I’ve been seeing a handful of “Know your rights” style infographics pop up lately.
I’ve decided to make a post from an officer’s point of view on how to make an interaction with the police a little more pleasant. Hopefully most of you won’t need this, but it couldn’t hurt to know. Disclaimer: These are all broad generalizations, made from my observations in my career in law enforcement. I am by no means a legal expert, and some of what I say may be specific to my jurisdiction. Make sure you’re aware of your local and state laws.
First off, a free piece of advice, so you know I’m not just in this to make my life easier.
If you’re going to do drugs, for the love of god, don’t do them in your car. Because of the public and mobile nature of a car, the Supreme Court has made cars the single easiest place for the police to search. On a related note, if you are going to do/transport/store drugs in your car, for the love of god, make sure your car would pass an inspection. The number of arrests I’ve made because of burned out headlights would astonish you.
If you do get stopped by the cops, just… don’t be a dick.
I know it seems simple enough, but it has to be said. First of all, it’s not going to make your life any easier. No cop in the history of forever has decided NOT to give someone a speeding ticket because the driver fucked his mom last night. It doesn’t work like that. No matter how creative you are, and how much you try to get under our skin, I can almost guarantee, we’ve heard worse. We spend our days dealing with the worst society has to offer, there’s not much you can say that’s going to bother us anymore. If you do decide you’d like to try your hand at being an ass-hat, at least try to be original. References to cops liking donuts, or smelling like bacon don’t bother us. They just make us hungry. Also, yes, I understand that your taxes pay my salary. That being said, I pay taxes too. If you don’t like what I’m doing, then I’ll go ahead and pay myself for that time.
Believe it or not, we are not out there doing what we do because we enjoy ruining people’s days/lives.
It brings us no pleasure. We are out there to do a job, and sometimes, yes, that requires us to do things that have very serious consequences for you. We do it for a reason. There are a few exceptions to this statement. If you’re a colossal prick, we may actually enjoy fucking with you. You brought it on yourself. Also, if you’re a habitual offender, someone we have to deal with all the god damn time, then yes, we’re going to enjoy putting you in jail, because every day you’re in jail is another day we don’t have to deal with your sorry ass.
If I regret anything I put in this post, it will be this: DON’T GIVE THE COPS CONSENT TO SEARCH.
If an officer has a reason to search you, or your property, without needing your consent, he’s going to. He won’t ask first. If a cop asks you if he can search something, YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO SAY NO. Saying no to a request to search does not automatically give us reason to think you’re up to something. That may be the conclusion we come to, but the fact is, if we ask, and you say no, there isn’t jack shit we can do about it.
We know more about our job than you do.
Yes, I understand you’ve seen every episode of SVU and CSI and NCIS and all those other alphabet shows. Here’s a newsflash. TV doesn’t always get it right. Most police officers these days need at least two years of college, plus a 6 month police academy. After graduation, there are constant updates about every State or Supreme Court decision that could possibly affect our jobs. That may not sound like a lot, but I guarantee any cop can tell you more about reasonable articulable suspicion, curtilage, objective reasonableness, and Terry frisks than you’d ever care to know. My biggest pet peeve from these TV-educated lawyer wanna-bes: Miranda. Yes, you are under arrest. No, I don’t have to read you your rights. Miranda only comes into play when there is custodial interrogation, meaning you’re under arrest, and I’m going to ask you questions. If I just watched you punch some guy in the face, I don’t need to ask you any questions about it.
And finally, just to clear up a frequent misconception; yes, cops are people.
You know how you get that 45 minute lunch break during your 8 hour shift? Every once in a while during our 12+ hour shift, we may need to stop and get something to eat. The difference is, you typically get to finish your lunch. If we sit down to eat, and we get a call, that meal sits on that table and goes to waste. Sometimes, yes, we will park side by side and chat for a while. Most jurisdictions these days don’t ride with partners anymore. The best way I can make that relatable to most people is, think of the longest car trip you’ve ever made by yourself. 4, 6, maybe 10 hours? A typical shift for a cop is 10-12 hours in a car, by himself. Now repeat that day after day. It gets old. Quick.