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November 7, 2013 9:50 AM   Subscribe


 
Not mentioned: don't be black.
posted by Valued Customer at 9:52 AM on November 7, 2013 [65 favorites]


Also, if you're at a large political event - don't be a young girl or old woman the police feel won't be a hassle to arrest because you're "blocking the sidewalk" by walking on it.
posted by The Whelk at 9:54 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not mentioned: don't be black.

I suspect that's exactly what is covered by "What if I can't be invisible to police?"
posted by griphus at 9:59 AM on November 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


I didn't see "never talk to cops about anything, ever, even if you don't think you have anything to hide", but I guess I shouldn't expect a former cop to be that up front about things.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:59 AM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


And if all else fails, apparently fouling yourself is an option? No thanks.
posted by Jaymzifer at 10:00 AM on November 7, 2013


Also, if you can help it, don't go out after dark.

Oh, OK. No problem.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:02 AM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm white, male, mid-thirties and I like to wear polo-shirts. I've never even talked to a cop except when I wanted to. So yeah, privileged backpack full and working!
posted by sebas at 10:03 AM on November 7, 2013 [18 favorites]


be strategically pitiful

Cower before the jack-booted feet of the enforcers.
posted by nathancaswell at 10:04 AM on November 7, 2013 [10 favorites]


Theme music.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 10:05 AM on November 7, 2013


Well that's depressing.
posted by Artw at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


"When cops see four young males in a car, they immediately wonder if this is a crew of criminals out to do a job."


*does not apply if white
posted by Kitteh at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2013


I misread this as an Ax-Cop's Guide.
posted by Green With You at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2013 [19 favorites]


"Don't smile"

Hm. That sounds really strange. I would expect most white American middle-class women to smile in just about any encounter. How does this jive with doing what's expected? Or are you just not part of the intended audience, since it's assumed that you just won't have to talk to the cops, ever (unless they're trying to hit on you)?
posted by tigrrrlily at 10:07 AM on November 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Be a white person who shoots an unarmed black teenager.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:08 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


So if you're speeding and you see a cop, don't slow down because they will see you brake and know you were speeding. But if you don't slow down, they will also know you are speeding because ... you will be speeding.

At least if I brake there's a chance the cop will note that I'm paying attention, and be grateful that I'm not speeding right now. And also flaunting it.
posted by penduluum at 10:13 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, the failure to mention race (except allusively, like don't drive a low-rider) feels pretty dishonest,
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:13 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Granted, I can't speak for every department in the US, and if it makes someone feel better about police/person dealings, then go ahead and follow these "instructions", but to my experience, this article is really over the top and subjective as hell.

Being a cop is a job, and in most places, not a very well paying job, especially given the danger. Like in any profession where there is a modicum of authority inherent, there are those who wake up in the morning wishing to screw someone over or to make up for their own deficiencies through power plays, but the vast majority of folks just want to make it through the day without having a hassle and go home to their families.

Citizens can be every much the jackass that some bad cops can be, and most officers I've spoken with or know just want to get through their shift with as few calls as possible without violating the rules or getting dragged into a civilian complaint issue or physical altercation.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:13 AM on November 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, just act in perfect compliance with all the requirements that authority figures would impose on you if they were in the room with you, and if that goes wrong, completely debase yourself. Great advice, thanks.

The thing about not braking is true, though, if the cops from my hometown are to be believed. One of them told me when I was a teenager, "you know, our radar guns are only really calibrated to within 5 mph or so, so we can't reliably know that someone is speeding until they're doing almost 10 over - UNLESS you hit the brakes when you see us. Then we know you were speeding. And we know you know."

Ever since then I have rigorously made it a habit to simply let off the gas if I notice my speed creeping up and/or notice a cop setting a speed trap. On the highway, you can lose 5mph of speed within a few seconds, with no front-end dip. So far, so good (knock on wood).
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 10:14 AM on November 7, 2013 [28 favorites]


So if you're speeding and you see a cop, don't slow down because they will see you brake and know you were speeding. But if you don't slow down, they will also know you are speeding because ... you will be speeding.

The sparks from the front bumper are a telltale sign you're braking a bit hard. You can slow down gently by downshifting or braking real easy and it won't look too bad.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 10:16 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ever since then I have rigorously made it a habit to simply let off the gas

Also gotta love Tiptronic (or stick). Let off the gas and drop the gears down without hitting the brakes and let the transmission slow the car down.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:16 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Have a friend run up and say "Quick! They're looting the Food King."

Nice to see the liberal stereotypes never go away though and there remains some small opposition to Big Bad Gov'mint even on the left.
posted by three blind mice at 10:17 AM on November 7, 2013


Hm. That sounds really strange. I would expect most white American middle-class women to smile in just about any encounter. How does this jive with doing what's expected? Or are you just not part of the intended audience, since it's assumed that you just won't have to talk to the cops, ever (unless they're trying to hit on you)?

A few years ago (I was probably 23 or 24) I was walking home (probably around midnight) alone down Harrison near the Greyhound Bus station here in Chicago. It's not the most delightful area, but I was walking home just fine. Weren't any other people around.

I had a cop pull up onto the sidewalk right in front of me, physically blocking my path with his car. He rolled down his window and said "are you lost, little girl?" What. "Uh, no?" I said, "I'm just walking home, I'm fine, thanks" and I smiled at him and walked out into the street to get around his car. He backed up into my path and grinned at me.

At that point I told him he was being a paternalistic fuck and that he needed to leave me the fuck alone.

Cops don't like that, either.
posted by phunniemee at 10:18 AM on November 7, 2013 [45 favorites]


What if I'm getting arrested specifically for not wearing pants? What am I supposed to defecate in then, Mister Super-Smart Ex-Cop?

(Honestly, that just seems to be a good way to spend a smelly weekend in psychiatric lock-up.)
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:23 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


"If you suddenly hit the brakes," Carson writes, "cops in front of you will see your front end dip..."

You can tell he's an ex-cop, most cars these days have much tighter suspensions than 1970's GM products did.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:24 AM on November 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


And remember boys and girls, never talk to police.
posted by The Bellman at 10:25 AM on November 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


Another reasonable thing you should never do? Allow a cop to search your car. There are many loopholes that allow cops to search your car without probable cause or a warrant, but Carson advises you to say no every time.

I don't think this is going to work, ever.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:25 AM on November 7, 2013


On the one hand, this is practical advice.

On the other hand, acknowledging this as practical advice is tacit acceptance of a police state.
posted by Zed at 10:26 AM on November 7, 2013 [51 favorites]


At that point I told him he was being a paternalistic fuck and that he needed to leave me the fuck alone.

Cops don't like that, either.


Well THANKS for making me laugh at what must otherwise have been a pretty shitty encounter.

hope it all turned out OK
posted by tigrrrlily at 10:30 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would expect most white American middle-class women to smile in just about any encounter.

I've been pulled over more than a few times (speeding, headlights out, other minor things), and smiling never crosses my mind. I'm always exceedingly polite (yes sir, no sir, may I reach in the back seat for my purse sir) and efficient. In the times that I've been in the wrong, I'm chagrined and want to get the hell back on the road. Eye contact yes, but no smile.

