Tips for Contact with the Police: An Open Letter to Alec Baldwin

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Tips for Contact with the Police: An Open Letter to Alec Baldwin

Dear Mr. Baldwin,

May I call you Alec?

Oh. Okay.

Dear Mr. Baldwin,

We’ve never met, and the likelihood is we never will. I’m a retired, 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Wait! Put down the computer and let us reason together! Or at least allow me to reason with you.

I just read the recent Latino Fox News article regarding your recent arrest. It is reported that you were detained by two of New York’s finest for allegedly riding your bicycle on the wrong side of the street. It is further reported that you allegedly became belligerent and refused, upon request, to show your ID to the officer. You were then arrested and subsequently cited “for riding a bike the wrong way and for disorderly conduct,” before being released from custody.

Sometime later, you took to Twitter to vent. According to the article, you tweeted, “Officer Moreno, badge number 23388, arrested me and handcuffed me for going the wrong way on Fifth Ave . . . Meanwhile, photographers outside my home ONCE AGAIN terrified my daughter and nearly hit her with a camera. The police did nothing. . . . New York City is a mismanaged carnival of stupidity that is desperate for revenue and anxious to criminalize behavior once thought benign.

These are the facts, as they are being reported.

Mr. Baldwin, it is not being reported that you pulled the “Do you know who I am” card. You do carry yourself that way–a bit sanctimonious. The officers may have recognized you, or maybe they didn’t. Good officers would not and should not apply the letter or spirit of the law any differently to you than they would with any other citizen within their jurisdiction. In this area, law enforcement officers are to be as blind as justice itself.

However, here’s some food for thought, from a retired deputy sheriff’s perspective. There were several times in my career when I stopped a car or had contact with a person in any one of a number of work-related settings, when the person sanctimoniously asked, “Do you know who I am?” Never was there an instance when the person asking the question had the notoriety you do. The closest I came to hearing that question from someone noteworthy was late one night when a city councilwoman came to the station front desk and demanded service. I assured her that her request for service would be handled based on its priority when compared to other calls in the queue. She wasn’t happy. Oh, well.

Whenever I was asked that question, especially when I was detaining the person for a traffic violation (the situation in which you most recently found yourself), I always gave them a ticket. Always. Everyone who sought preferential treatment received my full attention, right up until the moment they signed their ticket. Oh, it wasn’t spite that governed my behavior. It was the letter of the law. It was also for my own benefit when the person complained to my watch commander (and they always did). With a signed citation in hand, and a recording of the encounter from start to finish, I could easily justify my actions to my supervisors, no matter how messy the aftermath might become.

Now, while you may not have pulled the “Do you know who I am” card, you allegedly became belligerent with the police. Mr. Baldwin, of course you must realize, this is not difficult to believe.

Mr. Baldwin, when I worked the streets no one I detained for a violation of the law, especially one that occurred in my presence, ever won an argument with me. You see; it is much easier to talk your way into the back seat of a patrol car than out of the back seat of a patrol car. Now, there were a number of times when a person being detained gave me a reasonable explanation for the predicament in which he found himself. After weighing the facts (my observations, the person’s statement, comparing their statement to what I observed, and the person’s attitude), there were many times when I let the person off with a warning instead of a citation, or worse, an arrest. But in these incidents, the person began the conversation with, “Deputy, may I explain,” instead of, “Deputy, do you know who I am?”

I would hazard a guess, Mr. Baldwin, that the officers who detained and subsequently arrested you may have let you off with a warning had you been respectful and complied with their lawful orders.

So, tip #1: check your attitude. Mr. Baldwin, your temper and the loss thereof has never served you well. It’s time to act your age (56) and quit throwing tantrums like a child. It’s time to take the golden spoon and golden shoe out of your mouth, so officers won’t have to write you tickets with their gold-colored, ballpoint pens.

Mr. Baldwin (and to everyone else reading this article), if an officer detains you for an alleged violation of law, the officer has the authority to demand you present your identification. While the officer should politely ask for your ID, he is under no obligation to negotiate with you. You are required by law to show your ID, in such situations. To refuse is to resist an officer in the lawful performance of his duties (a more serious offense, in many cases, than the disorderly conduct with which you were charged).

So, tip #2, do what the officer tells you. If you are being detained for a traffic violation or during the investigation of any other kind of crime, give the officer your ID. You could have saved yourself from being arrested.

Mr. Baldwin, when you vented on Twitter you wrote: “New York City is a mismanaged carnival of stupidity that is desperate for revenue and anxious to criminalize behavior once thought benign.” This is a very common, ill-informed, and foolish mantra. “Why don’t you go out and catch some real criminals and leave us law-abiding citizens alone!” And, “Have you hit your quota?! Huh?! You gonna win a toaster, now?!”

Riding a bike on the wrong side of the street, especially in a city with any appreciable amount of vehicle traffic, is dangerous. Protecting and serving one’s community includes protecting people from their own lack of common sense. Mr. Baldwin, those of us who work the streets refer to folks like you as “job security.” So long as there are folks on the streets like you, law enforcement will always have something to do, no matter how undesirable it may be.

