They’re out there on the streets every day, serving and protecting, and they see a lot in an eight hour shift. It doesn’t take long for a police officer to get really good at picking up on those signals that someone might be up to no good. Police officers on askReddit share what they consider to be suspicious behavior.
Comments have been edited for clarity. Link to the source be found at the end of the article.
Driving a third party rental car. That’s a rental where the person who rented it isn’t present.
Pointing a direction when asked where your coming from. Typically when asking someone where they’re coming from, they’ll point in a direction while trying to think about a good answer. They’re buying time.
When speaking to someone, if they’re looking around and pulling up their pants, that’s a good indication they’re thinking about running.
My ex-cop teacher said that somebody trying to hide their face when they see him is a big red flag, as well as looking at him too much.
So is adjusting their coat (possibly to hide a weapon).
Police officer here, a few things.
Loitering in one spot and looking around constantly – could be a drug deal or someone scoping out a place to break in to/rob
When someone smashes on the brakes when they see the cruiser and swerve a little – probably doing something they aren’t supposed to – usually texting and driving.
Walking around in parking lots looking in to vehicles – yeah definitely looking at breaking in to vehicles.
People who cover their faces or look away when I walk in to a building – sometimes it’s someone who has a warrant for their arrest, sometimes it’s just a really shy person or someone legitimately scared of police officers.
Someone in my town had their car break down near some apartments (his name is Dummy). A nice cop stopped and offered to jump his car. Dummy accepted but took a backpack out of his car and walked it to a nearby apartment then came back without it. The officer, suspicious, asked him what was in the bag, to which Dummy said, “I didn’t want you to see the illegal stuff in that bag.” The cop then walked to the apartment and asked for the bag -which contained meth, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, bags, syringes, and tie-offs.
Brother’s a cop. He told me the biggest give away is any time someone radically changes their behavior the moment they see him. Most people get a little tense around a figure of authority, but it’s when someone seems to have a real “knee-jerk” reaction to just the sight of a cop that they are really making it look like they are doing something wrong.
If you answer, Not to my knowledge about having something illegal in your car.
When you catch them in a lie (or several) within moments of first contact. If it’s one, and perhaps it’s due to trying to avoid embarrassment or some social thing, that’s fine. But when we have literally exchanged 4 sentences and I’ve caught you in as many or more lies, that’s usually a good sign to start investigating and get more focused.
Things usually run in pairs or groups, so I usually state the advice of “if you must break the law, try to only break one law at a time.”
I dated a policewoman for a while and she said there’s a trick question they ask people who were pulled over. Words to the effect of “What’s in the car boot (trunk in freedom speech), any dead bodies or atomic bombs?”
If the driver grins or looks oddly at it chances are there’s nothing wrong. If they look nervous it’s worth taking a look.
Friend who ‘s a cop always says, “two or more grown men sitting in a car after dark with the lights off, there’s bound to be drugs involved.”
Repeating my question before answering it. You’re stalling to buy time to lie.
My mums been a police officer for 30 years and says the most suspicious things are:
1.Hanging outside an area for too long, especially houses.
2.Having your hand in your pocket. Could be a knife.
3. Constantly looking over your shoulder and fidgeting about.
1. Going to walk out of a store and pulling your pants up just as you get close to the door.
2. Several people walk into a store and then split up while one asks for help with something.
3. Overly friendly behavior.
4. Answering questions I havent asked you yet.
My friend went on a drive along with a suburb police officer and they told him they are always suspicious when a single car is parked in the street when all the other cars in the neighborhood are parked on the driveway. Especially when the person leaves the car and walks farther away from it. I look for the same thing now and have seen everything from kids smoking weed at the park, kids tee-peeing a house, and even kids breaking into cars… like I said this is in a nice suburban neighborhood.
Bumper stickers and waving hello. I got a kick out of the bumper stickers. Apparently if you have an excessive amount of bumper stickers that screams suspension.
Source: just asked my dad and brother, who are cops.
Dispatcher here, work with cops, not a cop. Just thought Id relay a couple stories relating to this topic.
During a ride along, we were driving through a shady part of town and passed a younger guy, probably in his late teens, early 20s. He proceeded to communicate with us in the same way Maverick and Goose communicated with the Soviet jet. You know, the bird? We just passed him, didnt stop him.
I asked the officer why he didnt stop. He asked me, Did you see him check his pockets before he gave us the finger?
I said no. He told me the guy was making sure he didnt have something on him before he did it. He was daring me to stop with him. He continued, by saying the problem was that he wasnt doing anything illegal and I dont have a good enough reason to stop out with him (probable cause). Its not illegal to flip off a police officer (though typically ill advised). He then said that if I stopped with him and found anything, itd likely get thrown out anyway because I had no reason to stop. Was one of the more eye opening incidents during my ride alongs.
Next story has more to do with me as a dispatcher, and how what the public thinks is suspicious isnt always what a police officer thinks is suspicious. Also, the public can be racist pigs.
I took a call from a lady calling from a community of older people. Probably an upper middle class neighborhood. She told me there was a suspicious person in the area knocking on doors. I asked her what made it suspicious (keep in mind, this was in the middle of the day, and someone knocking on doors isnt instantly suspicious).
She just said, Well, he doesnt belong here. I asked what she meant. She just repeated what she said. I asked her, specifically why he didnt belong (at this point, I was 99% sure what she was going to say, but I wanted to make sure she said it).
She said, Youre going to make me say it? Fine, hes a colored fellow. (Her words, not mine.) I told her that being black isnt suspicious. She said that she thinks hes casing the place looking for places to break into.
I didnt want to, but I was obligated to put a call in.
I made sure to put everything she told me in it. Officer went out with the guy and cleared himalmost as quickly as he arrived on scene.
