Why innocent people fear and run from the police

Innocent people rightfully fear the police. Some of them run from the police as a result.

In response to the question of “if they are innocent why do they run from the police” I would note that there are many sound reasons for innocent people to run from the police. Those include fear of having evidence planted by the police, fear of torture by the police, fear of being wrongly framed for a crime, fear of being brutalized even if compliant, and even just the desire to avoid the indignity of repeated racial profiling. Each of those is explored below, with real-life examples.

Innocent people understandably fear the police will plant evidence on them

Police plant evidence on people to justify arrests, and absent video providing it the police almost always get away with it. As an example, this cop planted meth on dozens of people, causing them to go to jail and even lose custody of their children. It was only after his own body camera caught him in the act that this cop was stopped. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2019/07/11/florida-cop-meth-drugs-arrests-scandal/

When innocent people are falsely convicted of crimes and later freed, in more than half of the cases, misconduct by police and prosecutors played a contributing role. That’s the primary theme of a new report, “Government Misconduct and Convicting the Innocent,” released today by the National Registry of Exonerations, which has been tracking all known exonerations in the United States for the past 30 years. Police and prosecutors, in general, engaged in misconduct at about equal rates, 35 percent for cops, 30 percent for prosecutors at the state level. In drug cases, though, cops were four times more likely to have engaged in misconduct than prosecutors. https://reason.com/2020/09/15/half-of-all-false-convictions-in-the-u-s-involved-police-or-prosecutor-misconduct-finds-new-report/

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Innocent people fear being tortured by police officers trying to extract a confession

Police have tortured countless confessions out of innocent people. One particularly notorious case is that of former Chicago detective John Burge, who led a ring of cops that tortured confessions out of over 200 people (mainly black men) who were innocent. They used methods such as electric shock to the men’s testicles, burnings, and beatings.  More information on John Burge can be seen here: http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/jon-burge-ex-chicago-cop-who-ran-torture-ring-released-prison

Innocent people fear being framed for a crime they didn’t commit

In an effort to close cases, police have been known to frame innocent people for crimes that the police know they did not commit. An example is that of the Florida police department where multiple cops (including the chief of police) were engaged in a conspiracy to frame innocent black men for burglaries. Information on that case can be seen here: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/28/us/florida-police-chief-frame-black-people.html

Innocent people rightfully fear being beaten by the police, even if they are compliant

There are many cases where police beat or otherwise harm people why are fully compliant.  The prospect of being attacked even if compliant can motivate innocent people to run.  Since video really shows the point here, I’m going to provide a few videos of police attacking compliant people.

On a related note, see this link for more information on how police use of force depends upon the race of the suspect: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/17/police-use-of-force-depends-upon-the-race-of-the-suspect/

Innocent people may be tired of racial profiling and not want to experience it again

The Massachusetts Supreme Court noted in a decision from 2016 that a black man who runs from police shouldn’t necessarily be considered suspicious — and merely might be trying to avoid “the recurring indignity of being racially profiled”: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/21/494900984/black-men-may-have-cause-to-run-from-police-massachusetts-high-court-says

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Innocent people may fear rape while in police custody

Police officers have forcibly raped or sexually assaulted many people (women and men) who were in custody. Making the problem worse, any states don’t make it a crime for a police officer to have “consensual” sex with a person who is in their custody, which makes proving the rape case even harder for the victim. Here is one of the many examples: A jury has found former Muscatine police officer guilty of sexually assaulting a Davenport woman while he was on duty. https://www.wqad.com/article/news/crime/former-muscatine-police-officer-found-guilty-of-sexual-assault/526-62f29b5b-0e76-4451-9cb0-c068573055c7

Innocent people worry about the legal system being stacked against them

A completely innocent person who is arrested has legitimate cause for concern, and a desire to avoid that arrest is understandable. That causes many innocent people to run from the police. The idea of “comply and fight it in court” makes sense if fighting it in court can be expected to produce a fair outcome, but not when a person can reasonably expect time in jail, financial ruin, and even a lengthy but undeserved prison sentence.

Being arrested is unpleasant, as no one enjoys having their freedom taken away as they are hauled off to jail. Often high bond amounts keep people in jail for days or even years as they await trial, and living conditions in jails are generally terrible. Even worse is being taken away from one’s loved ones. The economic impact of losing a job, a house, a car, and everything else due to a lack of money when incarcerated only adds to the misery. The prospect of a prison term when ever so innocent is emotionally devastating, as is the embarrassment of having one’s family and friends know that one is incarcerated. The fact that such a person can be ever so innocent doesn’t change that analysis, as our jails (and prisons) contain many innocent people. As an example, this completely innocent man was held in jail for 3 years on a murder case because a crime lab and a prosecutor’s actions led to DNA evidence that proved his innocence being withheld: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/26/us/louisiana-dna-washing-machine.html?action=click&module=news&pgtype=homepage

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Those concerns are especially true for Black people given the racism inherent in our criminal court system that leads to Black people having higher bail set, more serious charges, longer sentences, juries who are biased against them, and a whole host of other disadvantages that can be scientifically shown to be a result of race and not other factors. For a detailed discussion of that, complete with links to studies, see this article: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/07/05/our-criminal-courts-are-inherently-racist/


Against the backdrop of the information provided above, is it any wonder that some people who have done nothing wrong run from the police? It is unreasonable to expect a person who know that the police can plant evidence, frame them for a crime they didn’t commit, and physically harm them (will likely getting away with all of that) will try to avoid that mistreatment by rapidly leaving the area when the police appear?

It is hard for me to fault those people who run, even though I personally (as a lawyer) take a different approach involving the legal system when the police mistreat me.

Finally, note that in the interest of brevity I provided just a few examples of real-life abuses by police for the above categories, but a simple online search will show a great many other examples for every one of those categories.