Imgur user ToHyruleInTheTardis offers some helpful advice for people with questions about how to interact with the police.
“Ive decided to make a post from an officers point of view on how to make an interaction with the police a little more pleasant. Hopefully most of you wont need this, but it couldnt hurt to know.
1/9. Drug Use
First off, a free piece of advice, so you know Im not just in this to make my life easier.
If youre going to do drugs, for the love of god, dont 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 Ive made because of burned out headlights would astonish you.
2/9. Being Stopped By The Police.
If you do get stopped by the cops, just dont be a dick. I know it seems simple enough, but it has to be said.
First of all, its 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 slept with his mom last night. It doesnt work like that. No matter how creative you are, and how much you try to get under our skin, I can almost guarantee, weve heard worse. We spend our days dealing with the worst society has to offer, theres not much you can say thats going to bother us anymore.
If you do decide youd 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 dont 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 dont like what Im doing, then Ill go ahead and pay myself for that time.
Your car is the most susceptible to searches. All an officer needs to search a car is probable cause.
Probable cause means that there is enough evidence to make a reasonable person believe that there is some sort of unlawful activity. I can’t just make up probable cause. I have to be able to back it up, and explain what about you, or your car, makes me think something is going on, and I have to explain it in a way that an average, reasonable person would come to the same conclusion.
Being nervous: not good enough. Everyone is nervous when they get pulled over. Hell I’m a cop, and I get nervous when I get pulled over (Yes. It happens.)
Want to know what does give us probable cause? The smell of marijuana. Thats right, if I pull you over, and you roll down the window, and I get a big ol whiff of pot smoke, I now have the right to search your car.
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4/9. Consent, by it’s very definition, means voluntary.
If you know there’s nothing in your car, and you don’t mind letting the cops search, then go ahead and consent. You have the right to say no, but if you’re ok with it, and it makes you feel more comfortable to let them search, go for it.
Now, the more complicated stuff. The police can’t force you to consent, and they can’t threaten you. They can try to persuade you, but that’s a fine line.
If a cop asks for consent, and you say no, and they say something along the lines of “If you don’t have anything to hide, there’s no reason not to let me search”, that isn’t coercion, it’s just a last ditch effort. Yeah, it may make you feel insulted or uncomfortable, but it isn’t across that line yet.
Threatening to call a K-9 is the first step across that line. I’ve seen cases like this go both ways, so it’s hard to make a hard line rule on this one. Anything beyond that means you are no longer giving consent voluntarily, and it’s no longer a good search.
How fast can I go before I get pulled over for speeding?
Heres the simple answer. If youre going 1 mph over the speed limit, you can be stopped. Many of you will scoff at that, but heres the more complicated explanation. If an officer is simply on traffic enforcement, then yeah, you can probably get away with going 5-10 over before hes going to bother stopping you.
BUT the courts have ruled that police can use a traffic violation as a reason to stop a vehicle as a pretext to conducting an unrelated investigation.
What that means is, if a cop has a hunch about you, maybe thinks you might have drugs in the car, he can use any traffic violation (even speeding by 1 mph) as a reason to stop you and give him a reason to talk to you.
No police department in the history of forever has ever had quotas. Thats probably an exaggeration, what do I know, I cant poll every department in the history of forever.
I have much better uses for time travel than that. My point is, quotas are a myth invented by people that are pissed off because they got a ticket for what they consider a bullshit reason. Im not saying that departments dont track statistics. Of course they do. If youre the slacker on your shift, yeah, you might catch some heat for being lazy, but there are no mandatory minimums that I have ever heard of.
So why do cops pull people over for such stupid reasons?
Pretty much every major crime since the invention of the automobile has involved someone driving a car, either before, during, or after. Traffic stops are one of the most useful tools for investigating.
The Oklahoma City bomber? Caught because he was missing a license plate on his car.
The Hollywood bank shootout? Those suspects were actually caught on a traffic stop with rifles, handguns, enough ammo to invade a small, poorly armed country, body armor, smoke grenades, and homemade bombs 4 years prior to the shootout. They served 100 days in jail, and did 3 years on probation.
Thats why cops rely so heavily on traffic stops.
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7/9. Traffic Stops.
If you get pulled over, and you just want to make the stop go as smoothly as possible, here’s my best advice.
First, as soon as you see the lights, put both hands on the steering wheel, and keep them there until the cop asks you to hand him something. It makes us nervous when you start reaching around your car, and we can’t see what you’re reaching for.
Any time the cop asks you to hand him something that you need to reach for, tell him where you are reaching first. It may feel a little silly, but it makes us more comfortable knowing where you are reaching. As for how to talk to the cop, just be calm, polite, and honest.
If you know you screwed up, just say so. It’s refreshing to hear the truth instead of an excuse from time to time. Also, if you feel like cracking a joke, go for it. Unless it’s poking fun at us, it won’t hurt, and it could help.
If you’re uncomfortable pulling over, either because it’s an unmarked car, or you’re in a dark area, put your flashers on so the cop knows you see him, and call 9-1-1.
A dispatcher will be able to verify whether or not it’s actually a cop, and can relay to the officer that you see him, and that you just don’t feel comfortable pulling over until you’re in a better lit, or more populated area.
8/9. Dont Believe What You See On TV.
We know more about our job than you do.
Yes, I understand youve seen every episode of SVU and CSI and NCIS and all those other alphabet shows. Heres a newsflash. TV doesnt 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 youd ever care to know.
My biggest pet peeve from these TV-educated lawyer wanna-bes: Miranda. Yes, you are under arrest. No, I dont have to read you your rights. Miranda only comes into play when there is custodial interrogation, meaning youre under arrest, and Im going to ask you questions. If I just watched you punch some guy in the face, I dont need to ask you any questions about it.
9. 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 dont ride with partners anymore.
The best way I can make that relatable to most people is, think of the longest car trip youve 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.
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 youre aware of your local and state laws.”