Tips for All Citizens
Just like everything else there is a right way and a wrong way to interact with police officers.
Being pulled over by police while driving on the highway can be frustrating or stressful. Having the police knock on your front door where you live can make you nervous. Being frisked by police while out for a Sunday ride on your bicycle can be very intrusive. These are times when your behavior is important. It is important to follow certain general behavioral patterns that best assure a safe, trouble free encounter with law endforcement.
1.) Ignore any rash impulses.
Many different emotions may experienced by those who are encountering the police. Some may experience fear, while others may become angered. These emotions are prone to making us have profound reactions, or acting prematurely before we think. One important thing to keep in mind when ecountering police is to remain calm and to ignore any impulse to to have an emotional reaction.
If you are a bystander and not the subject of police focus you should pocket your emotions, opinions, or desire to intercede. Stay clear and yeild to the actions of law enforcement. Take extra care not to interfere with the police officer's ability to assess and contol the situation.
2.) Remain calm.
Take a deep breath. Tell yourself that for the next few minutes you must be humble and submit to the will of someone else. Keep in mind that the encounter is most likely just a temporary inconvenience.
3.) Wait for instruction.
Make no assumptions about how you are expected to act. Do not reach into your glove box or start digging into your pocket in anticipation of your next move. Do not exit your vehicle. Do not take any voluntary actions except that which is minimally required, or commanded of you.
4.) Listen closely.
Listen closely to what is being said by the police officers and do only what is instructed by them. Do not speak over the officers. This is a time when the only speaking you should do is to answer questions. Anything the police officers say that you miss or do not hear could be informtion or instruction that could cost you your life if fail to hear it or if it is left ignored.
5.) Comply in a timely manner.
If officers instruct you to do something, like tell you to get on the ground, or put your hands being your back, do so without pause. Any excessive time you spend pausuing, talking, or taking any action that is not being requested by police will only cause a build up of stress and caution for police, and will not help your situation at all.
The more demanding or intrusive the request made by police means the more officers are concerned for their own safety. It is important that these requests are followed as they are commanded of you. Pausing or hesitating to comply with a command by police to submit can be interpreted as an act of actual aggression toward police.
6.) Use empathy.
While encountering members of law enforcement it is important that, for the moment, you put your own will and interests on hold. Your entire perspective should shift to seeing the situation from the officers point of view. Awareness of the officer's safety is key, as any contempt for officer safety can come at a big price to be paid by you. The more aware of the role of the police officer and the course of what law enforcement is trying to accomplish will insure that your own safety during interaction.
7.) Be polite and respectful.
Nobody likes being the subject of search, being stopped, or being questioned by police. There is an old saying “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” By being polite and cooperative with police you are assuring that your own experience is only as negative as it has to be. You can be assured that any rudeness, aggression, or unfavorable behavior that you exhibit during your encounter with police is not only going to make it harder for police to do their job, but will result in a more negative experience for yourself. By cooperating and being respectful you allow the police to do their job more easily and this fact will not be overlooked in how the police will treat you.
8.) Do not attempt to challenge police authority in order to assert your rights.
Everyone, including the police know what your rights are. It is not a good time to try to educate or argue with a police officer regarding your rights while encountering them. You may express yourself concerning your rights as appropriate or as needed, but any actual confrontation is not advised. If your rights are actually being violated there is a time and place for such a matter to be considered and it is doubful that police are going to yield to your constitutional protections through verbal confrontation.
Most courtroom cases of constitutional law violations that end favorable to citizens are when those citizens have not challenged or become confrontational to police in the field. By asserting yourself too strongly you are standing the chance of simply preventing the police from doing their job effectively, and ruining your chance of asserting your rights in a courtroom later on. If you desire a safe and peaceful encounter with police with the least inconvenience it is sometimes best to leave the arguing attorney in you at home. Your rights will still be there when your day in court arrives.
8.) Under no circumstances should you ever evade arrest.
To do so is foolish on all levels and may, or may not cost you your life.
Cooperating with law enforcement during a detainment or arrest can come with some instant benefits. It is common sense that tells us that your encounter with the police and your stay in jail is going to be much less hard for you when you simply cooperate and not make the job of the police any harder than it should be. Not one person has ever successfully evaded police because you are only putting unreasonable stress and danger upon yourself and others when any wrong doing you have done will eventually come out in the wash.
I remember once when a police car was opposite of me at a busy traffic light. I knew the officer had most likely just seen me enter the roadway from a trail that motorized vehicles were forbidden to use. The cop driving the patrol car had to wait for the traffic to clear and then had to make a u-turn before he could even get to me. This would be expected to take some considerable time. When my light turned green first the patrol car was still stuck in traffic. I could have easily put a lot of distance between us if I had made a run for it on my high speed motorcycle that is more likely than any other type of vehicle to successfully evade police. Instead I drove slowly as I watched the patrol car's overhead lights. I pulled over as soon as the lights went on even though we weren't even on the same road yet. It still took a minute for the officer to actually get behind my bike. When he walked up to me the first thing he said was, "As long as you don't have any warrants you are free to go." He explained that he appreciated that I had owned up to my wrong doing and did the right thing right away. He also didn't have to tell me that he knew that I had an advantage if I had chose to attempt to flee. It was my girlfriends birthday that day and we had celebrated with some good Kentucky scotch bourbon just a few minutes earlier. Was I driving unsafe? No, well, yes, when I was on the trail. Was I impaired beyond the legal threshold? Yes. Was I breaking the law, and did I deserve arrest? Yes. When the cop came back to give me my license he told me, "Don't ever ride your motorcycle on that trail again, okay?" I made a promise to the cop I wouldn't (and I have honored that promise to this day) and he let me go after making sure that I was fit enough to drive home. My girlfriend who was riding with me told me in my ear as we drove away that she had a warrant for her arrest for a failure to appear in court. The cop never ran her name, but had I not made the effort to cooperate like I did, I am sure he would have run my girlfriend's name for warrants. We both would probably have gone to jail that day instead of heading home to celebrate some more.