What to do during a police encounter...

Discussion in 'General Self Defense' started by jks9199, Dec 12, 2009.

  1. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    CAVEAT: I am not speaking officially, nor am I giving legal guidance. I'm offering my personal insights and opinions as a law enforcement officer in the United States.

    As tempted as I am, I'm not going to start with Chris Rock's video -- even though it's actually got some good advice, cached as comedy. Towards the end, I'm going to pull up some links to the advice given by several police departments.

    There are lots of reasons for the police to make contact with you. To begin with, a police officer can walk up and talk to anyone who's willing to talk to them; this is a consensual encounter. It's easy to stop, too... Just say "I don't want to talk to you right now." That's it. Don't go into a harangue about how the cops are always picking on you or whatever... The cop is just doing his job. He may even just be bored!

    There are times that the police will stop you, and be a bit more insistent. They need reasonable articulable suspicion to detain you briefly for investigation; that suspicion can come from facts and circumstances relayed to them (like a lookout for a suspect), a complaint or tip called into the PD, or simply a combination of things that they can point to, which based on their training and experience suggest that "criminal activity may be afoot." Answer the officer's questions. Be polite. If they ask for ID, give it to them. You CAN inquire politely about why they're detaining you -- but understand they may not give full details. The officer may pat you down briefly for weapons, if they have reason to suspect weapons. (I routinely pat down gang members, for example, because I know, based on my training and experience, that gang members carry concealed weapons.) They may also handcuff you, depending on exactly what they know. For example, if you match the physical description of a wanted suspect... you're probably getting cuffed till they figure out what's up. If you're not doing anything wrong, the officer will probably get enough information to dispel their suspicions and send you on the way.

    Finally, you might be stopped because you did indeed do something wrong. This may be traffic related (speeding, rolling a stop sign, missing tags, etc.) or because you're trespassing in a closed park, or some other violation of the law that you may not even be aware of. You won't be given a chance to leave here... You're in the wrong -- even if you didn't know it. (I'm assuming that nobody here will deliberately commit a serious violation of the law!) The officer will conduct an investigation; for a traffic stop, that means collecting your license, registration, and any other paperwork, probably checking the license status, and deciding whether or not to issue a ticket. The details will vary depending on exactly what they're dealing with.

    My advice is going to boil down to go with the program. There's a time and place to argue and to complain. It's not in the field. But:

    • Be polite. Answer the officer's questions -- or if you choose not to, say nothing.
    • Common law does permit you to resist a wrongful arrest (state laws may vary!). However, unless you are beyond certain that it's wrongful... I'd strongly urge you to simply cooperate. Complain later, and defend yourself at court. It's a really good bet that you'll still go to jail -- and the resisting arrest charge or assault on an officer charge may stick even if the original charge didn't.
    • Listen carefully to the officer; more than one person has argued themselves into a ticket or arrest because they got indignant as an officer tried to offer them a break.
    • On a traffic stop:
      • Remain in your car until/unless asked to exit.
      • Turn off your radio and hang up your cell phone. I assure you -- the cop is the most important person to listen to during the stop! He's the one who will be deciding about giving you a ticket, or even whether you go to jail.
      • At night -- turn on the dome light so that the officer can see inside your car.
      • Be polite; treat the cop the same way you want him to treat you.
      • Don't move around a lot, and keep your hands in plain view. YOU know you don't have a gun in your glove box and that you just dropped your wallet under your seat. The cop doesn't.
      • If you get a ticket -- don't argue it on the side of the road. The cop's probably literally got his butt in traffic, and he's not going to want to listen. Take your ticket, sign if necessary, and come to court. Let the judge decide who was right.
    • In a field encounter/subject stop:
      • Stand still, and don't put your hands in your pockets. You know you don't have a gun or hand grenade in your pocket; the cop doesn't!
      • Be polite; treat the cop the same way you want to be treated.
      • HANG UP YOUR CELL PHONE. Don't talk on the Bluetooth headset, either.
      • Listen to the officer's questions; answer them or don't -- but don't argue or complain.
      • If you are arrested -- don't resist. Yes, you may be justified in resisting an unlawful arrest. You almost certainly won't succeed. You stand a good chance of getting hurt. You may not be able to get a bond. And you aren't guaranteed to win at trial, either.
    • Search and seizure, and Miranda rights are both too big a topic for me to address here.
    • Handcuffs:
      • Yes, they're uncomfortable. We know; who do you think we practice putting them on?
      • Generally, the "hole" is oval. Your wrist is oval, too. If you twist and turn... you'll end up with the long axis of your wrist running across the short axis of the cuff. The cuff is steel; it's not going to give very much.
      • Yes, you will almost certainly be cuffed with your hands behind your back. Most agency general orders require this. Officer safety strongly encourages it. If you have shoulder injuries or other problems -- politely tell the officer. He is responsible for your safety -- and will do what he REASONABLY can to work around your injury.
      • You can be cuffed without being arrested. A common phrase at that point is "You're not under arrest; I'm just putting these on for your safety and mine."

