What to do if the police stop you

Picture of What to do if the police stop you

Being stopped by the cops is scary. This Instructable gives you everything you need to know to safeguard your rights when you are dealing with the police.

All of the information here is straight from the American Civil Liberties Union.
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Step 1: General guidance for dealing with the police

Picture of General guidance for dealing with the police

1. What you say to the police is always important. What you say can be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you, especially if you badmouth a police officer.

2. You must show your driver's license and registration when stopped in a car. Otherwise, you don't have to answer any questions if you are detained or arrested, with one important exception. The police may ask for your name if you have been properly detained, and you can be arrested in some states for refusing to give it. If you reasonably fear that your name is incriminating, you can claim the right to remain silent, which may be a defense in case you are arrested anyway.

3. You do not have to consent to any search of yourself, your car or your house. If you DO consent to a search, it can affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a search warrant, ASK TO SEE IT.

4. Do not interfere with, or obstruct the police, as you you can be arrested for it.

Think carefully about your words, movement, body language, and emotions.
Do not get into an argument with the police.
Anything you say or do can be used against you.
Keep your hands where the police can see them.
Do not run. Do not touch any police officer.
Do not resist even if you believe you are innocent.
Do not complain on the scene or tell the police they are wrong or that you are going to file a complaint.
Do not make any statements regarding the incident.
Ask for a lawyer immediately upon your arrest.
Remember officer badge & patrol car numbers.
Write down everything you remember ASAP.
Try to find witnesses & their names & phone numbers.
If you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you seek medical attention first.

If you feel your rights have been violated, file a written complaint with police department internal affairs division or civilian complaint board, or call the ACLU hotline, 1-877-6-PROFILE.
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horses3411 months ago
This is some good advice. The police ruined my trip to disney. We were going the same speed as the car in front of us, I don't know why they stopped us!!! Sometimes they want to see your drivers license to see if YOU are the criminal they are looking for, so I wasn't that worried when they stopped us
jspud21 year ago
Yeah, I couldn't figure out why I had to pay taxes to cover their salaries until I needed them to evict those renters.
MajHunter6 years ago
I am a police officer in California. This comment in no way reflects the official stance of my department or the city I work for. The information in this instructable is mostly accurate. You can not refuse to give you name even if it is incriminating. If you are arrested and you invoke your right to a lawyer or to silence, we can still ask you identifying questions for your arrest paperwork for the jail (name, DOB, address, place of birth, tattoos, phone number, nearest friend or relative etc.). The information about not resisting, keeping your hands where we can see them is all spot on. Several people have posted comments that being polite is the best course of action. They are correct. In many cases we have discretion and can decide to not give a ticket, etc. Some people insist on "talking themselves into a ticket" when they would have just been given a warning. If you don't agree with the ticket, you still have to sign it. Failure to do so is a crime and you will be arrested and booked until you can see a magistrate (judge). Also if you are arrested your vehicle may be impounded. It is in your best interest to sign the ticket. You will note that the citations say something to the effect of "Without admitting guilt, I promise to appear at the time & place checked below" You may not like being pat searched, but it is for a reason. We want to go home to our families at the end of the shift, and we don't know you or what you are thinking, or might do. In the last year and a half my department (about 1000 officers) have had six shot in the line of duty, and been in numerous shootings. People are frequently pulling guns, knives, bats on officers in the last few years. Sudden movements, irate behavior, puts the officer in a situation where he has to try and determine in a split second your intention. Is this irate guy jamming his hand behind his back going for a gun, or his wallet? We are working at a disadvantage in that we are reacting, to the action of the person. Therefore we have to make the decision on how to react in mere milliseconds, meanwhile the person has had plenty of time to decide what it is he is going to do. Since the primary goal is for us to go home to our families, the officer may use force to protect himself. To the comments who said that cops have been rude to them etc. Remember that there are a$$holes in every profession and not all cops are rude. Also your actions, inflection, attitude play into how the officer treats you as well. Ultimately if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have absolutely nothing to worry about when contacted by the police.
>>> Ultimately if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have absolutely nothing to worry about when contacted by the police. Oh my. Hold on a second. Wait for it. Wait for it. >>> I am a police officer in California. Soooo... being a police officer from California, you would be familiar with, say, LAPD's problems, right? I was dredging up news stories for this massive collection of links to post as a comment, and LAPD just repeatedly came up, over and over. And I was actually looking for convictions and guilty pleas, not just anything. >>> To the comments who said that cops have been rude to them etc. Remember that there are a$$holes in every profession and not all cops are rude. Also your actions, inflection, attitude play into how the officer treats you as well. Here's the same question I asked jaysbob, since he's obviously dodging it: Since there are "a$$holes in every profession", when a cop pulls someone over, how do you know which cop pulled you over? The good cop, or the bad cop? Furthermore, how about looking at this from a Pascal's Wager perspective. (Or perhaps you think you're the only one who wants to go home to his family?) What are the repercussions of getting pulled over by a bad cop? How much damage can that cop do to you, if he were so inclined?
You know the bad cop if you watch "COPS" and see the A**hole from Passaic county with the thick Jersey accent. That cop uses intimidation to put a suspect into a defensive mode to try to get a confession. While police often do their job, I have seen many with ulterior motives. On a few occasions, I have been stopped by an officer just doing his job, but some "eternal rookies" have performed very poorly in their duty to protect the public. Example: I was a courier, and my route took me through Bellevue, WA (a yuppie neighborhood, almost no crime rate), and as I leave a driveway, the physical shock of me leaving the dip in the driveway causes a headlight filament to break, caus9ing a burned-out headlight. I make it about 200 feet before a cop that was watching me and coming from the opposite direction pulls a screeching spin-turn in front of another car and races up to me at speeds exceeding 90mph in a 35 to pull me over. When he asks me if I know why he pulled me over, I say, "Because you witnessing a headlight burning out is some form of international terrorism that threatens children and more important to you, police?" Many cops will say that this attitude is not recommended when you get stopped, but after being stopped for "driving while possessing long hair", "defensive driving", or "going at a high-rate of speed acceleration" (as they call it in cop-speak) for using my engine's peak power range to accelerate on a 150-foot long onramp with an 800-lb load, one gets a little fed up with harassment by cops on a slow night. Back to harassment by a bored cop, he seems almost stunned that I not only know exactly when my headlight burned out, but that I saw him well before he saw me. Now for the fun part.... I ask him if he'd be willing to drive with his headlights ON for a change for the safety of other motorists, since he was driving with them off since I saw him. I have more driving training than most any cop I have seen. I have driven at speeds on a racetrack to the likes that a police cruiser could never dream of reaching. I have handled situations while driving that no cop without my skill and training could avoid a collision in. I also don't need nor want an automatic transmission to help my driving if I were a cop in pursuit, because unlike them I can handle a manual transmission while driving under more extreme circumstances than most if any will ever see. No cop has any place criticizing my driving under any circumstances, nor questioning my ability or knowledgeablility in handling one. To any police officers reading, stop acting like rookies with personal agendas, do as you say and say as you do, don't ever try to put false charges on me again, and do YOUR JOB: PROTECT AND SERVE THE PUBLIC...Ignoring the reckless drunk to do your ticket-writing hobby for a single burnt-out brakelight of six is not being an officer of the law, it's being a cop, and noone likes a cop. Quit chasing a single burnt-out headlight or taillight, and start actually snagging the reckless drivers that I have had to avoid for over four years that you never pay attention to. Finally, when someone races up to you to report an attempted armed vehicular assault, don't spend their getaway time explaining ridiculous formalities of filing a complaint with a police officer. Get a name of the complainant and persue the suspect, instead of fondling yourself to the sound of yourself lecturing another on "policy", because no policy of yours can address real life.
Promethius -You know the bad cop if you watch "COPS" and see the A**hole from Passaic county with the thick Jersey accent.