In the cases where I'm getting pulled over by someone with something to prove, prove to a woman traveling alone, there's no way in hell I'm going to smile. I will wind down the window far enough to do business, explaining that I'm a woman alone and that my family member is on the bluetooth/speaker phone listening to the transaction (that I called when I got pulled over). There are too many crazy people out there, both cops and people pretending to be cops, for me to take any risk. So nope, not gonna smile.
posted by librarianamy at 10:32 AM on November 7, 2013


Look up the laws where you live concerning stop and ID (sorry CA and CO, you're fucked) and depending on anything else that isn't a traffic stop, do not engage them at all unless you're the one who called them there (obviously), "Am I free to go" ad nauseaum. Barring that latter circumstance, I cannot think of one single reason how letting yourself verbally engage with the police will ever help you. Every interaction with them is a deprivation of your rights, and when you give up *any* information to them, you're surrendering them bit by bit. Granted this behavior is antagonistic as fuck and will not make your life any easier, but I'm goddamn adult who refuses to be bullied. Ever.
posted by NoRelation at 10:32 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


i got pulled over recently for pulling over. like, 2 cops were following me in my neighborhood, so i pulled over (performance anxiety i guess) and then he turned on the flashing lights and asked me why i pulled over. there really is no answer to that question that a cop would understand.
posted by twist my arm at 10:33 AM on November 7, 2013 [20 favorites]


In some places make sure you don't clench too tightly while quaking in fear.
posted by edgeways at 10:34 AM on November 7, 2013 [15 favorites]


Here's my tip: if you're in a bar where all the staff are dressed as sexy cops for Halloween, don't ask the actual cop why he's overdressed.
posted by asperity at 10:37 AM on November 7, 2013 [14 favorites]


I got pulled over in Kansas for doing the speed limit.
(in a white SUV, with a two week beard and a tan)
posted by notsnot at 10:42 AM on November 7, 2013


Having your mother pull in ahead of the state trooper after he begins writing the ticket works too but only if you let your head crash to the steering wheel and finish the sentence pitifully.

Me: "...and that's where I was going to get my work uniform because I was late and forgot it, that's my dirt road...
*white Chevy Lumina pulls in and waits*
....... and that's my mom."

State trooper: "That's yo' mamma?"
Me: "Yes sir it is."
State trooper: "Pull on up, we gonna have a talk with her."
ST: "Ma'am I was gonna to write your son a ticket for X dollars but I'm sure you'll take care of the situation."
Mom: "Oh yes sir, [to me] get your ass in the house."

We get home and silence prevails as I wait for the ax to fall. As I'm heading out with my work uniform to maybe make my shift at Subway on time I hear mom shout from the kitchen,

"If you ever see that sonufabitch again you better tell him I beat you 'til you were black and blue."

... and she made me pay her half of what the ticket would have been.

I had an interesting time growing up to say the least.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:48 AM on November 7, 2013 [63 favorites]


I don't think this is going to work, ever.

Two guys I know were driving from NYC to San Francisco, where one of them was about to start law school. They both worked for an organization that is working to overturn our shitty, shitty war on drugs.

They got pulled over outside Las Vegas. The cop noted that the back footwells had some empty bottles in them - they were all gingerbeer bottles, because one of the guys has a thing for gingerbeer (he now makes his own, and yes he is a friend of mefi's own). Cop checks their paperwork and gets obnoxious over wanting to search the car. They keep saying no. Cop says they're going to have to wait for a K-9 unit. Fine, they say, we'll wait, but you do not have permission to search the car.

Cop lets them go.
posted by rtha at 10:55 AM on November 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


I can't believe any of this advice would result in anything other than:

-being arrested

-beaten

-killed

I feel like this guy is operating on the idea that cops aren't here to fucking kill us if we step out of line and can possibly be reasoned with.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:00 AM on November 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's sad that advice for dealing with the people whose job it is to enforce the law and keep citizens safe basically sounds like a pitch for a horror movie. This advice seems to come across as saying, "there are dangerous sociopaths roving your streets. Hide from them, debase yourself before them, for they have the power to harm you with no repercussions."
posted by Panjandrum at 11:03 AM on November 7, 2013 [29 favorites]


Also, never sniff the air near a cop and say, "I smell bacon. Does anyone else smell bacon? Yeah. I definitely smell a pork product of some type." They don't like that.
posted by horsewithnoname at 11:03 AM on November 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


Best cop stop I ever had was when I was walking around suburban Orange County near midnight. Police car pulls over, the guy gets out, talks to me and asks what I'm doing. I say that I'm just out for a walk. He waves his hand toward the infinite acres of tract housing (which, in my memory, are dotted with the blue light of television leaking from every unit) and says "Really? None of these people are out walking at this time of night."

How do you explain to someone that Ray Bradbury's works were meant as a warning, not a how-to guide?
posted by benito.strauss at 11:03 AM on November 7, 2013 [42 favorites]


I'm feeling similarities with articles I've read in the past, like "How Not to Get Burgled, by an Ex-Burglar".
posted by gimonca at 11:04 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Notsnot:

I see what you're saying but I've just had a really ignorant friend from KC come up over here this past weekend and his attitude upset me. I am a hispanic male with a full black beard and long black hair. I have never been pulled over in Kansas (where I live!) for looking like that. So with my full black beard and my hair tied back tight I could see how to an idiot I might look like a Mooslam Turrurist. Are you sure you weren't doing anything else that might have resulted in you being pulled over? Do you know that minorities have lived in Kansas since the state's inception and before that? I'm sure the cops here have seen a POC.
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:04 AM on November 7, 2013


I got pulled over in Kansas for doing the speed limit.

Did you have out of state plates? Staties will pull over non-state plates to fuck with them sometimes, although I admit my only personal knowledge of this took place in Northern FL.
posted by elizardbits at 11:08 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Give police an out. I was peripherally involved in a dispute where one party claimed another party had stolen two dogs, and the police were called.

Having two police officers in your driveway is scary. I answered all their questions truthfully and fully using words with commerce and contractual connotations. As soon as I said the phrase "check the agreement," I could see a huge sense of relief wash over the officers' faces. They mumbled something about civil contracts and left as quickly as they could.

Yeah, I totally used my privilege there—both the privilege of being a mid-thirties white male and the privilege of knowing that police officers can't enforce the terms of a civil contract between two parties. And I'd do it again too, because having police officers in your driveway is scary. Every state apparatus employs thousands of little Richelieus waiting with bated breath for you to write six lines, and police officers are their front-line soldiers. No matter what you are or how you present yourself, if you come into enough contact with police your life will be miserable.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:10 AM on November 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Did you have out of state plates? Staties will pull over non-state plates to fuck with them sometimes, although I admit my only personal knowledge of this took place in Northern FL."

Ohio is notorious for the out-of-state-plate violation.
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's my tip: If you're in the parking lot of a Phish show and see an undercover officer with a confiscated nitrous canister, don't ask her if she's selling balloons.

How I never got arrested I'll never know.
posted by slogger at 11:12 AM on November 7, 2013


Be boring.