    What if you think the cop was wrong, rude, unjustified? First, don't argue in the field. It's not the time or place. Argue your case in front of a judge. If you think the officer did something wrong, file a complaint. Speak to his supervisor. If you aren't satisfied, go up the chain. Just like yelling at the cash register clerk isn't likely to solve a consumer problem, yelling at the cop in the street isn't going to improve your situation. And can make it much worse. If the agency isn't responding, go to the state attorney general or state police (or both). If they don't respond -- got to the FBI.

    OK... I said I wouldn't start with it -- but here it is:


    Links: I scanned these quickly; they seem decent, and actually represent a few takes. My agency is deliberately not included, as I am not speaking officially.

    What Are Your Rights If You Are Stopped By The Police | ExpertLaw

    Police Traffic Stops and Vehicle Searches: FAQs - FindLaw

    What to Do When Stopped by a Police Officer

    What to Do If the Police Stop You

    http://www.ric.edu/campuspd/documents/whattodo.pdf

    http://bloomington.in.gov/documents/viewDocument.php?document_id=912
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2017
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  2. Jenny_in_Chico

    Jenny_in_Chico Black Belt

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    I laughed my *** off at that video! Thanks for a great start to my day, jks! :D
     
  3. Carol

    Carol Crazy like a...

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    Being able to keep your cool in a bad situation does a lot of good things. It immediately brings you more respect, and it can help get you out of trouble if you're in trouble.

    If you are in a situation where you feel you've been wronged, and want to seek redress, keeping your cool will help your memory of the situation. This will help you be more consistent when it is time to tell your side of the story.

    Personally I think this is true in just about any bad situation, whether one is in a police encounter, confronted by a boss, or in trouble at school.
     
  4. KenpoTex

    KenpoTex Senior Master

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    Thanks for taking the time to put that together.

    As an expansion of the "don't talk" part of your "either talk them or don't" portion, I would offer the following:
    "Don't talk to the police"

    This vid. has been discussed here before in the Gen. SD subforum but for those that have never watched this, it's well worth the time it takes. The advice giiven in this video mirrors the advice I've seen given on other forums by guys who are lawyers and, in one case, a current attorney who is a former judge.
     
  5. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Great advice, thanks! Funny video, too.

    Couple of thoughts...

    On being handcuffed; most police officers will remember to double-lock them, so they will not tighten down. However, it's probably a very good idea not to lean back on the cuffs if you're being transported. If they are not double-locked, they will tighten down and cut off the blood flow to your hands. It's really painful.

    With regard to being cuffed while not under arrest...I have to disagree ever so slightly. The word 'arrest' literally means 'stop'. If you are free to leave, you are not under arrest. If you are not free to leave, you are under arrest. You can be arrested without being charged with a crime. You can be cuffed and detained for a short period of time; as jks9199 says, for both the officer's and the subject's safety. However, if you are cuffed, you are not free to leave; and that means one thing. You are in fact under arrest.

    Here is a link to the famous ACLU "Bust Card." It's a PDF file. You can download it, print it, and fold it in quarters to fit in your wallet or purse. Good reference material to have with you, although you really should read it and understand it before you need it.

    http://www.aclu.org/drug-law-reform...al-justice/know-your-rights-what-do-if-youre-

    As a former LEO, I can't tell you how many times people I've arrested have told me that "You can't do that," or "I know my rights, I demand a lawyer," or "You can't arrest me unless you tell me what the charges against me are," or "Take these cuffs off and I'll kick your ***," (love that one) or "I'll have your badge," or "I'm going to sue the city and you and I'm going to own you, punk!" It used to get quite comical at times. I have no idea where people get these nutty ideas about what their rights are.

    The advice given by the O/P is terrific. Read and heed. Download and read the ACLU Bust Card. Great advice there too. Arguing with a cop is always a bad idea, and raising your hand to a police officer is the same as saying you'd like your butt kicked right now, please, as Chris Rock said.
     
  6. Archangel M

    Archangel M Senior Master

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    As with almost ALL things LE, it comes down to articulation.

    State v. Pfleiderer, held that use of handcuffs in a detention situation where the officer cannot or does not articulate a reasonable justification for the handcuffing makes the detention a de facto arrest. It is presumed that the use of handcuffs is associated with arrests. Officers need to overcome that presumption by explaining why the cuffs were necessary.

    This can be as simple as being a lone officer in a secluded area, lies from the subject, indications that the subject looked like he was going to flee based on body language or other indicators. Too many cops think that "articulation" is some complex hurdle. All it comes down to is the question of "can you explain why you did it?" Most of the times that "gut feeling" that something is wrong is correct and if you think about it you can point out indicators of what caused that "gut feeling". Thats articulation.
     
  7. Archangel M

    Archangel M Senior Master

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    And don't forget the ever so popular "YOU DIDN'T READ ME MY RIGHTS!!"
     