Yep, cant stand that dude.

Promethius-cop that was watching me and coming from the opposite direction pulls a screeching spin-turn in front of another car and races up to me at speeds exceeding 90mph in a 35 to pull me over.

LOL Slight exaggeration there maybe? A 2007 Crown Vic takes 16.7 seconds to get from 0 to 90, so he would have had to be a long way away I would imagine. LOL.

Let me explain the reason that cops pull people on bikes over for no headlight. Many career criminals have had their license suspended. As a result many ride bicycles. A burned out headlight (or more commonly no headlight) is a violation and gives the officer a reason to detain and contact the person. It is amazing how many people I have arrested that had No Bail warrants for robbery, rape, shootings etc, just off of riding a bicycle in the street with no headlight at night. It is a tool we can use to find out who someone is to see if they are one of the ones who prey on innocent people. I cant think of one time I or anyone I know has written a ticket for no headlight on a bicycle, but it is a legitimate violation of the law.

Promethius-I also don't need nor want an automatic transmission to help my driving if I were a cop in pursuit, because unlike them I can handle a manual transmission while driving under more extreme circumstances than most if any will ever see.

Have you ever thought about why we use automatics? Have you heard the expression, You can outrun Ford or Chevy, but you cant outrun Motorola? Have you ever tried to do rapid lane changes, change gear, and hold a cell phone (Hand microphone) to your mouth at the same time.....oh yeah, only two hands. We have to keep in communication at all times, ESPECIALLY during a pursuit. The SGT, and above wants to hear constant updates on speed, suspect actions, traffic conditions, road conditions, pedestrian traffic, location, directing assisting units where you want spike strips, etc. Non Stop. If you pause for more than a few seconds they will break off the pursuit regardless of whether you are chasing a stolen car, or a wanted mass murderer. Liability. Also you sometimes have to return fire at intersections, etc when the suspect slams on the breaks and starts shooting. There is more to driving a patrol car in a pursuit/etc than driving fast.

Promethius-Finally, when someone races up to you to report an attempted armed vehicular assault....Get a name of the complainant and persue the suspect, .... because no policy of yours can address real life.

/sigh. Okay not even going to get into trying to figure out what an attempted armed vehicular assault is to you. We cant just pursue someone. We have to have a legally articulable reason. Why? Because if the dude crashes, or someone crashes into him and it turns out we had no idea why we were chasing him, the other party (or him) will sue both the department, and us. Multi million dollar judgments are kind of hard to pay off on a cops salary. Cops can and have lost everything they owned (home, car, savings, retirement, etc) because of pursuits etc. I'm sorry, I love helping people and protecting the public, but I'm not going to put my wife and daughter out on the street because I went off half cocked at the prompting of someone who just told me to not jump the gun unless he tells me to.