That particular piece of advice has been around since at least the days when American criminal Jack Black was plying his trade (turn of the 20th century). As he describes in his book You Can't Win

He tells of having seen a man when he was young, very well-dressed, in, as I recall, a white suit. On completing his first big score, Black rushes out and buys the same suit, and is immediately rebuked by his partner. Black is told if he is to be a successful criminal, he must dress in a way that deflects attention, rather than attracts it. He must be completely nondescript.

The book was quite influential on William Burroughs, and explains his lifelong decision to dress like an insurance agent.

I'd say the lesson here is that the real criminals are invisible to us, but that's not completely true. Most people are not masters of disguise. But the smart criminal goes undetected. Generally, as far as I can tell, he hides himself in part by dressing as a politician and running for office.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:14 AM on November 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


that I'm just out for a walk.

This is why I walk (in varying states of sobriety) in the light woods of whatever area I'm in. Not only do you avoid the cops, you get to tell great stories of coyotes or the lack thereof to your friends!

Assuming of course, that you are also a large, physically intimidating person who isn't terribly worried that someone would predate them in wooded areas.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:19 AM on November 7, 2013


Sigh, this is where I feel like Metafilter does have a bit of myopia.

If the story is about poverty, everybody is quick to point out all the structural factors that work against an individual initiative and ambition. But if the story is about cops -- even if structural factors are specifically called out in the story -- it's all about how cops are just bad people.
"Law enforcement officers now are part of the revenue gathering system," Carson tells me in a phone interview. "The ranks of cops are young and competitive, they’re in competition with one another and intra-departmentally. It becomes a game. Policing isn’t about keeping streets safe, it’s about statistical success. The question for them is, Who can put the most people in jail?"
I think the key takeaway is to realize that, although some cops are just authoritarian bullies, even the ones who aren't are operating under some pretty perverse incentives. They are basically paid not to care whether you are actually posing a threat or just going about your business, they are paid to arrest people under whatever pretext is most convenient.

So if you encounter a cop in some awkward situation, and the cop lets you go, rather than feeling like you "pulled on over" on the cop, you might consider that the cop has just sacrificed their own self-interest because of some lingering notion of justice that the system hasn't drained out of them.

(Disclaimer: I have a very full backpack, and have had as many friends who became cops as I've had run-ins with them. There are some very bad apples out there, I just don't think it means apples are inherently bad.)
posted by bjrubble at 11:22 AM on November 7, 2013 [31 favorites]


Also gotta love Tiptronic (or stick). Let off the gas and drop the gears down without hitting the brakes and let the transmission slow the car down.

Note this also works in... all transmissions.
posted by Cosine at 11:25 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


So if you're speeding and you see a cop, don't slow down because they will see you brake and know you were speeding. But if you don't slow down, they will also know you are speeding because ... you will be speeding.

I got myself and my family the hell out of the emerging police state a couple years ago, but I still have sympathy for my brothers and sisters there and offer up the immortal words of HST on the above subject:

“Few people understand the psychology of dealing with a highway traffic cop. A normal speeder will panic and immediately pull over to the side. This is wrong. It arouses contempt in the cop heart. Make the bastard chase you. He will follow.”

Not actual advice.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:38 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is why I walk ... in the light woods of whatever area I'm in.

It's a good recommendation, but to get some idea of the place, begin here, and start zooming out until you see the light woods.

If you ain't never been to the suburbs, don't ever come to the suburbs
posted by benito.strauss at 11:46 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess that means I've lived in/ done this in Pittsburgh's/DC's exurbs then. Marshall Township/Fairfax suburbs generally. Vancouver also, but the five kilometers of Pacific Spirit National Park on campus makes this an outlier.
posted by Slackermagee at 11:52 AM on November 7, 2013


>*does not apply if white

Oh, it most definitely does.
posted by BurntHombre at 11:54 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is why I walk ... in the light woods of whatever area I'm in.

Wow, check your sylvan privilege, wood elf.
posted by elizardbits at 12:04 PM on November 7, 2013 [68 favorites]


> Look up the laws where you live concerning stop and ID (sorry CA and CO, you're fucked)

California is not a stop and ID state. There was a law requiring that you not just identify yourself (which the Hiibel decision seems to suggest would be a constitutional law), but to show proof of ID. It was struck down as being unconstitutionally vague. It was eventually repealed, too.

Not identifying yourself could lead to obstruction of justice charges (that are unlikely to stick) or being arrested for what could have been be a citable offense, but there's no particular stop and ID (or loitering or "account for your business abroad") law in California. "Prowling" is only on private property.

>> Another reasonable thing you should never do? Allow a cop to search your car. There are many loopholes that allow cops to search your car without probable cause or a warrant, but Carson advises you to say no every time.

> I don't think this is going to work, ever.


The point is not to avoid a search turning something up, but to kill that evidence at a probable cause hearing. If the search is consensual, you can't beat the evidence. If you say no and they search anyway and there wasn't a legal basis for the search, they can't use it.
posted by morganw at 12:04 PM on November 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's a good recommendation, but to get some idea of the place, begin here, and start zooming out until you see the light woods.

About 3 miles but yeah that's a bit far to walk to, or drive to in order to walk.
posted by edgeways at 12:07 PM on November 7, 2013


When about to pass a cop while speeding, downshift sharply instead of jamming your brakes. The tranny damage you risk will probably cost less than the ticket and insurance points. It won't flash the guilty brake lights.

(Old road musician trick, learned from truckers..)
posted by spitbull at 12:12 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, what doesn't "arouse contempt in the cop heart?"

Answer: only another cop.
posted by spitbull at 12:14 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


*sexy saxophone begins to play*
posted by The Whelk at 12:15 PM on November 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


RolandOfEld, your mom is awesome.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:17 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have a lifetime of interactions with police in various states, various circumstances, and many types (in vehicles, walking, loitering, big crowds, etc.). Some of the advice given here is generally right on, some is outright questionable.

--"Don't consent to a search. Always say no." Police these days do not need consent to search your person or your vehicle. They *always* have the right to search the "immediate vicinity" for "weapons." They can do this at any time during a stop/interaction. That's why in the older days, the standard advice for auto stops used to be, get out of your vehicle, *lock the doors*, and present your papers. In that case, they *did not* have the automatic consent to search the immediate accessible area for weapons (not immediately accessible = no threat of weapons). They needed your consent or a warrant first. *That* is where the "always say no to consent" comes in....

And of course, "I was searching for weapons when I found...the drugs, the marijuana seed, the drug paraphernalia, the knife...the incriminating item" was often the result. But nowadays, cops always tell you to stay in the vehicle once you pull over. This way, they can always search without your consent.

--My Advice Here: sit still, keep hands on the wheel, don't fidget around or *reach for things* (papers in glove box, etc.). Ever see the way the police approach a traffic stop? Hand on weapon, watching closely, etc. This is a very dangerous moment.

--What about "stop and frisk" laws in some states? You have no right to say "no."

--Females might be OK with occasional smiles, but I wouldn't try that one if male.

