The police and your rights
This year promises to be one of increased activity by the RNPA and its supporters. With this in mind, and with the way some things have escalated in the past with the police, (not with the RNPA but on the national scene), it is important that all of us understand the nature of the police and the protocol that you should follow when dealing with them.
First of all you must remember that not all police are alike. Some are good, and some are not so good. Much of the problem that arises between citizens and the police occur because of the Blue Code, i.e., police always stick together even when one commits a grievance or terrible wrong. This creates an us vs. them mentality, on both sides. You have to understand that this tendency by the police is quite natural as they have to create a great deal of trust in the ranks because often their lives depend on it.
This becomes even more complicated because some police agencies have allowed themselves to become politicized by such sinister groups like the Anti-Defamation League.
Then there is the complacency factor. Many police do not want to be bothered by the conflicts that arise in a racially and/or politically charged situation. They would rather be sitting in a coffee shop eating a doughnut and sipping their coffee. Wouldn’t we all?? Consequently, many activists are viewed by police as troublemakers and a disruptive influence.
Still there are some dos and don’ts in dealing with police. Some of these are taken from a brochure put out by the American Civil Liberties Union.
1. Be polite and respectful. Never bad-mouth a police officer.
2. Stay calm and in control of your words, body language and emotions.
3. Don’t get into an argument with the police.
4. Remember, anything you say or do can be used against you.
5. Keep your hands where police can see them.
6. Don’t run. Don’t touch any police officer.
7. Don’t resist even if you believe you are innocent.
8. Don’t complain on the scene or tell the police they’re wrong or that you’re going to file a complaint.
9. Do not make any statements regarding the incident. Ask for a lawyer immediately upon your arrest.
10. Remember officer’s badge & patrol car numbers.
11. Write down everything you remember ASAP.
12. Try to find witnesses & their names & phone numbers.
13. If you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you seek medical attention first.
14. If you feel your rights have been violated, file a written complaint with the police department’s internal affairs division or civilian complaint board.
15. 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 bad-mouth a police officer.
16. You don’t 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.
17. Do not interfere with, or obstruct the police - you can be arrested for it.
18. It’s not a crime to refuse to answer questions, but refusing to answer can make the police suspicious about you. You can’t be arrested merely for refusing to identify yourself on the street.
19. Police may “pat down” your clothing if they suspect a concealed weapon. Don’t physically resist, but make it clear that you don’t consent to any further search.
20. Ask if you are under arrest. If you are, you have a right to know why.
21. Don’t bad-mouth the police officer or run away, even if you believe what is happening is unreasonable. That could lead to your arrest.
22. If you are stopped in your car, upon request, show them your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. In certain cases your car can be searched without a warrant as long as the police have probable cause. To protect yourself later, you should make it clear that you do not consent to a search. It is not lawful for police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.
23. If you’re given a ticket, you should sign it; otherwise you can be arrested. You can always fight the case in court later.
24. You have a right to remain silent and to talk to a lawyer before you talk to the police. Tell the police nothing except your name and address. Don’t give any explanations, excuses or stories. You can make your defense later, in court, based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.
25. Ask to see a lawyer immediately. If you can’t pay for a lawyer, you have a right to a free one, and should ask the police how an attorney can be contacted. v