CopTalk: Attitude Adjustment

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Attitude Adjustment:

Most people have heard of the “Attitude Adjustment”.  In case you haven’t, the proper definition would be something along the lines, of a person with a bad attitude and having it adjusted by a cop. 

Sometimes in Cop Equipment Catalogs, you see a comical tee shirt displaying a big burly cop figure towering over a skinny scrawny tattooed “bad guy”, and the cop is shown with baton in hand as if he’s getting ready to bust in the bad guys head. The slogan over the tee shirt reads “Attitudes adjusted while you wait”.  Possibly funny a few years ago, but not now. Not in the era of Police scrutiny. But nonetheless, attitude adjustments are for real and they take place daily.

The thing about attitude adjustments is that YOU control them. In the old days, there was talk of Inmates getting “attitude adjustments” while in jail, via the infamous “elevator rides”.  An inmate verbally abuses a cop or deputy inside the jail, or maybe takes an aggressive stance towards the cop. Inmate goes with a whole bunch of other cops for a ride in the elevator, and comes back a few minutes later very passive, very cooperative, and very apologetic.  He also comes back with some bruises, a broken rib, and a bloody nose that he didn’t have previously.

This also used to also be common place on the street. Mark and I grew up in a large bay area City known for having more than its share of rough areas. It was common knowledge that you didn’t mess with the cops, unless you really wanted them to mess with you!

A cop drives past an individual who voices his obvious disapproval towards law enforcement. This guy yells some pretty offensive remarks at the cop. The Cop stops, gets out, pushes the guy up against the car, pat searches him, and then throws him in the back of his police car. Cop drives him to a secluded alley, beats the crap out of him, and leaves him in the dirt The guy wishes he had kept his mouth shut and in the future he does so. Like I said before, this was common in the old days.

These days if a Cop is stupid enough to administer “street justice” he or she had better be prepared to lose their job, their home, their bank account, and even face imprisonment. Rodney King wasn’t street justice or attitude adjustment. It was a lawful arrest attempt of a righteous Felony suspect that got mishandled and blown out of proportion.  The infamous toilet plunger incident in New York? I wasn’t there, but that whole incident had “attitude adjustment” written all over it.

Physical attitude adjustment is wrong. The concept is acceptable.  The delivery is not. To any good cop, the risk just isn’t worth it. Period!

So why are we talking about it if it’s not acceptable and doesn’t happen anymore?

Attitude adjustment is very real. I subscribe to the concept everyday that I work. And it all takes place with the use of my pen, based on YOUR Attitude!

  • A person with a poor attitude is going to get a ticket instead of a warning.
  • A person with a poor attitude will get their car towed and stored, instead of having it parked on the side of the road.
  • A person with a poor attitude, with a SMALL amount of dope in their pocket, will find themselves being booked at jail instead of being sent on their way after a short field interview and destruction of the substance.
  • A person with a poor attitude and a small dollar amount arrest warrant, will get booked at the jail instead of being told to “take care of the warrant” and being allowed to walk away.
  • A person with a poor attitude who is intoxicated and causing problems in public, will get a free trip to jail as compared to getting a ride home.

The other night I saw a stretch limousine being driven at a high rate of speed at about 11:30 pm. The Limo was making unsafe lane changes without signaling, and I paced it at 65 mph in a posted 45-mph zone. I hit the red lights on my car and effected a car stop. I contacted the driver who was polite and very honest with me. I asked him if he knew why I had stopped him to which he replied, yes, I was probably going way too fast.

The driver stated that he had just dropped off some people in my city, and had received an urgent page from his boss about another pick up. The driver admitted that while he had been using the cell phone, he had not been paying attention to his driving and that he probably deserved to get a ticket.

The guy was totally cool, and more impressively, he was totally honest. I gave him a warning and sent him on his way. Basically because he passed the attitude test. 

On the opposite side of that coin, a couple months before that I was working overtime on swing shift. I saw a car weaving in and out of traffic on the freeway where the posted speed limit was 55 mph. This guy was trying to maintain a speed of 75 mph, passing cars in all 3 lanes, and causing people to brake abruptly.

I really didn’t feel like writing a ticket in 100 degree heat, so I pulled up alongside the guy and when he looked at me, I flashed 5 fingers extended twice, meaning “the speed limit is 55 dude.” 

Now I’ve done this a number of times, and everyone gets a panicked look on their faces, slows down abruptly, and sheepishly says “sorry”. But I have to admit this guy threw me for a loop when he flipped me off. I could clearly read his lips as he said the 2-words that accompany that gesture. I don’t care how hot it is outside or how busy I am, that is a clear violation of failing to pass the attitude test!

When I stopped this 19-year-old kid who was driving his 14-year-old brother to softball practice, I had really expected an apology. Instead I got the “annoyed demeanor”, like I was wasting his time. He hadn’t been speeding nor making unsafe lane changes. He had just been minding his own business and I was harassing him. So he told me.

Sign on the line dude. 3-moving violations in one pop! Exceeding the maximum 55 speed limit, unsafe lane changes, and following too closely. And a huge smile from me as I told him to “have a nice day!”. When we went to court about 3 months down the road, he was found guilty on all 3 counts.

$650.00 in fine’s, 3 points on his record, and an incredible increase on his already high insurance premium.

All for being an idiot. That’s a classic example of attitude adjustment.

The guy that gets stopped for a headlight out, and has a misdemeanor $2,500.00 arrest warrant for petty theft, gets an admonishment to take care of the warrant otherwise the judge will increase the amount of the warrant to a much larger figure.  Verses the guy who gets stopped for a headlight out, is a complete jerk to the cop, and gets arrested and booked at the county jail for a $100.00 arrest warrant that he had outstanding, for fishing without a license. And to pour salt in the wound, I’LL legally tow the guy’s car at his expense.

There’s literally hundred’s of ways for us to get back at someone who is displaying a bad attitude. And all those ways are listed in the Vehicle Code, Penal Code, and any other Code we have access to.

The bottom line is this. When you have contact with a cop, don’t COP an attitude. If you do, you’ll find that the friendly Officer that stopped you will be more than willing to wreck your day.  How do you want things to go?

By the way, there are some cops that are running around with bad attitudes. You can’t fix that on the street like we can, but you do have steps you can take to even the score. See the chapter on Officer Misconduct and Citizens complaints for further information. And hey, “Have a nice day!”  

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