Not trying to be a hard a$$ bro, but you have to realize that every decision we make at work has the potential to cost us everything we have worked out whole lives for.
Let me explain the reason that cops pull people on bikes over for no headlight. Many career criminals have had their license suspended. As a result many ride bicycles. A burned out headlight (or more commonly no headlight) is a violation and gives the officer a reason to detain and contact the person

That's like saying black people in white neighborhoods are disproportionately criminal, so we had better pull them over randomly.

To the black people and the poor people of America's cities, the police are terrorists in the most literal sense. They walk around with weapons and instill fear. They interfere with people who are completely alone, bothering no one. They inject their presence into situations without being requested by anyone, and believe their weapons give them not only the right to interrupt whatever is going on and demand to heard immediately, and indefinitely, but the right to make demands upon our "attitude." They are, moreover, an occupying force, existing primarily to protect the power of rich white people (which we are not); to keep the powerless in submission. They are not our means of protecting ourselves; they are what we organize to protect ourselves against.

In a study described in the NYT, 96% of black students at one Brooklyn college reported being randomly stopped by police -- several up to 6 times. Why? Because black people in such areas are often career criminals, of course!

No one would hate police if they just left people alone. If they just didn't do anything until someone needed help, no one would hate police, no one would feel the need for protection from them, no one would feel that twinge of anxious fear when a squad car drives by. No one would ever ask themselves, "will I be stopped by this armed stranger and forced to pay homage? Will this armed stranger keep me from my destination, and will he demand I cheerfully thank him for his provision of this service? And if I refuse, if I try to assert a right to be left alone, will I be kidnapped by force, thrown in a cage, and treated there in a way no decent person would treat a dog?"

Police: when you pull someone over for statistical reasons -- because they show some outward indication of poverty, like being black or riding a bike -- you are not only stealing time from them. You are stealing dignity from them. You are stealing life from them. In fact, you are doing something to someone that, if someone did the same to you, would cause you to arrest them.
black people feed into their own stereo type, ?I used to be best friends with a black kid down the street untill he became ghetto trash, it still makes me sad because he was a really nice guy but now hes in jail because of his' hommies'

racial profiling is wrong but when a higher percentage of black people or minorities for that matter are always getting caught for crimes, the statistics dont lie, sue happy lawyers use these same states and say this is racial profiling..
Very well-said. Although a few cops don't do this, many do. I should know, I drove through these neighborhoods and many a time I have been stopped for "driving with long hair". I am as white as they come, but I have long hair (not a mullet, rockstar-hair), and many times simply to harass me so I would leave the area...."I'm making a delivery, pig, I'm paid to be in the area!"

There are "officers of the law" (which I respect, they know the spirit of the law), there are "cops" (probies who do everything by the book), and there are "pigs" (use their authority to vent their high-school frustrations on the world because they need to feel powerful). A few (too many) try to be Robocop instead of being capable of seeing the situation and reacting to it appropriately.

MajHunter seems to be a reasonable "officer of the law", so "present company excluded" when I say that I hate cops and pigs. Here in Washington-state, we have too many "cops", and not enough "officers".
Well, very good response, officer. I have alot more respect for you than I default to most police. I do see your point about the reason for a pursuit, but I will just add that the cop I stopped had been given as much reason as he should have needed. You are the example of the difference between a police officer and a cop. The Passaic county officer mentioned above is a cop. Your patience and humility make you a real police officer. Well done...
"Good cop, bad cop" he's the the good cop. at the end of the day they are all on the same side.
Thank you. Be safe riding out there. Seattle area drivers are crazy. (Was stationed at Fort Lewis and lived in Tacoma when I was in the army.)
mce128 GoatBoy6 years ago
>>>> Furthermore, how about looking at this from a Pascal's Wager perspective. (Or perhaps you think you're the only one who wants to go home to his family?) What are the repercussions of getting pulled over by a bad cop? How much damage can that cop do to you, if he were so inclined? Well, if you do get "bad cop" how is acting aggressive toward said "bad cop" going to help you? I suspect that it will make your day FAR WORSE, than if you didn't act like a prick to him.... Just a guess...
GoatBoy mce1286 years ago
I have not advocated acting aggressive toward a cop. If you read one of my other responses:

>>> Would you try to get in an argument with a criminal?
>>> Of course not.
>>> Same goes for cops. If you don't start using your rights, you will lose them.

I've advocated exercising your rights as a privilege of living in this country, regardless of how inconvenient it is for a police officer.

Unfortunately, it's clear that making sure you are treated fairly under the rule of law is apparently suspicious behavior to everyone.
-Ultimately if you aren't doing anything wrong, you have absolutely nothing to worry about when contacted by the police. cops are so used to dealing with criminals they start to treat everybody like one. if a cop doesn't like the way you look, or god forbid you are holding a skateboard, maybe they can't arrest you but they can sure ruin your day. could be a "bad cop" or it could be a good cop having a bad day because his wife just left him for some guy with a skateboard, my point is that they do what they want and count on us not knowing our rights no offense to the cops reading this it is a noble job and I wouldn't want to do it .I just want to remind that its our right to question authority. thats one of the things we should be most proud of as Americans. so why do cops get so defensive when I start asking questions? not arguing just questioning. oh yeah, i skate at night because there are less cars, not because I'm trying to get away with something!
If you're homeless, if you're a teenager with no money and thus nowhere to go, if you're poor in a rich neighborhood (i.e., if you are excluded from the spaces of consumption) -- you have something to worry about. The police will come and harass you, be as patronizing and rude as possible in order to test your "attitude," and do whatever it takes to drive you away from the little suburban enclosure whose "quality of life" they're payed to protect against your presence.