Could the officers have been on dedicated patrol? Could they have been specifically assigned to cite bicyclists for vehicle code violations? I don’t know. At any rate, by riding your bike down the wrong side of the street, in New York City, you posed a danger to yourself and others.

So, tip #3, ride your bike on the right side of the street. Obey the rules of the road. You will stay out of trouble and you won’t get hurt.

And here’s a bonus tip (no charge, by the way) regarding your assertion that officer’s time would be better spent focusing their attention on, as you put it, less “benign” behavior. Mr. Baldwin, it appears you suffer from a very common malady–the belief that your violation of the law should carry no negative penalties or consequences because there are worse criminals than you.

I’m indebted to my friend, Emeal “(“E.Z.”) Zwayne for teaching me the following analogy, to which I add my own voice.

A man walking down the street comes across a young man sitting on a stoop and smoking marijuana. The man says to the pot-smoker, “You know, that’s against the law. You shouldn’t do that.” The pot-smoker replies, “At least I’m not slamming heroin in a dark and dirty alley.

The man continues his walk down the street and hears a moan coming from the end of a darkened alley. He walks down the alley to find a man sitting against the wall with a needle stuck in his arm. “You shouldn’t do that. Heroin will kill you.” Said the man. “At least I’m not as bad as the guy breaking into other people’s cars.”

The man walks a little further and comes upon a man breaking into a car. “Hey! Stop that! You know that’s wrong!” Said the man. The car burglar replies: “So. At least I’m not a rapist.”

The man decides to get off the street and walks through a park. He hears a woman scream. He runs to the sound of the woman’s voice and finds a man attacking a woman. He grabs the man and holds him until the police arrive. Angry, the man says, “What do you think you’re doing? Abusing women in any way, shape, or form is wrong!” “I know,” says the rapist. “I shouldn’t have done that. But at least I don’t murder people.”

After giving his statement to the police and receiving their thanks and the thanks of the woman he helped, the man continued on what had become a very eventful stroll. Just before he exits the other side of the park, he hears a gunshot. Unlike most men, he runs toward the sound of the gunfire. He finds a man with a smoking gun standing over a dead body, with a bullet wound to the head. “Drop that gun!” The assailant complies. “You murdered that person! Why did you do that?” The murderer replies: “Yeah, I know it’s wrong. He made me mad. I shouldn’t have shot him. But at least I’m not like Osama Bin Laden or Adolf Hitler!”

Mr. Baldwin, in your eyes, you see yourself as a good person who didn’t do anything worthy of being stopped by police, let alone suffering any real consequences. You want the police to go look for “real criminals”–people you see as worse than you. With false humility, you would likely be quick to admit that while you are not as good as some, you are not as bad as others. I’m sure you’re not so narcissistic as to believe you’re perfect.

Here’s the problem, Mr. Baldwin. You’re not good at all. There is nothing in you or about you that is intrinsically, naturally good. Now, you may be relatively good when compared to other people. But you are like the rest of us when held up to God’s perfect and holy standard–His Law.

As it is written:

None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.
The venom of asps is under their lips.
Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.
Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.
There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-18)

God’s standard is perfection. Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48). Neither you nor I can live up to that standard, Mr. Baldwin. Be that as it may, God will not lower His standard simply because you and I cannot live up to it. God sees all of your sin–all of it–as detestable and punishable by eternity in hell. Yes, Mr. Baldwin, even something as seemingly insignificant as riding your bike the wrong way on the street and not submitting to the lawful authority of the officers, is punishable by eternity in hell, in God’s courtroom.

Maybe this will help. You’ve had your share of run-ins with the paparazzi. Yes, some of the people engaged in this profession can be rather parasitical and far too intrusive in their behavior. For some, character is easily set aside in the pursuit of the next embarrassing or compromising image of “the rich and famous.” I certainly can empathize with you, and I wish no harm or unwarranted intrusion to come upon you and your family. That being said, your responses to the paparazzi have been, at times, shall we say, less than stellar. Oh, let’s forget the superficial niceties. From the front seat of the patrol car to the back seat of the patrol car: sometimes you’re a jerk and you respond to what you deem to be a slight or a provocation with an unmeasured amount of threats and physical contact. Sometimes you’re a bully and, frankly, while I would never wish this upon you, I’m surprised you haven’t had your butt kicked.

So, let’s say one day a paparazzo gets under your skin and does or says something you don’t like. You decide to push him to the ground, being the angry man that you are. You quickly realize what you did was wrong. You pick the man up off the sidewalk, dust him off, apologize, and shake his hand. You offer him a pair of tickets to the taping of “30 Rock” (this happens before the show finished its run last year)–not as a bribe, but as a way of making amends. The paparazzo accepts your apology and your tickets. Problem solved.

