Don't talk to the police, Part 3

If you don't read the blog, you're missing out on good legal information that can seriously help you out on police encounters. There's even a video they've produced to train people on how to deal with the police. While I think it's good operating procedure to behave as if none of your rights will be upheld by cops, knowing your rights gives you insight into police tactics and actions to which you are likely to be subject. And if you silently observe police behavior, rather than complaining about how bad the cops are on the scene, you may be more likely to simply get out of the situation or at least present evidence to a court that catches police off-guard. Remember: no information you provide on the scene can help you; save any argument you want to make for the judge.

Anyway, the latest blog article deals with a predictable complaint: that helping people protect their rights impedes law enforcement work. As I've previously remarked, that's a feature, not a bug. We should put up the maximum resistance possible to all authority, because it is our cooperation with and obedience to the state that enables and empowers it. However, since the state has a monopoly on the investigation and prosecution of legitimate crimes, should we always refuse to cooperate?

The first thing I'd say is that the maxim of conduct I've emphasized is my opinion; before adopting it, you think about it carefully. There are undoubtedly exceptions - my point is that, ideally (and when is a police encounter "ideal"?), you should be in control of the encounter rather than them. You should choose what to say rather than them directing the flow of information; you should choose whether you stay or go rather than them. When in doubt: shut up and trust nobody!

And what about cases where legitimate crimes necessitate the provision of information to investigating law enforcement officers? It is here that has wise words:

The situations in which our advice to remain silent is more likely to make a difference is in cases in which the police suspect a crime may be afoot, but don't have evidence and must intimidate the suspect into self-incrimination, i.e. "If you have drugs, we're gonna find 'em. You might as well just hand it over and we'll go easier on you." Again, this will have no effect on clearance rates for reported crimes, except, ironically, to the extent that this type of policing draws resources away from investigating unsolved violent crimes.

With regard to requests to search (which you should always refuse; if they have a warrant, they won't ask!):

The crimes that take the biggest toll on our communities aren't solved through warrantless searches. Police who are investigating a rape, robbery, or murder aren't using consent searches to investigate their suspects. Overwhelmingly, consent searches are used to attempt to discover crimes that weren't known until the search was conducted. They have absolutely no impact on clearance rates for reported crimes. (my emphasis)

This makes sense: when there is an actual crime being investigated, police already have powers that don't require them to trick you into self-incrimination. Only when they are fishing for a bump in arrest rates will they try to engage you in a conversation without providing for your immunity or legal representation. So deny them the chance: do your part to put the kibosh on the proactive, intrusive, authoritarian police state!

Read this article
Written on Thursday, June 12, 2008