Best advice here is to be polite, follow instructions, and never ever start talking about rights, laws, legal stuff, etc. with the police. That's an argument and taken as disrespect. Don't do it.

Getting arrested these days only happens for pretty serious stuff...you are on your own if the cuffs come out (and they are gonna search like crazy if that happens). That's when you STFU and start asking for an attorney and say / consent to nothing else.

Bottom line: Be polite and follow instructions with police in any interactions (regardless of gender, ethnicity, circumstances). If you do almost anything else, things are going to escalate and probably not turn out well.
posted by CrowGoat at 12:17 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Old road musician trick, learned from truckers..

I don't think that's a trucker trick, I'm not sure what would clue a cop in more, brake lights or a sudden jake-brake?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:18 PM on November 7, 2013


I didn't see "never talk to cops about anything, ever, even if you don't think you have anything to hide"

That might get you not convicted after being arrested, but it won't get you not arrested. Which is also why I thought

Another reasonable thing you should never do? Allow a cop to search your car.

was bad advice given the title of the article. It's *good* advice in general--it can get you not convicted--but it probably won't get you not arrested either.
posted by Rykey at 12:19 PM on November 7, 2013


Best cop stop I ever had was when I was walking around suburban Orange County near midnight. Police car pulls over, the guy gets out, talks to me and asks what I'm doing.

Same exact thing happened to me, also in Orange County (specifically Fullerton, whose cops eventually graduated to beating schizophrenic people to death).

The guy actually said, "You don't look like you're from around here."

When asked where I was from, I snottily replied, "Around here."
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:20 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


roomthreeseventeen: "Another reasonable thing you should never do? Allow a cop to search your car. There are many loopholes that allow cops to search your car without probable cause or a warrant, but Carson advises you to say no every time."

I don't think this is going to work, ever.


For what it's worth, it's worked for me at least twice. Once with military police (who were acting as civilian police back when New Orleans was still a disaster area) and once with border patrol. Both times they asked to search my car and I said something along the lines of "I do not consent to a search, but if you think you have probable cause then we can talk about it later in front of a judge" and in both cases they just told me to have a nice day and let me go about my business.
posted by Scientist at 12:28 PM on November 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


Police these days do not need consent to search your person or your vehicle. They *always* have the right to search the "immediate vicinity" for "weapons." They can do this at any time during a stop/interaction. That's why in the older days, the standard advice for auto stops used to be, get out of your vehicle, *lock the doors*, and present your papers. In that case, they *did not* have the automatic consent to search the immediate accessible area for weapons (not immediately accessible = no threat of weapons). They needed your consent or a warrant first
You are confusing multiple points of law. Police can search for weapons incident to an arrest, assuming they can come up with an arrestable offense. Even this search was recently curtailed by Arizona v Gant (the search area is limited to that in reach of the arrestee and the predicate offense has to be a violent crime or weapons violation).

They cannot randomly search any car they encounter in the hopes of finding a weapon without either consent or probable cause. There are a wide variety of ways that the police find to manufacture probable cause, most famously that they "smelled drugs," but judges are not fools and it won't always work. The advice to deny them permission to search your car, person or posessions is good advice. Don't physically resist, but verbally state that you refuse to consent to the search. An enormous number of people are in prison today because they consented to a search (usually with the suggestion that the police would be able to search anyhow, it would just take longer while they got a warrant or got a drug dog to sniff around the car).
posted by Lame_username at 12:31 PM on November 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


> "Don't consent to a search. Always say no." Police these days do not need consent to search your person or your vehicle. They *always* have the right to search the "immediate vicinity" for "weapons." They can do this at any time during a stop/interaction.

A warrantless, P.C.-less "car frisk" is not the same as a thorough search and while it might be constitutional, you don't have to consent to it. Say no but don't physically interfere.

If you consent to a frisk, how are you going to prevent a thorough search and prevent the claim that that was consensual too? Instead of trying to say "you can pat me down, but not open my backpack" and get into a hair-splitting argument with a "are you a lawyer? What the fuck do you know?" argument, just say no and keep your hands out of your pockets.

[on preview, w.r.t. Lame_username's comment, Michigan v. Long, 463 U.S. 1032 (1983) seems to be the original "car frisk" decision & does require Reasonable and Articulable Suspicion]

But, back to the point of the book, it's about surviving encounters, not winning in court later. Crying, vomiting & shitting yourself is to avoid getting picked up, then thrown down a flight of stairs at the station. The book wasn't written for the privileged who are trying to avoid a bad taillight turning into a misdemeanor pot bust, but for the vulnerable getting killed, maimed or not being able to get a job even mopping floors because of a prior conviction.

The book tells you to crawl under the police car so while being kicked half to death, your head won't be stomped all the way to death.

So, in that light, allowing a search so a power-mad thug doesn't kill you might be a good idea.
posted by morganw at 12:39 PM on November 7, 2013


> Be polite

Yeah, worked for this guy. Do you think everyone who gets beat up sassed the cop?
posted by morganw at 12:44 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


If they ask if they can search, they're not just being polite. Say no. If they think they have reasonable cause to search, they won't ask.


"When cops see four young males in a car, they immediately wonder if this is a crew of criminals out to do a job."


*does not apply if white
posted by Kitteh at 12:07 PM on November 7


Sure it does, if you look poor.

Up until recently, my household had two cars, one reasonably nice one about five years old, and the other a 1994 beater with peeling paint. When I was driving the beater, I often got pulled over on flimsy pretenses (my headlights were "dim"? really?) and then let go with a warning after they ran my license. My husband, who is a criminal defense attorney, says that police officers (at least in Davidson Co, TN) are often just stopping you to see if you have any outstanding warrants, and they totally profile based on who they think might have outstanding warrants. Poor white is better than black, I'm certain, but you still get stopped.
posted by joannemerriam at 12:55 PM on November 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, if you consent to a search, and are searched, and the police find something incriminating (or if they "find" something incriminating that they brought with them for just such an occasion, as sometimes happens) then whatever they find is automatically admissible as evidence in court.

If you don't consent to a search, and are searched anyway, and the police find (or "find") something incriminating, they are going to have to successfully establish in court that they had probable cause to search you without your consent. They may or may not succeed, and if they don't then the evidence will be thrown out.

Police know this, and they know that the hassle and uncertainty of establishing probable cause (either in the case that they do find something, or in the case that they don't and you file suit against them for an unreasonable search) isn't always worth their trouble.

If they already thought that they had an air-tight case for probable cause they wouldn't have bothered asking for your consent in the first place. The fact that they're asking means that they either don't feel they have PC or that they aren't sure they could successfully establish PC if they had to. A lot of the time, this means they're not going to press the issue if you refuse a search.

As far as I know (and I'm neither a lawyer nor a policeman, so if someone knows better please correct me) politely but explicitly refusing consent to a search is rarely probable cause in and of itself. It may contribute to probable cause, and if the cop is really ambivalent about it than "acting like you have something to hide" might in fact tip the balance against you. It doesn't mean that it'll be an air-tight case though, and if you end up in court over something found in a search then the fact that you explicitly refused the search will set you up well later in an argument that the officer didn't have PC and that the evidence should be dismissed.