  8. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    While it is true that, in the strictest sense, any detention (including a traffic stop) is an arrest, the US Supreme Court has also consistently drawn a line between formal arrest and investigatory detentions. Handcuffing does not move an encounter from an investigatory detention to an arrest by itself, though it certainly raises the level of the detention. If asked by a prospective employer "Have you ever been arrested?", most people are not going to list traffic stops or brief investigatory detentions. Nor do all of the same constitutional concerns come into play.

    You can certainly be handcuffed without being subject to the formal process of arrest. For example, say an officer runs a suspect, and returns a wanted hit based on name and DOB. The basic physical description is reasonably close, as well. Most officers will handcuff that person while confirming the warrant. If the confirmation comes back with some significant detail, say a large tattoo or scar that is not present on the detained subject, they'll be released. Or simply that their is no extradition authorized...
     
  9. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    I understand, but I think it's a distinction without a difference. If one is handcuffed and 'detained' but not arrested, one is not free to walk away. Anyone not free to walk away is technically under arrest. However, I take your point.
     
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  10. Archangel M

    Archangel M Senior Master

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    There is obviously a legal distinction... otherwise I wasted a LOT of time in the academy on Terry V Ohio.
     
  11. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Yes, as I said, a distinction without a difference. When I was in the USMC, as an MP we did not 'arrest' people. We placed them under military apprehension. Net difference? None. Same handirons, same gray-bar hotel. If we had to put the habeus grabbus on a civilian, whom we technically had no jurisdiction over, we did not arrest them either. We 'detained them' for civilian authorities. Net difference? None. Same handirons, same seat on the bench in front of the Desk Sgt until the FBI came to cart them away.

    If you're not free to walk away, you've been arrested. I know there are lots of different words for it...
     
  12. Archangel M

    Archangel M Senior Master

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    I see where you are going Bill and I get it. But as you we an LEO at one time you KNOW that there is a BIG difference when you take a case to court. This job is all about semantics at times.
     
  13. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Yes indeed. You are quite right.
     
  14. sgtmac_46

    sgtmac_46 Senior Master

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    One of my personal favorites.......
     
  15. sgtmac_46

    sgtmac_46 Senior Master

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    Well, it's actually a more important distinction than that........a stopped motorist is not free to walk away, but the courts have upheld time and again that he's not under arrest.

    'Detention' and 'Arrest' have very clear differences in some very important ways.
     
  16. Carol

    Carol Crazy like a...

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    Arrests become matters of public record where "detentions" and the like do not, yes? So, if I'm running a pre-hire background check on a candidate, that report could potentially tell me the arrest record of the candidate but it wouldn't reveal a "detention record".

    Not advocating an arrest record check for a pre-hire screen, the EEOC would prefer a candidate is screened of,
     
  17. Tez3

    Tez3 Sr. Grandmaster

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    I would add here 'don't always assume the worst'. A police officer may stop you in your car for example because you have a light out, now here anyway, that doesn't mean he's necessarily going to do you for it. The police understand that you may not have known and are often in the first place just informing you and telling you to get it fixed as soon as you can. Going into a 'you can't stop me, have you nothing better to do, you should be out catching real criminals' routine will make the officer think that after all he/she will do you for that light plus anything else they can find.
    A while back my other half was driving in Leeds, a very big city compared to where we live and somewhere with one way streets, a lot of lanes in the roads including bus lanes which he inadvertantly ended up on. A police car pulled him over, he apologised saying he was lost and was in a muddle, they didn't charge him or fine him instead they got in their car and told him to follow them to where he wanted to be. It was much appreciated.

    Police officers don't want to charge people, they want people to be safe on the roads, not cause accidents that they have to mop up and not to have reams of paperwork because people have been stupid. It make life so much easier for everyone if people keep their cool, don't get radged at the police and it's so much easier to sort out.
    It may be that you are stopped in the street, if you have done nothing wrong there is no point in ranting and raving, it really should be a citizens duty to help the police. Again don't assume the worse, they may just be asking if you'd seen someone running away past you etc, ranting and raving at them just because they've stopped you and not giving them a chance to explain is asking for trouble. I've heard of cases like where a police car has stopped a youth in the street just to ask where an address was and he's run like hell away from them so they chased him and found him carrying drugs. If he'd kept his cool waited to see what they'd wanted they'd have been on their way with them none the wiser, as it was they laughed all the way to the nick.


    Here the military police can't apprehend civilians and can only perform 'citizens arrests' which don't involve hancuffs. The only powers that they have come from military laws which only the military come under and each service here has different laws. In a war situation it changes as you'd expect.

    Arresting and being charged are different here as has been discussed on different threads.
     
  18. stungunsusa

    stungunsusa White Belt

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    I found the following video to be most helpful on the subject matter:

     
  19. Jenna

    Jenna Senior Master

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    Very interesting video.. why do I feel sparks of adrenaline when I watch the encounters in the little vignettes in the video I wonder.. anyway good vid thank you (and welcome to MT)
     
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  20. Balrog

    Balrog Master Black Belt

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    I've been asked what should be done in a police encounter. I tell them that there are two guidelines to follow:

    1. Be polite and comply immediately with the officer's directions.
    2. If in doubt, see guideline #1.
     

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