Last week, I shared an article on Google Plus from a police officer advising readers on how to deal with police when you are stopped. Basically, it comes down to this: Be polite, be cooperative, and do not be belligerent.
Even if you feel the stop is unjustified, no good is going to come by being belligerent. If you are dealing with a jerk, the situation can escalate quickly and it will be much more unpleasant than it would otherwise have been. Even when dealing with good cops, acting belligerent and combative can needlessly escalate a situation and lead to violence, when it could have been handled easily and with a minimum of confrontation. We saw this in action in a high-profile drunk-driving arrest in downtown Bloomington a number of years ago.
On the other end, no harm can come by being polite and cooperative. A good cop will appreciate a good attitude and the stop can be handled quickly and with minimal disruption for both parties. Being polite and cooperative might not help when dealing with an authoritarian jerk, but it certainly cannot cause any harm. If the officer misbehaves, file a complaint. If that does not work, make noise publicly, after the fact. Lobby the mayor or local legislative body. In some cases, pro bono legal help might be available, such as from the American Civil Liberties Union or a state affiliate.
Obviously, nothing excuses police brutality, the abuse of authority, or violations of civil rights. Police officers who behave in such ways should be disciplined or fired, and in some cases criminally prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Police officers are human beings too, and are tempted by the same wickedness that lives in every human heart. We must aggressively hold abusive police accountable, and governments that employ such officers should face severe and draconian financial penalties as a deterrent. But a little politeness can go a long way.