For the record, neither of the times that I refused a search did I have anything whatsoever illegal in my car or on my person. Both times I was polite, lots of "sirs" and "thank yous", lots of concise and clearly-stated answers to the officers' questions. The time with the MPs I was pulled over for "running a yellow light" (aka having a dude from El Salvador in my passenger seat) and the time with Border Patrol it was because I was leaving an area that is a major conduit for drug and immigrant trafficking. With the MPs me and my passenger were ordered out of the car and frisked, but when they asked to search my car and I refused consent, they didn't press and soon let me and my friend continue on our way. With Border Patrol they were simply stopping every car on the road at a checkpoint, and when I refused consent to search my car they simply told me "Have a nice day, sir" and waved me on.

Anyway, this is a long way of saying that from a game-theory perspective you have much to lose and little to gain from consenting to a search if asked. Even if you are sure there's nothing incriminating on you or in your car or whatever, you never really know. Maybe there's an empty beer bottle in the back seat that you put there a week ago because you didn't want to litter, and then forgot about. Maybe your buddy slipped a joint into your jacket pocket as an ill-considered "thank you" for a favor you did him a week ago. Maybe the cop is corrupt and doesn't like your face and is going to claim to find something on you even if you have nothing.

If you've consented to be searched, you've waived your right to fight the search in court. If you don't consent, they might let you go or they might search you anyway, and if they search you anyway they'll have a harder time using anything they find against you. The only downside is that if they do search you they might be a little more thorough and/or rough about it because you "gave them a hard time". That's not much of a downside when you think about it.
posted by Scientist at 12:57 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


On non-preview: what joannemerriam said much more succinctly.
posted by Scientist at 1:03 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's bizarre when people use the apple aphorism to defend cops. The correct saying is "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch".
posted by smidgen at 1:13 PM on November 7, 2013 [20 favorites]


If the story is about poverty, everybody is quick to point out all the structural factors that work against an individual initiative and ambition. But if the story is about cops -- even if structural factors are specifically called out in the story -- it's all about how cops are just bad people.

Apples and oranges. If someone's poor because the system encourages laziness, it doesn't affect me at all apart from a miniscule tax expenditure. If a cop is an asshole because the system encourages assholishness, it can ruin my entire life.
posted by desjardins at 1:38 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's bizarre when people use the apple aphorism to defend cops. The correct saying is "one bad apple spoils the whole bunch".

(hangs head in shame)

In my defense, a lot of the problem as I see it is that the system rewards bad cops, and thus encourages good cops to become bad cops.

What bugs me most is when people misuse this aphorism to argue that there's no problem other than public perception, that despite the bad apples the bunch is still good. Just to be clear, that's not my argument at all -- more that the existence of bad apples and a system that refuses to cull them and thus allows whole bunches to spoil, doesn't mean that apples are inherently bad.
posted by bjrubble at 1:40 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sure, but if I had a decent chance of reaching into a bunch of apples and having the resulting apple beat the shit out of me and ruin my life, I think I'd probably just swear off apples.
posted by invitapriore at 1:56 PM on November 7, 2013 [13 favorites]


just remember when dealing with cops. You don't have any rights until a judge gives them to you.
Oh you don't want to let them search your car? Well mr Judge we detected a strong smell of Marijuwana. Oh, you don't want a cavity search? Well, tell it to the judge tomorrow after we cavity search you.
posted by Gungho at 1:56 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


See, here's the thing: when it's just you and a bunch of cops (because they travel in packs), YOU HAVE NO RIGHTS. You are their plaything, for however long they decide it amuses them. The whole elaborate system we've set up to protect people from the abuse of authority is a fucking joke when they've got you somewhere unobserved. Like an alley. Or a squad car. Or the last cell at the end of the row.

They're gonna do what they're gonna do, and they're gonna make sure it looks like it's your fault.

And there is literally NOTHING you can do about it.

Of course, this is all generalizing based on personal experience. I'm sure there are good honest cops out there, and I hope to meet one someday.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:57 PM on November 7, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wear my hard hat everywhere already. I knew it would pay off!
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:59 PM on November 7, 2013


tigrrrlily: ""Don't smile"

Hm. That sounds really strange. I would expect most white American middle-class women to smile in just about any encounter. How does this jive with doing what's expected? Or are you just not part of the intended audience, since it's assumed that you just won't have to talk to the cops, ever (unless they're trying to hit on you)?
"

No seriously, as a woman, most of the time it's a bad idea to smile. It means that you're not scared enough of the cop and are asking to be put in your place. Or you're perhaps a naive kid, but same difference, best to scare a little respect into you.
posted by desuetude at 2:10 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


As disgusting as it sounds, the best tactic for women with cops is to play dumb/helpless. [Straight Male and probably many others] Cops wouldn't be cops if they didn't have a white knight fantasy in their heads.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:20 PM on November 7, 2013


Thanks desuetude, as a woman fitting the above description, I was wondering if I should be checking my pretty much ingrained reaction to smile at $Male_Authority. That's some good advice there.
posted by tigrrrlily at 2:28 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh look, another pointless bitch session against police peppered with random anecdotal rage.

What precisely is the relationship between the hate for cops and their role?
I mean, law enforcement is, by definition, part of the system. It is the enforcement part of it.

Do people have a problem with enforcement, but think the law is somehow ok? Like gee, that Stalin is swell but the NKVD are all assholes. Or is it vice versa?

Is it an inherent property of being in a police officer or is one somehow magically a vicious sadist who no one notices until they become a cop?

The guy directing traffic, he's the gestapo? (Ok, maybe he's a mysogynist racist, but if he doesn't direct traffic properly there are going to be accidents and traffic jams. And people are going to complain.)

"Law enforcement officers now are part of the revenue gathering system,"
There, exactly, is the problem in a nutshell.

(The advice is off the rails though. "If you're driving too fast and see a police car up ahead..." goddamn cops trying to arrest people simply because they're driving too fast.)

For some bizarre reason whenever politicians need to generate revenue (or indeed, whenever anything goes awry and they need a scapegoat) they punish citizens. They have power over the police.
That's how it works in a republic. Your representative delegates the authority derived from you. Perhaps they have their head way up their ass. Perhaps they're corrupt. Perhaps any number of things. But you can hire anyone to be an asshole if that's what you're looking for.

So why's anyone tolerate police abuse of citizens? Maybe the answer is something other than they're just bullies.
Think maybe the fault lies in the tolerance?
Would you complain about a garbageman who throws the garbage at your door? Or doesn't pick it up? Or just drives over your lawn and says "up yours sucker!"

Right now we have a debate about speed cameras. So while the system is rigged to screw people out of money I should, what, bitch that the speed cameras themselves are inherently evil? That it's the brand of speed camera?
No, we're informing the city council and the mayor that it's a lousy plan. Maybe it will still go through. But to fix something you have to recognize it for what it is. The cameras are just an instrument.
There's a difference between a failure in an instrument and a self-defeating system.

The problem is the law in the first place. The method is secondary. Harassment, abuse of authority is an oversight problem. If there's no political will to fix it, it's not going to get fixed.

