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Steve Lunetta: How to deal with police per Earl

Posted: August 28, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 28, 2014 2:00 a.m.

“I just don’t get it!” Being on the receiving end of many of my Uncle Earl’s tirades, I am now familiar with the lead-in to one of his standard diatribes.

“Why am I never considered as one of the 51 Most Influential People in the Santa Clarita Valley? Marsha McLean, Joe Messina, Tom Campbell, Buck McKeon — they are all pikers compared to me!”

My uncle can get very full of himself. “Earl, the fact that I mention you in the column occasionally does not make you influential or any form of celebrity.”

“My boy, you don’t understand. My opinions have shaped City Council decisions and congressional legislation. I have no doubt that the movers and shakers of this town move and shake after reading my opinions.”

I am never really sure if Earl is talking tongue-in-cheek or not.

“OK, Unk. I will submit your candidacy for one of the ‘Top 51 Most Influential’ slots for The Signal. But don’t get your hopes up. I assume that saner heads will prevail.”

I tried to let him down gently. I also lied.

“For example, let’s look at this latest mess in St. Louis. People could really benefit from my opinions and suggestions. Here is one: When a police officer gives you an order, do it.” Earl started with a piece of common sense.

He continued, “Regardless of whether or not a police officer is correct, you do what he says! It seems like one of the things that young people have lost today is respect for authority.

“By not obeying a law enforcement official, they are spitting on authority. That does not sit well with most cops.”

I interjected: “And I suppose this is worse in some communities where police are considered hostile or the enemy.”

“Well, that is something that may need to change.” Earl was on his roll.

“But so what? Trust is a two-way street. If cops feel unsafe in the community in which they serve, there will be a tendency to overreact to assure their own safety. It’s common sense. Anyone, regardless of race, would do the same.”

“So, you are saying the officer in Ferguson overreacted to the situation?” His attitude concerned me.

“Steven, I am not saying that at all. From all accounts that have been verifiable through forensic evidence — and not the silly ‘eye witness’ accounts that are at odds with all the facts — it sounds like the officer was reacting appropriately to defend himself from an aggressive attack.”

He went on. “Further, some folks are criticizing the chief of police of Ferguson for releasing the video tape of this Brown kid robbing the convenience store of some cigars.”

I interjected: “The robbery really had nothing to do with the subsequent police action.”

“My boy, that is where you are wrong! Initial reports state that the young man was walking down the center of the street when the altercation began with the officer.

“Rather odd behavior considering there was a sidewalk nearby. Coupled with the video of the strong-armed robbery, the pattern seems like a person under the influence of some drug.”

“You can’t say that, Earl.” I intoned. “The toxicology reports have not been issued yet.”

“Still, rather strange, don’t you think? The police are not going to release the results because it is part of an on-going investigation and could have HIPAA consequences.

“The family will not release the results of their independent testing because they do not want to impugn their son’s reputation.”

“You have a point, Unk. But what about the fact that the young man was unarmed?”

He retorted: “Immaterial. If the officer felt threatened, he had a right to defend himself. From the video and descriptions of the kid, he was something like 6 foot 4, 290 pounds, and very aggressive. It has also been reported that the officer’s eye socket was already broken from a previous blow from this ‘kid.’ The officer, rightly so, was stopping an aggressive attack.”

“I suppose anyone might react the same way if confronted by an attacker,” I conceded.

“Now, sure, there are more facts that need to be obtained to understand exactly what happened. But here is the easiest way to avoid an altercation with a cop: do what he/she says.”

Sage words from Uncle Earl and worth sharing with our children today.

Steve Lunetta is a resident of Placerita Canyon and grieves for the senseless loss of this young man’s life. He can be reached at


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