But what if yesterday, in one of your typical, uncontrolled outbursts, you decided to not only not show your ID to the officers, but you also gave one a shove. Guess what, Mr. Baldwin. You wouldn’t be helping him off the ground. He would be putting you on the ground. You wouldn’t be offering him tickets to your next appearance. He would be bringing you up on charges for assaulting a police officer.

To drive the point home, let’s take the analogy one more step. This time, the incident doesn’t involve a paparazzo or a police officer. This time the incident involves the President of the United States. Since you support the current president, and since I don’t want to do anything to set you off, we’ll make the president a republican. Better?

While riding your bike the wrong way on Fifth Avenue, you notice the president walking down the sidewalk, surrounded by Secret Service agents. You decide that you dislike the president so much that you hop off your bike, break through the human shield surrounding the president, and you push him to the ground. If you survive the encounter, Mr. Baldwin, you’re going away for a very long time.

In each incident, all you did was push a man to the ground. So, where is the difference in each incident? What warrants a more severe penalty in each subsequent incident? It’s not your behavior. It’s who your behavior was against.

God is holy, righteous, and just, Mr. Baldwin. All sin is against Him and is punishable by death, no matter how insignificant your sin may be in your own mind. Because God is good, He must punish your sin. And the punishment God has ascribed for sin is eternity in Hell. Now, I don’t want that for you, Mr. Baldwin. I don’t want any human being to face the terrible and eternal wrath of Almighty God. The wrath you inflict upon paparazzi is but a small wisp of water vapor when compared to the all-consuming, wrath-filled fire of the God of Creation.

With the above in mind, allow me to give you one more piece of advice. It may not help you in the earthly courtrooms in which you will continue to find yourself if you don’t straighten up. But it will most certainly help you when you stand before God on Judgment Day.

Repent. Turn from your sin and, by faith alone, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

This same God–again, for there is only one God–who is angry with the wicked every day, whose wrath abides upon the ungodly, who will judge the world in righteousness, is the same God who is loving, merciful, gracious, and kind. And He showed His great love for mankind when He sent His Son to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ–fully God and fully Man, yet without sin.

Jesus of Nazareth, born of a virgin just as the prophet Isaiah declared more than 700 years before Jesus’s literal, physical birth, lived the perfect, sinless life you cannot live. For some 33 years, Jesus lived a life in perfect obedience to the law of God–in thought, word, and deed–a life you and I could not hope to live for a mere 33 seconds. And then He voluntarily went to the cross. Yes, it was the Jewish people who hatefully and viciously demanded Jesus’s execution.

Yes, it was the Roman government that carried out the despicable act. But they were all merely instruments in the hands of another. For it pleased God the Father to crush God the Son under the full weight and fury of His wrath against sin. God the Father made God the Son, who knew no sin, to become sin on behalf of those who repent and believe the gospel so that through the sacrifice of His Son many would be made righteous in the eyes of Almighty God. In other words, on that great and terrible day God the Father looked upon God the Son as if He had lived the depraved life of a sinner and in exchange–a great exchange–God the Father looks upon those whom He has caused to be born again, to repent and believe the gospel, as if they had lived His Son’s perfect, precious, and priceless life.

Jesus shed His innocent blood on the cross. He died a literal, physical death on the cross. And He was buried in a tomb not His own. Three days later, Jesus forever defeated sin and death when He physically, bodily rose from the grave. And unlike every false god created in the imaginations of men–whether the false gods of Islam, Catholicism, Mormonism, Hinduism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oprah-ism, or Atheism (a religion like every other spiritual ism.)–Jesus Christ is alive today and He will return at a time of the Father’s choosing.

What God commands of you, Mr. Baldwin, is the same thing He commands of me and all people everywhere, and that’s that you repent–turn from your sin and turn toward God–and by faith alone receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

You must come to God on His terms. God does not negotiate with sinners. God will not be bribed by your religious practices or what you may perceive as good works acceptable to God. God will not weigh your good against your “bad,” for God does not see you or anyone else as good–good in keeping with His standard of moral perfection. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

If you do not read the gospel of Jesus Christ and see it for what it is, good news, it is because you love your sin more than you love God. It is because you love yourself more than you love God. It is because the love of God and the Truth of His Word is not in you. But if God causes you to be born again, Mr. Baldwin, and extends to you the gifts of repentance and faith, which only He can give, then He will take your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. You will begin to love the things God loves and hate the things God hates. You will stop presuming upon God’s forgiveness as if it is something you have earned or deserved. Instead, you will have the confident assurance He has forgiven you–not on the basis of any deeds you have done in righteousness, but based entirely upon God’s mercy, grace, and love.

And why would God allow His one and only Son to die a sinner’s death He did not deserve in order to take upon Himself the punishment sinners rightly deserve for their sins against God, so that sinners could be forgiven and saved? “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

This has been a long letter, I know, Mr. Baldwin. I do hope someone who loves you will get it to you. Repent and believe the gospel. You are in my prayers.


The guy in the front seat of the patrol car

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