If you're reading this, congrats! You're definitely alive, and you're probably not being stopped or shot to death by a police officer at this very moment. This is half the battle. Now the hard part: If you're alive, there's a chance you'll get stopped by a police officer before you die, and if you're stopped, there's a chance you will get shot to death. Here are some steps you can take to avoid getting stopped, and failing that, avoid getting shot to death.
1. Don't Be Black
They say this works! The best way to not get shot to death by a police officer during a stop is to not get stopped at all, and a proven way to avoid getting stopped both on the road and on foot is to not be black. While you're at it, don't be brown, either.*
2. Don't Do Bad Things**
It goes without saying, but you should not do bad things, because police officers exist in part to stop and shoot to death people who do. (This is even more important if you insist on being black or brown.) If at all possible, don't kill people. Don't hurt people, and don't hurt their feelings. Don't sell drugs—any drugs. Don't take things that should be exchanged for money without first doing so. Don't carry weapons, even if it is legal to carry weapons where you currently are. Don't be intoxicated in public. Don't speed. Don't drive too slowly. Don't drive without functioning sets of headlights and taillights. Don't allow your parking meter to expire. Don't jaywalk. More broadly, don't take shortcuts. Don't assemble in large groups. Don't exhibit your underwear. If you can help it, don't disturb other citizens, even if your presence is what is disturbing them. Don't publicly display affection for members of a different race and/or the same sex. Don't play with toys in parks. Don't play with toys in stores. Don't lock yourself out of your house, but if you do, don't call the police. Don't call the police.
3. Don't Run
Running is good. Running comes with a multitude of health and social benefits. You generally get places faster than if you walk, and sometimes thanif you drive. If you run enough, you'll be stronger, and have more energy and stamina. You'll be physically more attractive to people you are trying to physically attract. Who knows? You may even live longer.
The thing is, for all its benefits, you need space to run to reap them, and so many people are forced to or else choose to run outside. This is a mistake, particularly if you choose to ignore the first rule of this handy guide.
Free hack: Since starting college, I've kept a pretty strict policy of only running indoors on a treadmill, or while engaged in a group activity like soccer or basketball. If you must run, do so in groups, in athletic gear, and preferably with people who follow the first rule of this guide. (Dress pants work, too, if accompanied by a matching blazer and/or shirt and tie.) If you're late, you're late, but at least no one will think you're running from something. Remember: Bullets move fast, but hypertension is a slow burn.
4. Make Eye Contact
It may seem counterintuitive to look someone in the eye who has both the means to shoot you to death and the latitude to do so without fear of legal or even professional repercussion. But when coming into close contact with a police officer, it's best to acknowledge them with a look, and even a head nod. This is an early, nonverbal sign that you are perhaps One Of The Good Ones Whose Soul Is Yet Untainted By Genetics Or Cultural Residue Or Hip Hop And Therefore Should Maybe Not Be Stopped.
This eye contact, however, should be brief. Like many large predators, a police officer may view overlong eye contact as a defiant or fearful act. With a quick look, you're just signaling that you aren't afraid, because you have nothing to hide. And while you're looking and nodding, smile! Not getting stopped by a police officer is fun!
Can't hurt, right?
6. Be Polite
Now for the bad news. Even if you follow some or all of the steps to not being stopped by a police officer, a police officer still might stop you. A police officer might ask you where you are coming from, or where you are going, or what business has led you to this particular place at this particular time of day or night. At this point, being stopped by a police officer may be humiliating, or enraging, or worse, boring, and you may consider the police officer undeserving of your kindness or even respect. Regardless, though, this police officer has stopped you but has not yet shot you to death, and the objective now is to dissuade the police officer from doing so.
Say "sir" or "ma'am" or "officer" or "officers." Only speak when spoken to, and don't raise your voice. Basically, talk to a police officer as you would a friend's senile grandparent, if there was a chance said grandparent would shoot you to death. If you can muster some friendliness, be friendly. But more importantly, be submissive. Be short and sweet so that, maybe, you can get out of there.
7. Stay Cool
I know you're thinking about moving your hands. You're really gonna want to not do that. Don't gesticulate as you speak to the police officer. Don't reach for your wallet or your phone, or the registration in the glovebox. Don't reach into your pockets. Don't reach into your waistband for your gun; you probably don't even have one, silly!
Instead, keep your hands in a fixed place. Hold them straight down at your sides and palms out, or up by your ears and palms out, or on the steering wheel (at 10 and 2) and palms out. Don't fidget. The only time you should move your hands is when the police officer will tell you to move your hands to fetch something. Repeat their order slowly, while informing them how you are going to complete it. For example:
"Driver's license, please."
"Of course, officer. I'm going to reach into my back pocket right now to grab my driver's license. Is that alright?"
Be sure to move slowly and smoothly. If possible, complete the order using one hand (but don't show off too much).
If you have to, say, reach into your glovebox with both hands, inform the police officer you are reaching into your glovebox with both hands. If you have to reach into your backpack, seriously consider offering to hand your backpack to the officer instead, or if applicable, any members of your party who chose to follow rule no. 1.
8. Go With The Flow
There is the possibility that you follow some or all of the above rules, and the police officer still finds the motivation to physically engage or detain you. This will be terrifying. You will want to fight back, or run away. Do not do this. Police officers are highly trained fighters who often wear body armor and possess multiple weapons on their persons. More likely than not, these are all advantages that you don't have. The police officer, however, will assume that you are a highly trained fighter with body armor and multiple weapons on your person, and will treat you as such. If you try to bulk up, you may be shot to death. If you try to fight back, you may be shot to death. If you try to run away, you may be shot to death.
9. Take A Ride
After all this, you may still end up handcuffed in the back seat of a squad car, en route to jail. Don't panic or be too distraught. You're still alive! But remember: Be sure not to shoot yourself to death.
*If you abide by this rule, you can stop reading now.
**Not an exhaustive list.
Art by Jim Cooke.
Adequate Man is Deadspin's new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.