Heres the thing: we got 2 more calls about this guy. After that, the sergeant (hes this huge white guy) called in and said If we get one more stinking call about this guy, we are not going. Hes a former drug addict trying to sell magazines or something to get back on his feet. We will not harass this guy anymore. If any of your callers has a problem with that, they can talk to me.
The cops are racist meme is popular, but its a societal problem, not just one with a small subset of the population.
When you ask a question and they don’t answer it. Take today for instance…
Me: “When was the last time you were in jail?”
Suspect: “I’ve been clean for 3 years.” Later on…
Me: “How did you get in the house today?”
Suspect: “I used to live here.”
Me: You don’t live here anymore, how did you get in the house, today, when we showed up?”
Suspect: “I lived here for 12 years.”
My grandpa was a police officer for years and sheriff. We also have a few family friends who’re cops. One thing I learned from them is that they look for drivers who drive perfectly. Normal people move side to side in their lane but sometimes drunk people try to “hide” by driving perfectly straight. They may also start slowing down way too soon.
Also, my grandpa said to always be careful of male drivers with hats…lol. But I think that was more in jest.
Ghetto city cop here. Here’s some things that come to mind (which weren’t already mentioned)…
If I pull a car over and the driver immediately lights up a cigarette I automatically think they have a warrant. Anyone that thinks they’re getting arrested will fire up one last smoke before going in.
If I drive by someone and they fix their pants at the sight of me they may be getting ready to run if they need to.
People who carry weapons will often touch the part of the body where they are carrying the weapon. It’s a subconscious nervous tick, especially at the sight of police.
During a pat down: if the suspect is clenching their butt real tight, there is a good chance they has some drugs buried up there…
A DUI driver will almost always mutter the words “I’m just trying to get home”
When you get behind a car and they immediately pull themselves over or pull into a gas station I find it suspicious, worth paying attention to.
Whenever someone I stop doesn’t have an ID I always ask how old they are before asking their date of birth. You can always tell when they’re making up a date of birth this way.. Criminals lie (go figure).
There’s a few.
Pulling over and not stopping immediately. So, pulling to the curb, but still rolling along. Something not good has always follow this move. Could be as simple as someone hiding their identification because their license is suspended and they want to try using their sister’s name or could be they’re hiding a gun. I’ve seen both plenty of times. The cop has no idea which one it is this time. Are you scared yet? Because the cop is.
I pulled up to a store late at night for coffee. I was in my personal vehicle but in uniform and these two kids in a Lexus immediately made me uncomfortable. So I walk in and this guy goes white as a ghost when he sees me but doesn’t leave.
I watch him while I get my coffee and I add my sugar. He is staring at the beer case super hard, like harder than anyone else I’ve ever seen. He picks up a can of 4 locos and gets in line. I walk up behind him. I get it, he has a fake ID. When I began asking him questions he couldn’t give me the name or date of birth. Well long story short, I let him go. We were all kids at one time.
But what caught my eye was how shifty he acted.
One time I parked my car under a street light in a dark parking lot about 2 am to finish my Jack in the Box sandwich, send an email from my phone, and listen to my satellite radio show that didn’t work in my garage.
All of a sudden my whole car lights up like the freaking sun, scares the crap out of me! It was a cop, and he asked me what I was doing and why I was there. I’m not one to argue with cops about what I need to answer or not, so I just told him flat out I was eating jack in box, listening to XM, and I’d parked under a street lamp there to try and NOT look suspicious! He looked at the egg sandwich in my lap, heard the radio, checked my ID (again, I don’t care if he had the right to or not, just doing his job, I don’t take it personally). I guess in retrospect it did look kinda shady of me.
If you’re driving a car with no license plate, you’re just asking to get pulled over. Many criminals will just take the license plates off the getaway car, or the car might be stolen and they’re driving it back to the chop shop. Either way, driving without a plate will get you pulled over and they’ll check the vehicle identification number to make sure it’s not wanted or stolen.
Constantly running a hand over a pocket, thumbing a pocket, fiddling with a pocket.
What’s in dat pocket!?
People seem to absent-mindedly draw attention to the very thing on their person, they don’t want attention to be drawn to. I’d love to know if there is a genuine psychological explanation for this.
Isn’t the case all the time of course. Sometimes people are just nervous and fiddly.
Not knowing the name of the friend whose house you were just at, just dropped off, on their way to pick up, and so forth is very suspicious.
A cop came to my school and told us that if a person has a bunch of air fresheners in their windshield, referred to as an “air freshener forest,” they likely have weed they’re trying to hide.
People who don’t look at you when you pull alongside them in traffic. Everyone else looks, think about the last time you saw a cop. Everyone goes “careful there’s a cop” and you go “a cop where?” Or one pulls next to you and you look over and then go “oh shit cop” and look away. Totally normal.
People who don’t look at all are going “act natural, act natural, act natural…”
I heard this from a friend who is a cop. If someone is walking down the street and had his hands in his pockets for no reason, it’s suspicious. He said that usually means they are trying to hold on to something (a weapon or something stolen) or trying to keep themselves from putting their hands somewhere they shouldn’t.
When stopped and engaged and the person is FAR too nice and FAR too cooperative and apologetic. It’s a huge red flag.
Back in college i had an orange 1968 Volkswagon that had come with Grateful Dead dancing bear stickers on the back. I got pulled over about once a week, but never got a ticket. For example, once I was going 20 in a 25 (looking for an address) and a cop pulled me over, “thought you were going a little slow back there.” After graduation, my firefighter dad gave me his red Ford F 150 that had the police and firefighter union sticker on the back window. I drove that truck for 15 years and never got pulled over once.