If you have a formalized citizen review program in your city, get involved. Demand oversight from politicians. Keep the police force accountable through publicity. News organizations. Phone cameras are everywhere. Communicate and organize and make sure politicians know you won't tolerate police abuse anymore than you'd tolerate garbage piling up for months on the streets.
It's not the same problem, but it's the same kind of social disorder. And probably ultimately as unhealthy.

Or try to fight it out here and argue in the street. Lemme know if that works out.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:38 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Law enforcement officers now are part of the revenue gathering system

In DC that aspect has been replaced by robots. No, these robots.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:43 PM on November 7, 2013


Related: Chris Rock's handy how to avoid getting your ass kicked by the police. (NSFW)
posted by 4ster at 3:01 PM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


As disgusting as it sounds, the best tactic for women with cops is to play dumb/helpless.

As a rule, it is best to play dumb with cops.

"Yes. No. I don't know." should be the only things out of your mouth if you can help it.

It's gotten me out of a lot of trouble, back when I was a white trash piece of shit.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 3:18 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


The problem with cops, Smedleyman, is that they can do basically whatever they want and suffer no repercussions. And they do. All the time. Who wants to roll the dice that the cop you are dealing with is a "good one"? Not me.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 3:35 PM on November 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Carson's free-to-download book is about 200 pages long. It offers a lot of solid advice about how to deal with law enforcement officers and not get arrested. I say this as a black man who came of age in the 1980s in Los Angeles, someone (that is) who was followed by law enforcement whenever he got behind the wheel.

I'm baby-faced and well-spoken, so opening my mouth usually would make cops lose interest in me unless they had me with a radar gun.

However, I have encountered asshole cops and I can say that Carson's book is right on the money.

He talks at great length in his book about the political and social ramifications of the War on Drugs and all the glib "does not apply if white" in the thread above is precisely white privilege in action. Let me explain.

One of the most infuriating aspects of white privilege for me is watching fellow liberals act as if being black is a problem separate and apart from civil rights and that, somehow, white people need not engage at all. The corollary is that black people (black men) may as well give up because they are going to be arrested.

Carson addresses these points in his book adroitly and forthrightly. (Apparently the PDF used to be on Archive.org, but my guess is Carson is now planning to release the book for publication. It looks still to be available here on Project Avalon). He talks about the fact that arrest records prevent people from being employed, discussed here on MetaFilter as "Ban the Box" as well as useful tactics to avoid being arrested.

All the privileged who have never had to worry about being stopped by cops due to their middle-class-or-better whiteness might do well to read Carson's book because, according to him, police love busting privileged types the best.

May you never find yourself in need of the advice Carson gives, but at least read it before you knock it.
posted by mistersquid at 5:23 PM on November 7, 2013 [16 favorites]


Oh look, another pointless bitch session against police peppered with random anecdotal rage.

Oh look, another complaint about same that ignores the fact that many of these anecdotes are personal stories. Honestly.
posted by JHarris at 9:43 PM on November 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, never sniff the air near a cop and say, "I smell bacon. Does anyone else smell bacon? Yeah. I definitely smell a pork product of some type." They don't like that.

Ditto "Bad cop! No donut!"
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:51 PM on November 7, 2013


As disgusting as it sounds, the best tactic for women with cops is to play dumb/helpless.

46 year old white male, and "Absentminded Professor in a Station Wagon" is they way I roll. Oh, wait.
posted by mikelieman at 4:53 AM on November 8, 2013


Our Ship Of The Imagination!: "Are you sure you weren't doing anything else that might have resulted in you being pulled over?"

Dude. I had just "timed" my speedometer - setting cruise at 70 and measuring the time it took to go seventy miles (fifty nine minutes, forty six seconds). It was a Sunday morning; I was driving a plain white SUV with Missouri plates through Russell, KS; I hadn't seen a razor or the inside of a building (other than gas stations) in over a week. Oncoming traffic had flashed me so I was even looking for the cop and triple-checked my speed.

When he pulled me over and asked, "do you know why I pulled you over?" I replied no, I was doing the speed limit exactly. His response was something to the effect of "Plain white vehicle, you look suspicious, doing the speed limit."
posted by notsnot at 5:38 AM on November 8, 2013


Braking by changing down gears needs to be done gently. Changing down too rapidly can lock your wheels (in extreme cases); can and probably will cause engine damage; and can cause forward weight transfer and front end dip. So unless you are a skilled driver. changing down excessively will damage your car, will probably cause you to lose control and will fool no one, not even a cop.

Take your foot off the accelerator and change down a gear, after a few seconds change down again
posted by epo at 5:42 AM on November 8, 2013


For instance, if you're all construction workers car-pooling on the way home from a job site, someone in the car should wear a hard hat.

That could get you stopped for impersonating the Village People.
posted by kirkaracha at 8:26 AM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


my son, a state trooper, says always say "no" to searching the car.
posted by byjingo! at 10:31 AM on November 8, 2013


oh...and if I get stopped for speeding, broken tail light, whatever...I WON'T call my son nor will I pass along his business card, point out the FOP sticker on my license plate, whatever. (although I may cry) No way am I putting his job on the line for my problem.
posted by byjingo! at 10:34 AM on November 8, 2013


my son, a state trooper, says always say "no" to searching the car.

Even when you know your car is clean? Are they saying that planted evidence is really common?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 2:17 PM on November 8, 2013


Why make it easier for cops to make trouble for you? If they "need" to search your car, then they need to get a warrant.
posted by rtha at 2:42 PM on November 8, 2013


And, to be clear, I'm not in the "Never talk to cops about nuthin' ever" because when I thought my neighbor's house was getting broken into? I called the cops. When two kids were shot around the corner from my house, I spoke briefly to an officer to confirm the approximate time and number of shots (I'd only heard the shooting, not seen it). But if I get pulled over on some bullshit pretext - or not even bullshit, because sometimes I do speed! - and they want to search my car, I'm going to say no, even though all that's in there is like old hiking boots and filthy baseball caps I wear when birding and local maps.
posted by rtha at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even when you know your car is clean? Are they saying that planted evidence is really common?

It doesn't have to be the cop's planting evidence for this to be the best policy.

I suspect even if you know your car is clean there is always the possibility it really isn't though no fault of your own. Every passenger is a potential vector for left behind trouble. Drive a pickup truck? Over half of your truck is wide open to anyone ditching something. Car door open behind your back to a sidewalk has potential for things chucked in... who know how many other scenarios are out there.
Not that any of these things are likely to happen without you knowing, they aren't. But you are responsible for what's in your car weather or not you brought it in or if know exactly what it is, so rather than sitting there when the cop asks if they can search the car and hesitate while you think back on how likely it is someone dumped something in there without you knowing, and by hesitating thereby looking guilty and giving a pretext for suspicion you just say 'no'.
posted by edgeways at 2:56 PM on November 8, 2013


I'm going to have to keep my windows down more often hoping somebody will toss in something fun then!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 3:01 PM on November 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Car door open behind your back to a sidewalk has potential for things chucked in... who know how many other scenarios are out there.

seriously. Many many moons ago I found a joint in my car after parking it in Harvard square with the windows open. Not sure if it was a thoughtful gift or some nervous freshman dumping his stash.
posted by Gungho at 9:50 AM on November 11, 2013


“The problem with cops, Smedleyman, is that they can do basically whatever they want and suffer no repercussions.”

