Arrests for contempt of cop may stem from a type of "occupational arrogance" when a police officer thinks he or she should not be challenged or questioned. From such officers' perspective, contempt of cop may involve perceived or actual challenges to their authority, including a lack of deference (such as disobeying instructions, or expressing interest in filing a complaint against the officer). Flight from the police is sometimes considered a variant of contempt of cop. Contempt of cop situations may be exacerbated if other officers witness the allegedly contemptuous behavior.
Charges such as disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and assaulting an officer may be cited as official reasons for a contempt of cop arrest. Obstructing an officer or failure to obey a lawful order is also cited in contempt of cop arrests in some jurisdictions, particularly as a stand-alone charge without any other charges brought.
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer conducted a study in 2008 that found that in the city of Seattle, "African-Americans were arrested for the sole crime of obstructing eight times as often as whites when population is taken into account." The New Jersey Attorney General also found a significant number of contempt of cop cases while investigating racial profiling by the New Jersey State Police, and concluded that "improper attitude and demeanor" of officers toward the public was a nationwide problem. Contempt of cop is a form of "interactional discrimination" against people who are more likely to show disrespect and who lack the financial resources to defend themselves effectively in court (such as young black people who have a historically poor relationship with police) increasing their probability of arrest, which may contribute to racial discrimination in law enforcement.Terminology
Contempt of cop has been in use since the 1960s. The phrase is derived by analogy from the word cop, which is slang for police officer, and the phrase contempt of court, which unlike contempt of cop, is an offense in many jurisdictions (see, e.g., California Penal Code section 166, making contempt of court a misdemeanor). Similar to this is the phrase "disturbing the police", a play on "disturbing the peace". It has also been referred to as "flunking the attitude test". In some areas it is called P.O.P. or "Pissing Off the Police"- when the suspect demeanor influences officer's response to citizens. "Leniency might be afforded to persons who treat officers with respect, whereas the heavy hand of the law is extended to persons who are disrespectful, ill mannered or rude."
In crime writing and works about police misconduct, it has become something of a cliché to sardonically refer to contempt of cop as the worst possible crime.
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