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They say they’re the police, but are they really? What would you do?

Last Sunday afternoon’s neighborhood coffee klatch at the local Grange Hall took an unusual twist. After the usual introductory good fellowship chit-chat, Harvey, one of the old-timers in the neighborhood, seized the center of the conversational chessboard with a serious and sobering question.

“I have been thinking about this puzzle for some time,” said Harvey, “and I can’t see clearly what the solution should be.”

We knew Harvey and his wife as salt-of-the-earth kind of people, so we sipped our coffee and paid close attention as he continued.

“Suppose that I am awakened at three o’clock in the morning by the loud bang of my front door being kicked open followed by voices shouting ‘Police! Everyone come out with your hands up!’

“There is no reason I can imagine why the police would burst through my front door. But were that to happen, what do I do? If they really are the police, I should, of course, cooperate. But if they are not the police (and I know this has happened), then my wife, children, and grandchildren are in harm’s way. So, should I meekly submit? Or should I snatch my spotlight and .357 off my best post and confront them, perhaps with the demand that they wait outside on the porch while I call 911?”

Image: Home invaders disguised as police in Yuma. YouTube screen grab.

“An interesting scenario,” commented Francesca, the Grange manager, worker bee, and go-to person, “and if you confronted them with your spotlight and .357, and it turned out they really were police, you might then be really in deep do-do.”

“Amen, sister!” replied the others at the table. “It’s a serious concern,” added Telly, “because at the moment you are awakened, your only options are submit or confront without knowing the identity of your antagonists.”

Harvey started to enlarge, but Wally cut him off, injecting, “But Harvey, did you really just imagine this, or have you been reading about Dexter Reed?”

“Dexter who?” asked Harvey. “Who’s he, and what about him?”

“Well,” offered Wally, “It seems that at 6 p.m. last March 21st, this Reed fellow was sitting in his car on a street in some Chicago suburb when suddenly five plain-clothed police officers in a tactical vehicle surrounded his car.”

Wally added, “The police say it was a traffic stop because Reed wasn’t wearing a seat belt.”

“Is that supposed to be a joke, or does it just sound funny?” asked Harvey.

Harvey sipped his coffee and looked around the table. “Sounds to me like Dexter Reed had my 3 a.m. problem at 6 p.m. on a city street.”

Marcella, a teenager who had just joined the klatch, asked, “Suppose you were in your car stopped at a light, and suddenly five people surrounded your car and demanded you roll down windows and unlock your doors?”

Her question described what one sees in a CNN report entitled, “What the Videos show.” It illustrates Reed’s dilemma. While seated in his car, a person in a ball cap and hoodie approaches Reed’s vehicle with gun drawn and pointed at Reed. The caption on the photo reads, “A Chicago police officer gives Dexter Reed several commands before gunfire breaks out.”

“Hmm,” Wally wondered aloud. “What are these guys doing out of uniform pointing guns at people. If I had been Reed in that photo I would have assumed it was a hold up.”

Harvey looked at the assembly and summed things up. So, the question for all of us is, “What should we do at 3 a.m. when we hear that banging on the door and, perhaps, the sound of the door being broken? From my point of view, if I do not challenge the intruders, then my wife, children, and grandchildren are at risk from criminals. If I do challenge them and they turn out to be police, then I am at risk for having resisted arrest and, perhaps, even harmed an officer of the law.”

We nodded solemnly, recognizing something we often think about and that keeps us up at night.

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