Police officers can do whatever they want by what virtue? Is that a property inherent in them? Or is it a property of the law enforcement system?
All police officers can do this? Because you can google “police officer arrested” and get plenty of current news stories of internal affairs and district attorneys arresting and prosecuting police officers for all kinds of misconduct or outright illegal behavior.
So if some police officers get away with crimes, that is a problem but not an insurmountable one.

“Who wants to roll the dice that the cop you are dealing with is a "good one"? Not me.”

Roll dice how? Not pull over on the highway? Open fire as soon as a cop talks to you?
(Note: I’m perfectly fine with returning fire under certain circumstances). Communication and oversight are the best front line defense against police misconduct. Hold politicians accountable for the law and the actions of enforcement. Plenty of ways to get involved in those organizations.
Whether Carson’s book is wonderful or dippy, it’s short term tactics. It’s not going to solve the problem because corrupt or unfit officers are just going to change method.

“Oh look, another complaint about same that ignores the fact that many of these anecdotes are personal stories. Honestly.”

Yes, let’s make policy based on anecdotes. Ok, I’ll start. We’ll make a “no sucky cops” law. And a “cops can’t hit a guy” law. And laws that “cops can’t be racists.”
That’ll fix things right away!
My plan of organizing and involving to create greater oversight over your local police department is just ignorant bullshit.

Pfft - administrative control, popular demand for expansion of internal affairs and watchdog groups and independent oversight commissions, political change to decriminalize minor drug and vice laws…no way will that do better than saying “Yes, sir. No, sir. I don’t know, sir” and going about your business.
Yeah, I really gotta dig my head out of my ass.

Maybe if we get really, REALLY mad and say how much we hate cops and buy more books and stuff, we'll uh ... whatever your point is. Yeah! Go us!
(feel free to paypal me loads of money for saying that and absolutely DO NOT get involved in watchdog groups like copblock.org or peruse the work of Merrick Bobb, support civil suits against the police, don't look at the *free* U.S. Commission on Civil Rights publication "Who is Guarding the Guardians" which includes remedies for victims of police misconduct)

Incorrectly channeled anger, yeah that never backfires.

Everything here that doesn't include citizen involvement, planning, organization, addresses AT BEST individual officers who violate the law, not the flaws in the system or in the department that allows the abuse and corruption.

Oh look another self-righteous fostering of victim mentality that has a book to sell.

Honestly.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:06 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


Smedleyman, most of us here are just looking for ways to get through a high-risk interaction with a powerful person who, at least within the scope of that interaction, assumes us to be their adversary. I know I'm mostly interested in never having to deal with the fallout from any theoretical misconduct, or from reporting of same.

I'm a little bit concerned after that last comment of yours, you're coming across as quite angry and I can't help but wonder if there's something outside of this thread that's contributing to that.
posted by tigrrrlily at 1:49 PM on November 11, 2013 [1 favorite]


tigrrrlily - these threads strike me the same way the anti-vaccination folks do.

Take phunniemee's story. There's nothing wrong with it as a story. And I in no way intend to minimize her experience or input.
But, other than generally pissing someone off about cops or misogyny, I don't see how it helps get anyone through that interaction.
In fact, as far as I can see, stories like that only exacerbate the problem.

Specifics on the other hand, might help. Officer Jones at 11:30 pm, on halsted and armitage, etc.
I don't see the takeaway other than "be scared of the police and don't trust them."
Maybe some people need that message or need to understand that's a reality for a lot of people.
But far more useful is putting out the shield for the next person. So not only "here's what happened to me" but "here's how to avoid it" and how to make the environment better so it doesn't happen as often.
phunniemee happens to be from Chicago. So there's the people's law office, there's the IPRA, there are CAPS meetings, etc. The Chicago Alliance Against Political Repression has been pushing (along with others) for a Civilian Police Accountability Council.

It's reasonable to want to avoid being the target of police abuse. Certainly many people are on the same page that it can and does happen. I don't think I've said anything anywhere near denying that.
But not looking to change that environment - however useful any tip might be in dealing with any given cop - seems counterproductive.
And then it happens the guy in the OP has a book to sell. That's irritating.

Mutual support doesn't cost much and it has much longer lasting effects. And it's real.

I'm sorry if some people get roughed up or framed, but it's just a symptom. And the anger is misdirected and mostly irrational. "All cops can do whatever they want" WTF.
Most of the corruption comes from the war on drugs.
The kind of money involved, the threat of violence because of it, turns the volume up on everything even for the rank and file, even for honest cops.

The problems come from the top and the solution is to have more transparency and communication and better internal and more importantly external review and oversight. That means more citizen involvement.

Most of the messages here amount to "tremble and obey." Mine is "you don't have to take this shit. You can fight back. Here's how."

I don't want to write a book on this here, but in Chicago generally we need: a democratically elected - importantly non-partisan - civilian Police Board, or one with inspectors general and/or retired judges on it; Cook County State’s Attorney prosecution of police corruption and transparency on same; transparency from City Hall (once we get rid of Rahm) on police corruption and open databases on corruption convictions.

All that is politically doable. Ending the war on drugs, maybe a longer term thing, but again, doable.
And if you are unjustly hassled by the police, it's all the more reason to work for change. Otherwise you're doing the same exact thing the police are, working within a broken system to cover your own ass and ignore the plight of others.

And you're right, I am generally angry lately. I've devoted much of my life to extending the shield in one way or another and I hear people complain all the time then go and do not a damn thing about it or to work for long term change. So if I sound pissed off it's because I do care and I hate to see/hear someone in uniform abusing their power.
On top of which it's veterans day and it's the same old lack of substance in the U.S.
I do appreciate the kind attention though, thanks. That's one way we do support each other, so really, thank you.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:56 PM on November 11, 2013


One time when I was a young student and didn't have any money and I lived in a small southern town in a state not known for friendly Law Enforcement and drove a really crappy, poor-looking 80's model ford POS I went over to hang out with some friends and have a couple of beers, no really, just a couple over the course of a few hours. When it was time to leave it was pretty late at night and I got in my crapmobile and hit the road. Knowing that I'd had a beer or two over the several hours and it being night, I was driving very carefully. That's when the bubble lights came on behind me. I quickly signaled and pulled over. I put my window down and kept my hands on the wheel. When the officer approached I asked him, "what's the problem, sir, I thought I was following the speed limit pretty well." To which he replied, "your tail lights were out, but they came on when you turned on your turn signal, must be a wiring problem." "Really?" I replied, "This old car probably does have something like that wrong. Can I take a look?" "Sure" so I popped the trunk and he held the flashlight and sure enough, there was a loose wire. I thanked him for pointing it out and he said, "have a good evening, drive safely." And he got in his car and drove away.