Of course the police will maintain that "if you aren't doing anything wrong you have nothing to fear" but when the definition of "doing wrong" includes basic physiological needs such as sitting down to rest or urinating, the strategy of "do no wrong" becomes impractical.

Also, if you make the mistake of "assembling" with a group of other people in order to "redress" some "grievance," you have committed what in our society is now considered the ultimate danger -- practically equivalent to terrorism -- and you are almost guaranteed trouble. In that case the best advice is to wear whatever improvised body armor you can get!
yeah, pat seach to slip a bag of drugs ta put you in JAIL!!!
anvil inc6 years ago
I think it is interesting to note that none of the previous posts have pointed out the simple fact that the police are effectively our (any citizen's) servants. That's right I said it ! "THEY WORK FOR YOU!!!!!" Not the other way around! When "WE THE PEOPLE" are paying their salary and authorizing them to have authority over only those who would break the law and corrupt the public good, they have no legitimate right to detain or harass any person who has not done so! The real problem lies in the use of the " Officers " discretion as to what in fact constitutes " Probable Cause " this needs to be addressed in a public forum and petitioned before the courts to be better defined! The vast majority of the police officers that I know personally are in fact very nice people when they are not on duty and being made paranoid by situations that are stressful at best and dangerous at worst. The majority of the police force in major metro areas are not the least bit interested in what the average citizen is doing......... Not so much in more rural settings where very little real crime is taking place and these officers are prone to be "nosy" out of a lack of any real work to do. I'm not saying ALL are likely to be this way but lets face it, wouldn't you be bored stiff if you were a police officer in a small town where very little ever happens? On the other hand there are those police officers who are in areas where known gang and drug activity is taking place and it is their job to do the best they can to curb this( In fact this is what WE are authorizing them to do) If you are driving through a neighborhood at 3:00 AM where pushers are known to loiter and you stop and ask for "Directions" from some guy standing on the corner and he leans in the window of your car.........How is the cop who saw this to know that you didn't buy any CRACK? The real issue is what the hell are you doing out in this neighborhood at 3:00 am anyway? Are you stopping by to see a friend or relative? Maybe you should encourage you friend or relative to move to a safer neighborhood! In short I think this is a fair and accurate instructable even if the information is a little bit BIG BROTHER ORIENTED. However I think the real issue is just when did everyone become so concerned about "HOW IT LOOKS" when we assert our RIGHTS! I for one don't give a damn how it looks and will continue to refuse to give consent to search when I feel it is unwarranted. I am also going to continue to refuse to give any information about my person as it is My Right to do so. If it takes them 30 to 45 minutes to determine who I am and to ascertain that I am not a threat to the public good then so be it! I think if everyone took this approach and continued to make an effort no matter how small to remind the GOVERNMENT that they should FEAR THE PEOPLE our rights would not be so readily trampled upon!
Actually the police are not our servants, nor are they obligated to protect us in any way. Or so says the supreme courts justices;

NY Times Article - Justices Rule Police Do Not Have a Constitutional Duty to Protect Someone
Actually if you bothered to read the whole article it was a supreme court decision to deny the application of the 14th Ammendment to this particular case. This article as well as any printed since the mid 1920's in any major media outlet is slanted to sell papers and promote an agenda fostered by the Morgans,Rockefellers, etc... If you are interested in understanding just what that agenda is read THE CREATURE FROM JEKYL ISLAND It will explain all the history behind the Federal Reserve Bank and the Council on Foriegn Relations. I am with you on the worry that the supreme court is not on the side of the public good or our rights. As for understanding what is really going on in the world it might be a good idea to google REX84 and look for the photo's of the FEMA concentration camps! I used to think this was all alarmist thinking and anti government propaganda, but after seeing this post and driving past two in Florida myself that are supposedly facilitites maintained by the local utilities? Why do we need 600 FEMA camps that are capable of holding up to 200 million people? After you read this ask yourself why the CDC is already making plans in the "event" of a national outbreak? Is it possible the powers that be are laying the groundwork and implementing their final solution? Good luck and enjoy the front row seats for armegedon! Man I wonder just how much we paid for these tickets!
(removed by author or community request)
Actually you're right, just cited the wrong case. Try Warren v. Washington DC, which is... disturbing. 3 women, 2 desperate calls to police, 1 slow drive-by then nothing, yielding 14 hrs of brutality.

Warren and the other victims sued the District and the police department. In 1978, the D.C. Superior Court ruled that "a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any particular individual citizen."

Later in 1981, the D.C. Court of Appeals went further and ruled, "The duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists.'

The police are public servants, who serve the public AT LARGE. Thus they will quell mass riots, "keeping the peace," but when Granny gets murdered because no one showed up, forget suing, you're out of luck. Oh, that case you cited came later and tried to establish a "special relationship" did exist, being the only way an individual can show an obligation of the police to protect them. And it got ruled that a protection order didn't do that.

Legally speaking, as an individual, you're on your own.

