last September.

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Sam Harris