Now, I tell this story not because it's super relevant here, but because this sort of banal, non-inflamitory story happens all the time. You don't hear a whole lot of story's like this told because they are boring and they don't raise people's emotions and because they don't feed into people's stereotypes.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:20 AM on November 12, 2013


I don't see the takeaway other than "be scared of the police and don't trust them."

I don't see the problem with that. You should be scared (in the sense of "be on your guard against this potentially very dangerous thing") of police and not trust them.

Yes, of course police get arrested for things. Sigh. Do you deny that they suffer consequences for their illegal actions far less than non-police do? Of course, I have no data, so my opinion doesn't matter. And as far as "roll the dice," I mean cooperate in a way that could totally fuck you if it turns out the cop has it out for you after all, like consenting to a search when you think you have nothing to hide, etc. I'm not mad at you, and I'm glad you're trying to make a difference, but you aren't going to change my mind that cops get away with shit that would put normal folks behind bars without some hard data.

I can't say I would enjoy the process of being proven wrong, but I would be willing to admit that it had happened if you can.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 4:17 PM on November 12, 2013


you aren't going to change my mind that cops get away with shit that would put normal folks behind bars without some hard data.

Not my point. Many police officers do get away with more than an average citizen. For many reasons. The code of silence thing. Et.al. But importantly too, because they know, and can game, the system.

How many prosecutors or district attorneys get locked up? Certainly, people in the justice system have less of a chance of being subject to it.

But no, you should not be scared of the police or any other public officials. Be wary perhaps as you allude to. But fear and panic will kill you faster than anything else.
So cooperating in such a way that fucks you, yes, don't do that. But being on your guard is kind of a wide net and creates a rigidity in thinking.
Fear and anger are the two biggest dangers to critical thinking. And if you're not thinking in an encounter with the police, yes, you're pretty much screwed even if they're completely competent, honest law officers.

There are other ways to resist. And there are no hard and fast rules you can use to deal with an immediate situation. People give these things as little tips as though there's some magic formula. There isn't. In any dynamic situation, the first requirement to survive is to remain calm.
This can be trained.
But even without training in remaining calm, recognize that injustice is both personal and impersonal and that the impersonal is the only one you can really do anything about.

You're right that there isn't much a police officer at a scene can do to you that will have immediate personal repercussion.
However in front of a judge, however the matter reaches a judge, this can be a different story. In the impersonal sense, in the sense that a society can't tolerate injustice openly, that is where people have all the power. So, citizen groups, law changes, mutual support, oversight. It's worked with drunk driving. It's helped with reporting rape. It's slow and impersonal and probably not as immediately satisfying, but denial is a powerful thing and often unrecognized. Books like this might be helpful in the short term, but let's be clear, it supports a personal antagonism that benefits no one except the people who make money off this kind of drama.

The t.v. show 'COPS' as a classic example. It exploits poor people, casts them in a terrible light with only the most modest "innocent until proven guilty" passionless disclaimer, and those images have created a public perception that it's a horrible, shameful thing to be arrested and you could be subject to violence, etc.
And it's not an accurate portrayal of police work. They don't show meetings with residents, cooperative engagements and the good outcomes where there's no fight or no charges because they've calmed everyone down.
Funny. We don't have that show in Chicago. We have some pretty crooked history. But we have some very stand up law enforcement as well. (I suppose if we didn't the city would have collapsed by now).

It's a real problem that some employers too think being arrested and then released by the courts is grounds for dismissal, but that's not a matter to be contested at the street level.

I'd say 98% of the problems between police and citizens are because of ego. Clearly police officers have egos. And in many ways they forget that because they haven't been trained well enough to recognize their own denial. But too, people have egos and get themselves into problems as a result of it.
This is true of anyone facing strong stimulus, confrontation, physical danger, while trying to overcome an obstacle.
They forget what their goals are. They forget the outcome they want. They allow their ego to take over.

The author here does allude to humbling oneself (throwing up, defecating, etc), but I see nowhere where coming forward, sharing your story and treating it as the social problem it is will sell books.

People die of that all the time by completely non-human actors. And I'm not talking about dying of exposure or weather either. There are people who leave colon cancer untreated because they don't want to talk to a doctor about rectal bleeding or diarrhea. The doctor is not going to snicker or shame you publicly or abuse your trust. If they do, then it's a betrayal of their function and, while you're pretty limited in what you can do with your pants down, there are remedies after the fact in which to censure them. (Unfortunately that takes greater courage and more effort to change not only how we think about diarrhea and 'weakness' and how we treat people who suffer from malpractice, but to share publicly and for the record, what's happened to us).

I don't think you and I disagree fundamentally, but this is the attitude in which I approach this topic. I think most others, while perhaps expedient in the short term, are ultimately counterproductive. You might use some tactic to evade a given bad cop or bad department or bad paradigm, but that doesn't stop the behavior, nor does it help the next guy.

I'm not holding myself up as a paragon, just saying, to hold to the metaphor, that I recognize the occasional digital rectal exam as part of keeping the entire system healthy no matter how much fiber I eat.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:05 PM on November 13, 2013


To belabor the point:
The details aside - that is, specific events police brutality/corruption aside (taking the "bad apple" contention completely off the table) it is, in form, like the way we treat terrorism.

Not merely disproportionate - although I don’t know I’d be happy to agree police brutality is more prevalent (as democide and authoritarian terrorism certainly is) than terrorism but to what degree the threat weighs against the reality or in which way and in which ways I don’t know – but irrational in all the same ways and with the same poor execution.
For example the thinking that terrorists are lurking everywhere led to the overblown reaction we’ve had, and the same contempt for genuine threats. It’s led to the “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” mindset in many quarters that makes actual solutions (since negotiation is the primary and most effective counterterrorism strategy) far more problematic than they need be.

In the same way, the thinking that the police are akin to the stazi or the gestapo can lead to an overreaction that leaves actual police brutality threats (in the cry wolf sense) part of the social noise blanket.

And makes finding a lasting, actual solution, much more of a problem. As it is in any situation where one presupposes antagonism.

I think having the bad apple argument, and other fixes that focus on non-systemic change preserves this sort of pre-conditioned mindset.

And most of my ire is aimed at books that profit from it. Plenty of those.
The commercial "CounterInsurgency Field Manual" f'rinstance. All of it cobbled together from well-worn COIN sources (Nagl, David Galula, Mao, etc.) but packaged in such a way as to serve a given political perspective (that is, the Iraq invasion) instead of presenting the genuine and valid tactical and strategic information to instill and preserve order.
Waste of money and a gift to those who want to continue the antagonism to make money off it.
And believe me those forces exist. Plenty of people REALLY REALLY Pissed off with what happened with the U.S. and Syria.
No bombing. Open weapon inspections. Yeah, I'd call that a win. But some people can't take a win without a fight. Just something to prove maybe. Or maybe it feels more legitamate, a more satisfying win if one dominates one's opponent into surrender instead of taking a mutually beneficial, supportive path (even if you have to manufacture opposition).
But typically, there's money to be made off the fight no matter who wins.
I gotta paraphrase Yoda here - fights not make one win.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:02 PM on November 17, 2013


Amusing : Fuck Tha Police
posted by jeffburdges at 1:48 AM on November 19, 2013


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