This is rarely mentioned in the media as it leads to the following exercise in logic:
1. You, an individual, do not need a gun for protection as the police will protect you.
2. The police do not have to protect you, an individual.
3. Therefore...
i love it when the governemnt tries to take away guns... i mean seriously its in the constitution to bear arms, not the animals arms but guns.... some people need that correction.
But in my cases someone tried to mug me one night after class but there was no officer on scene so guess what i had to actually defend myself luckily i had my car door open and got a good hit on them in the face and scrambled back into my car where i had a small sword 19 inches long and threatened to cut them if they didnt run which thankfully did make them leave. i later found out that i was in violation of some stupid penal code that said you cant have a blade larger than i believe it was 8 inches that is unsheathed in the car? Made me laugh

Guns are there to protect yourself and to form militia i the event that the government has over extended their rights or the military has failed to protect you from danger. Lately the government (fed government) has been pushing for increased gun control so they criminals dont have guns but literally anyone who knows jack about crime knows that if a criminal wants a gun they will get a gun, which leaves the criminals a level above you if you dont have a gun to defend yourself.
That's the case I was trying to find, I knew I'd read it somewhere else! I wonder if any other cases have made it to court. It's definitely a stretch... Following your logic, I'm right there with you. It just leaves me wondering what exactly what our local police departments 'duties' are, and where this huge misconception left the public domain.
The duties, basically, would be mob control, "keeping the peace." They'll direct traffic and enforce traffic laws since otherwise roads would be chaos. They'll go after robbers since if people could just take anything they want it'd be chaos. Same for murder, etc, anything that could lead to mass numbers of people going off and disrupting society.

Because, slightly cynical here, an orderly society is needed for the upper classes to not require trusted guards, and probably many of them, to protect their lifestyle, lives, and property. And even guards can be overwhelmed by a disgruntled mob. So we have the police who basically neutralize any disgruntled mobs that erupt, but mainly prevent them from forming by keeping a generally orderly society going. What "protection" there is, trickles down. If the upper class were protected but the "commoners" weren't at all, the commoners would be disgruntled. So protection is supplied to at least enough commoners to keep them from forming a mob, while legally not required to be provided to every last individual.

Slightly cynical, yes, but the model for the police is very old and quite often functioning as found in Robin Hood. Of course, the more historical method of forming an orderly society, beneficial to all, is quite horrifying despite its efficiency, involving much time and effort.

The method is teaching solid morals, hard concepts of what's wrong and right, and actually knowing your neighbors, making sure they have and follow the same morals, and thus forming solid peaceful neighborhoods and communities. But these days, people would rather have laws and police, then complain when neither works as well as they think they should. Go figure.
I'd have to agree with you on that too, the method of forming an orderly society I mean. It does, or would take much time and effort, especially now. Reforming moral concepts of what is right and what is wrong, and growing strength within the community. It seems, historically speaking, we're unable to restructure a society without a mass revolution, war, genocide, or something of a catastrophic effect. If only it were as simple as reprogramming a computer...
Actually a great deal of (successful!) effort goes into forming people's subjectivities in the school system, but again (like the provision of "order") the effort is made to create an economically exploitable mass much more than a happy society. The values which are taught to the common people are those which are economically useful to the powerful; I quote from Bauman's history of the work ethic:

... the upper classes allowed no values to the workpeople but those which the slave-owner appreciates in the slave. The working man was to be industrious and attentive, not to think for himself, to owe loyalty and attachment to his master alone, to recognise that his proper place in the economy of the state was the place of the slave in the economy of the sugar plantation. Take many virtues we admire in a man, and they become vices in a slave.'

For credibility, I quote also Woodrow Wilson:

We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.

A detailed history of the various political struggles among the upper classes over the formation in schools of the subjectivities of the lower classes is John Taylor Gatto's Underground History of American Education -- a section of particular interest is chapter eight. My point is only that the ethics which are instilled in youth are those which create the type of people necessary for use by the powers; in times of war, these will be soldiers; in times of industrial expansion, they will be factory workers; in the contemporary "service economy" they are the type called by one book title "the organization man," aka "team-players" -- although Bauman argues convincingly that the powerful are now much more interested in creating willing consumers of their products than producers of them. (Of course, the DIY movement, if you call it that, is a reaction against both consumerism and organization...)

People don't have laws and police because "they would rather have" -- they are born into societies with laws and police and courts. Moreover, they are taught that these laws and police and courts are synonymous with morality; the law is not represented to us as a living institution, as a set of arbitrary rules that some people made up and which all-too-often exist only to benefit those who make them; rather, they are sanctified by the theory of democracy which is drilled into the heads of the young long before they attain the capacity to think independently or the life experience against which to test authoritative assertions.

Our legal institutions have existed since they were invented by the ancient monarchies; in fact, there is a continuity of organization going back from the American court system through to the Norman conquest. It is the same organization, which has reproduced itself through so many generations of human membership. (Remember that the war which is called the American "Revolution" was one in which the States, without dissolving, declared independence, and formed a new union -- it was no more a revolution than the London Declaration.)

In the early days of these same organizations, they asserted directly their equivalnce with morality and, indeed, with the word of God. "Dominion is founded in grace" was the ideology of our court system in its infancy; which is to say, the law set down by the King is sanctified by God. Rousseau marked a shift in which the King began to claim the basis of his authority in his representation of the interests of the people -- of course, it was still the same organization, and largely this representation was nothing more than a pretense, though a pretense which could easily be sold to children -- including the children of the powerful, who would gain a convenient confidence in their own right to rule. The contradiction between the ideology and the reality, though, resulted in the various popular movements defining their task as the bridging of this gap; i.e., as the creation of truly representative government.

