I raised my son to trust police. I should’ve also taught him how to protect himself from them.
When my son was little, I told him to go to the police if he needed help. I was naïve.
The days when the cops drove through the park during our keggers to remind us to clean up before we went home are long gone. School shootings changed that.
I needed to educate my son on the proper way of dealing with today’s police force. Instead, he was taught by a local college town’s questionable and aggressive police tactics through an emotionally draining, demoralizing and costly drawn out initiation.
These are the things I wish I had told him, before it was too late:
1. Sometimes, you’re guilty until proven innocent.
The belief that you’re innocent until proven guilty seems to no longer exists in our judicial system. Everyone is a possible suspect.
Officers are trained to have one hand on their gun whether it’s a routine traffic stop, response to a call, or conversing with someone.
There are people in this world who do bad things. The police are constantly on alert, fearful for their life and trained to be suspicious of everybody. Realize they see you as a suspect until they no longer have reason to. Communicate with them accordingly.
2. Police are trained to ask you questions that can incriminate you.
It’s intimidating to be questioned by a person of authority. A natural “Fight or Flight” response will be triggered. In this situation, always choose flight, that doesn’t mean run, it means cooperate.
As a potential suspect, an officer will engage you in conversation in order to determine if there is anything that they can charge you with.
They listen for discrepancies, slurred words and look for body language that indicates whether or not you’re telling the truth.
The information you provide them will either clear you or be used against you.
3. It’s against the law to lie to the police, but not for them to lie to you.
This is one of the biggest hypocrisies in our government. It’s unjust and not right, but it’s the way things are.
Even though you’ll have to repeat your name multiple times before they get it right, give it to them. You have nothing to hide and by Colorado law* you have to provide them with your name, and that is all. You can always invoke your right to silence, but If you answer a question, tell the truth.
You may receive a ticket or fine, but that’s manageable and far better than getting caught for giving false information.
4. They demand your respect, whether they deserve it or not.
I grew up being told to respect your elders and even as a little girl I knew that was bullshit.
Bottom line is not everyone deserves your respect, the number of times they circled the sun doesn’t quantify it.
However, when dealing with the police, or anyone brandishing weapons, it’s best to give them respect and focus on removing yourself from their presence as quickly as possible.
Remember your manners. End your responses with ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ or if you’re unsure of a gender “officer” will suffice.
Once you’re out of earshot and their field of vision, feel free to rant and rave about their narcissistic, aggressive behavior, but in the meantime, deal with them in as calm and cool a manner as possible.
Even if, or especially when, they suddenly break through the backyard gate with guns drawn on a friend smoking a cigarette.
5. There are good police officers out there.
Good police officers have a natural instinct or what I call intuition. They have the ability to discern the situation and act accordingly.
They won’t be coming from a place of ego but rather a place of performing their duties while maintaining their code of ethics to protect and serve.
You’ll recognize this dying breed by their helpfulness and general concern for your well-being. If you did something wrong, they’ll bring it to your attention, possibly ticket you, and then go their own way.
In today’s world, it’s important to know your rights concerning filming the police. My son’s recording filled in the missing details from the officer’s body cam, that wasn’t activated priror to entering private property while “in pursuit of a suspect,” violating written procedures. His footage heled his defense against trumped up charges.
* If you reside in America, laws vary by state and I recommend you visit the American Civil Liberties Union website and select your specific state for information that pertains to you and your loved ones.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.
Photo credit: J J/flickr