The representation of democratic forms as automatically producing democracy is itself indicative of a certain collapse of democracy (which had never really been secured). A society in which democracy was a primary goal, rather than an ideology justifying power (like "dominion is founded in grace"), would frankly admit that the task of ascertaining and enacting the general interests of the people cannot be accomplished automatically through any procedural form. But this is far from what children are in fact taught (in myriad ways), and what they believe until they learn about the system through their own personal experience. It is not a choice of the people to accept this representation; rather, it is simply what they are taught in their gullible youth (out of which many never grow).
that kind of stuff happens way too often
Therefore the police are a collection agency for local and state governments to raise funds squandered by the previous quarter of multi-billion-dollar courthouse and state-building construction projects, including a $13 million-dollar sculpture in the lobby of a police department claiming not to have enough funding as exampled in this wonderful state of Washington. It is said that the actions of this state and washington DC have caused our first president to roll in his grave so fast and frequently that the friction from this is the real cause of global warming.
JoeMenthol6 years ago
If you are a criminal, these are good tips, and will make it more difficult to get a conviction. Otherwise, just be cooperative. If you have nothing to hide, is it really necessary to refuse to answer questions? If the police are searching for a suspect in the area, polite, simple responses help eliminate you as a suspect or a witness to the crime, and then can then move on to find the real bad guys. Throwing a fit or being confrontational about your rights immediately makes police think you either have something to hide (like a warrant out for your arrest) or that you possibly have a mental issue. Best advice is to obey the law. If you hate the police because you've been busted in the past, does it really make sense to blame the cops for your bad choices?
Mr. Menthol,

It is so neat that you think that innocent people have nothing to hide from the police. That is what Kevin Fox of Will County Illinois thought too.

He was innocent and was just trying to help the police and the states attorneys find the person who murdered his daughter, so he talked freely with the coppers. But that was before the authorities attempted to have him put to death for the murder of his daughter.

Fortunately, DNA evidence eventually excluded Mr. Fox.

Two-piece legal advice:
1. Demand an attorney, and
2. Keep your mouth shut.

so-called "Austin Mayor"
I believe this instructable is aimed more at people being casually approached by the police on the street or during a traffic stop, not toward people who are the primary suspect in the murder of their daughters. If you are arrested, certainly ask for a lawyer and refuse further questioning until you get one. If you're out on the street, however, and the police approach you with some simple questions, there's no need to be a jerk about it.
Actually, let me expand on this a little. I work in law enforcement. I have had bottles thrown at me, lit cigarettes flicked into my face, been spit on, flipped off, and been called every name you can think of (and probably many you can't). Put yourself in my shoes for a minute. When you go to work, you have to wear body armor because there's a good chance you're going to get shot. You had to spend months at an academy learning how to defend yourself from the people who will try to kill you on the job. No one is ever happy to see you. You are thought of as nothing but a pig. You spend every night dealing with drug users, domestic abusers, child molesters. You rarely interact with "nice" people, because the police don't get called to situations where people are being nice to each other. No matter how polite or professional you are, you always have enemies, and virtually everyone hates you because you simply try to do your job. Do you think that facing that every day might get to you after a few years? Do you think it would be fun going to bed every night hoping no one you dealt with at work finds out where you live and slashes your tires or sets your house on fire? Now, with all that in mind, do you think maybe it would be appreciated when you are talking with someone, and they're actually polite and respectful? You know, someone who actually replies to you in a civil tone instead of screaming, "I know my rights, I don't have to answer your questions! Am I being detained?!?" Frankly, a little courtesy and honesty works wonders on me. Those are the folks I remember, and the ones that I wave to when I see them, and the ones that help me remember that not every one hates me, and that there are people out there worth serving. But then again, who cares what I think? I'm just another f-ing pig on a power trip out to get people for no good reason, apparently. Or at least, that's what I'm told.
sounds like if you cant deal with the stress you should really let someone replace you who can, its officers maybe not like you but officers that flip out over the littlest thing are the ones everyone relates to when you see a cop, and in return officers really do seem to fulfill that stigma when they treat everyone like they are better than them with more power. and law enforcement shouldn't be treated as a job but something to better society with... many cops loose site of that.
Cops have bad opinions placed on them because in dealings with cops, cops are the ones to usually instigate something especially with traffic ticket pullovers and are never forgiving at all, There was a police department in California that as shut down because of how they increased revenue which was to pull over and impound anyone car that was going even one mile over the super slow 30 mph speed limit they imposed with a minute impound time of 26 days.. this was costing thousands of dollars for going 31 mph.
This is why people have bad opinions of cops., yes there are people out there that should be arrested and fined but its when traffic tickets stops become something that can cost 200+ $ which to most people that are barely squeaking my usually means they miss that phone bill or cant put gas in their vehicle or food on the table because the government says you owe them money.. and if you dont pay that money ooooooo your screwed
And i hope you as a police man dont go to bed every night stressing about weather you are going to be murdered, no one should live that way except for murderers.
The government really shouldn't be able to fine people for violating the traffic laws. I say this because traffic laws ( for the most part) are so convoluted and confusing to most that its nearly impossible or impractical to follow every last one. Excessive speeding is one i believe people should be fined for biut going 70 mph in a 55 zone on a straight road out in the middle of nowhere shouldnt be something you can get fined for.
Many people say traffic accidents are causes mostly by people speeding which is true but in retrospect cops almost never pull over the " D'wads" that go snail slow so when you try and pass them an accident occurs. I know me writting this will have as little impact on everyone here as a feather being blown in the wind.
>>do you think maybe it would be appreciated when you are talking with someone, and they're actually polite and respectful? You know, someone who actually replies to you in a civil tone instead of screaming, "I know my rights, I don't have to answer your questions! Am I being detained?!?" Which is why I am always as polite, respectful, and civil as possible when asking if I am being detained and saying I don't consent to a search. Really. You see, I've found that whenever I've had interactions with police officers, I was the calm one. I've been yelled at by police officers for doing legal actions twice now, and found it very difficult to remain calm. Perhaps you are the exception. Most officers I know, including my uncle who I love dearly, bring a very heavy attitude to the situations and turn it into a confrontation. Most people respond to confrontational people by getting confrontational; when the aggressor is a police officer, that can land them in jail. I found that knowing my rights, knowing that I don't have to answer questions, helped me remain calm. That is especially true when the officer gets into the stupid questions (like "do you know what that can lead to?" and "how do I know you are not a...?") that are completely unreasonable for the officer to ask. So I recommend to all people that they follow the guidelines here, RESPECTFULLY, and calmly and politely. Works wonders. And JoeMenthol, I'd suggest you ask yourself whether the people reacting rudely to you are perhaps reacting because of the way you approach them. Some probably are not, but many probably are. You can change some of them by your own attitude.
"And JoeMenthol, I'd suggest you ask yourself whether the people reacting rudely to you are perhaps reacting because of the way you approach them. Some probably are not, but many probably are. You can change some of them by your own attitude."

I don't mean to toot my own horn here, but before I got into this line of work I got a degree in psychology. After college I went into work as a care-giver for the elderly, at times caring for folks who had lost the ability to speak, or had other conditions which made communication difficult. Later, at academy, there was also some fairly extensive confrontation simulation and contact communication training. Now I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but due to my education, training, and experience, I think I am fairly adept at effective communication, reading body language, interpreting meaning, and detecting dishonesty. I also like to think that I project myself in my contacts as professional, but reasonable, and not overly emotional.

With all that said, I think you'd really be surprised how people can behave, particularly when dealing with drunk people. Most people I contact are reasonably polite, but there's always a few that get VERY vocal about "knowing their rights," and that speech is usually peppered with curses and name calling. I find with these folks, it has little to do with how I act or what I say; they've had a past experience with law enforcement that was not pleasant, and seem to have generalized that to mean all cops are out to get them.

I don't mean to be inflamitory, but I honestly find from my experience that the people who are most concerned with this sort of 'what not to tell the cops' stuff are interested because they want to know how to hide their not-so-lawful activities. These are usually teens and young adults who have drug use problems, or alcohol problems, or both. I don't mean to imply that everyone who is concerned about their rights is automatically a criminal, but I really have found that the people who most often talk about their rights with me also get very upset... usually due to fear that I am about to find out something they don't want me to know. And that is usually that they have some dope in their pocket, or that they're a minor and have been drinking, etc.
Most people I contact are reasonably polite, but there's always a few that get VERY vocal about "knowing their rights,"

Ah, perhaps that's the crux of it. From the tone of the original, it sounded like you found that most people were the screaming type:

Now, with all that in mind, do you think maybe it would be appreciated when you are talking with someone, and they're actually polite and respectful? You know, someone who actually replies to you in a civil tone instead of screaming, "I know my rights, I don't have to answer your questions! Am I being detained?!?"

Frankly, a little courtesy and honesty works wonders on me. Those are the folks I remember, and the ones that I wave to when I see them, and the ones that help me remember that not every one hates me, and that there are people out there worth serving.

But then again, who cares what I think? I'm just another f-ing pig on a power trip out to get people for no good reason, apparently. Or at least, that's what I'm told.

Going back and reading it again, I still read that you perceive there are at least a significant number that have issues with you/your position, and not that most people are "reasonably polite." Then again, perception is everything; what I see as politely maintaining my rights or telling an honest answer that an officer does not like, the officer may see as (borderline criminal) non-compliance. And as the guy who's 1) not armed and 2) less likely to be believed in court, I have less flexibility in how I'm perceived.

I really, honestly have nothing to hide. I had my first drink at 23, accidentally got drunk (miscalculated proof) once at 25 and knew I never wanted to do that again, and am way to much of a control freak to want to take any drug that may alter my mental state. I hardly have taken painkillers when prescribed them. My two tickets have been for a broken signal that was actually broken, and 59 in a 55 (I had the cruise set on 58 by my speedometer.) I'm quite boring, actually, and I'm okay with that.

My belief is that, in reality, the laws we have are to protect me, and sometimes protect criminals as well. You see, if I am doing nothing illegal, then no one should be able to bother me, peek into my affairs, use my time, etc. It is only when there is significant evidence that a person is doing something illegal that an investigation should begin. The whole idea of looking for illegal activities that people might be doing is backwards, and far more intrusive to the honest person than the criminal. In many cases, the search for criminal activity itself borders on punitive.

When I was young, I was parked in a public lot at night reading. (I didn't want to go home between my evening and night jobs.) I had two officers come up and tell me to get out of the car, frisk me, search the car, and keep me there well past when my shift started. I had nothing illegal in the car, was legally allowed to be there, and was completely cooperative. Nowadays I would know that the car didn't have to get torn apart, I didn't have to be frisked, and that I probably could have left long before they made me feel like i could leave. The reason they gave for all my hassle was that they had had problems in the area a few months ago. So, for their months old "problems" and my lack of knowledge, I nearly got fired.

A year or so ago, an accident occurred on the corner I lived on. Almost immediately, some people started trying to move things, and I started taking photos. (I did call 911 first.) As it turns out, the guys moving things caused the accident, and were moving things so the half-conscience guy looked to be at fault.

After the police, fire, and ambulance arrived and put the guy who was hurt in the ambulance, an EMS guy heard from my neighbor that I had taken photos. He told a fireman, who told a police officer, and suddenly I had two of them walking up to me in my yard, one with hand on holstered pistol, to talk about that. They asked if I took photos, and I said yes. They asked why, and I told them that they were for personal reasons. (I take a lot of photos.)

Long story short, they hassled me for 15 minutes, including screaming at me, while I kept a calm voice. They strongly suggested they may delete my photos, take my memory card, take my camera, smash my camera, raid my house, and shoot my dogs (inside my house), plus subpoena me and my camera and memory card, plus arrest me and my wife. I kept asking if the law allowed that, in a way that required a yes or no, and got changed subjects. I did manage to get from them that I had not done anything illegal in taking the photos, but that it was just "in poor taste." I verified that I was not under arrest, and free to go, and walked away from them (still yelling) and into my house.

I still have the (boring) photos, and nothing came of it. But I did find out that the guy who was hurt was the neighbor of one of the local police officers, and had feuded with him over a fence placement. And I found out (from my deputy uncle) that the officers who talked to me were the nice guys who only have trouble with belligerent criminal types. But if I had not known my rights, I'd have caved and deleted the photos, thinking I had to. And had I gotten angry and yelled back, I'd probably have ended up in jail, only to have the charges dropped.

And I've never had so hard a time staying calm as when I watched a fireman point two policemen toward me, and then watched them put on their "stern" faces, one put his hand on his gun, and walk my way. For doing something completely legal, that they knew was completely legal.

If these are the local "nice" officers, and they treated me that way, how can you expect people to react to police officers? Doing nothing wrong does not protect an innocent person from someone who believes he is doing the right thing and has a badge.
your cop story reminds me of a few cases of mine... i was also questioned by the fbi for being a terrorist because i had a video on YouTube of lighting a firecracker haha, local law enforcement arent the only corrupt/ stupid ones out there

in short cops are always looking to make a name for themselves and the crooked ones( what seems like 99% of them) are going to do it in a very rude and right infringing way. We as the people supposedly have overall authority over them as said by our Constitution but because in a localized incident cops have the rights to just arrest you, the right you had in the beginning is now forfeited because your arrested.
I just wish our freedoms that we had in the 1950's would come back but that will never happen again, at least not in this country.
Personally i do break the law quite a bit, I really dont think the government should have the right to simply say' You owe them money' for a speeding ticket even though everyone else was going the same speed and they pulled you over because they had a quota to meet... The government has really gotten stronger since 9/11 because it gave them public opinion to do all kinda of crazy laws because its in the interest of public saftely... personally id much rather have the right to determine what is safe for my own house and person than what the government says is safe. In california here its illegal to shoot someone unless they have already shot at you... I find that so stupid because it only takes one bullet to kill you and if your protecting yourself from a mugger then id rather not have to wait around for them to shoot me so i can shoot back legally... Yet law enforcement promotes laws like this for some denounced reason
people especially government should not have the power to ruin your life for things as petty as traffic violations or things you did that did not harm anyone physically or financially..
JoeMenthol, Sounds like you're like the vast majority of cops - just trying to help people out. If the internet wasn't full of stories of cops tasering people, conducting SWAT raids on innocent people, conducting no-knock entries and getting themselves killed, etc., it'd probably make your life easier, but the fact of the matter is that an encounter with a cop gives us the same anxiety that you have in approaching us - we have no idea what type of cop is walking toward us. I can see how your "if you're innocent you have nothing to hide" attitude makes sense from your viewpoint, but I also have enough cop buddies to understand how little accountability there really is. Look at Kathryn Johnston - dead because cops lied about undercover buys and informants. The stories aren't exactly rare. Would you trust cops? At any rate, if I ever run into you in real life, I can assure you that I'll be polite, courteous, and honest, but I'll also insist on my rights.
Pfhorge, I agree with you and derekthegeek.

Joe, when you approach someone, the difference between you and the other person is significant:

  • The person you're going up to may have a weapon, he/she knows you have a gun and a taser. And tasers don't exactly have a reputation of being used sparingly.
  • If you hurt the person you're dealing with, it will most likely be considered unnecessary force, if the other person hurts you, it will be considered assault on a police officer.
  • You have a bullet proof vest, we have nothing.
  • No matter what we do, people usually side with the police.
  • Police openly admit that they lie all the time to get the information they want. If I lie to you, it opens me up to your discretion, as most cops hate being lied too.
People assert their rights, not to be rude, but because we have to. If I don't demand a lawyer, I don't know what you may turn around and use against me. There are just too many stories of injustice floating around, and the unfortunate truth is that I cannot trust just any cop walking around. If I do decide to answer your questions, I may get mixed up about something and find myself arrested.

Just like it's better for you to assume I'm dangerous when you approach me, it's best for me to assume you're dangerous.
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