Two Letters Re: Things to Understand When Interacting With the Police

Dear Editor:
In response to R.B. and his comments on “Things to Understand When Interacting With the Police,” I’d like to share “Some Things He Needs to Understand When Interacting With Civilians.”

We’ve long abandoned the idea that the police are interested in helping us when they interact with us. We expect, for good reason, that any encounter with a police officer is going to be a reminder that right or wrong, he or she is a cop, they must be respected no matter how inhumane their behavior, and that any error on the part of the officer is inconsequential. I may have to accept the ticket for allegedly running the red light, pay the fine, and suffer the insurance consequences, but if my dash cam video shows that the officer lied, the most I can expect is that the ticket is thrown out. No matter that my time was wasted in by a fraudulent traffic stop and a day off work to come in and prove my innocence in the absence of an officer actually being able to prove I was guilty. What we almost never see happen is that the officer is reprimanded for lying.

We also know that in nearly every encounter with police, the only reason they speak to us is to find something indictable. They aren’t looking for a reason to exonerate us or for a reason not to cite or arrest us, and that means any discussion with a police officer has the potential to lead to consequences for us, and silence will never incriminate us. That is why we have a right to remain silent, and it’s ludicrous for an officer to suggest that it’s a good idea to talk to the police.

For the perspective that only 5% of defense attorneys are honest, I don’t disagree, but that statistic can be just as easily applied to the police, but with a more insidious element; defense attorneys are only trying to defend the impropriety of their client (a potential criminal) while the police routinely defend the impropriety of each other.

There is no denying the fact that there are a lot of bad cops out there. They are truly a stain on the tradition of law enforcement, but the idea that they are a “few bad apples” ignores several facts. 1. Their fellow officers (the supposed ‘good’ cops) never interfere when one of these bad officers is violating someone’s rights. 2. They usually cover for these bad cops, whether through silence, looking the other way, or outright lying. 3. The police enjoy immunity from the mistakes they make which often ruin lives.

These things considered, please don’t be surprised that the public view of the image of law enforcement is crumbling. We are tired of the videos of perpetrators being assaulted by the police while not a single officer steps in to stop the assault. The ludicrousness of the police justifying their actions when they asphyxiate a subject and then beat him for “resisting” when his guttural instinct for survival kicks in. The repeated instances of the police demanding that civilians turn off cameras in public places, where they assault people for recording them, and where they illegally confiscate recording equipment which so often goes ‘mysteriously’ missing. This indicates two key problems; the police know that their words don’t match their behaviors, and such evidence cannot be tolerated, and that we really need to think about the level of accountability among an institution that loses more video evidence (both police dash-cam and confiscated video) than Hollywood.

The one thing that is predictable in these discussions is that the blame for law-enforcement misbehavior is quickly directed back at the citizens, where civilians are somehow at fault for the misbehavior of the police and that we can’t possibly understand why they do what they do. This is illogical and insulting. The bottom line is that the police are responsible for their own image, whether good cop or bad, and it’s not enough to say “those are the bad cops, I’m a good cop” and leave it at that. Unless you are taking specific action to protect the citizens (as sworn?) from bad cops, then you are no better than them, falling somewhere on the ‘respect’ list between used car salesmen and the Nigerian prince who wants me to help him collect his inheritance. It’s your responsibility as a police officer and as an institution to consider why your image is falling like a North Korean satellite, and to address ways of resolving it. Blaming us is not the answer. Calling other people a liar is not the answer. Look inward and then show a good faith effort the people who are losing trust and respect for you, and therein you might regain our trust.

One thing I’ve learned is that when an “executive officer of the state” tells me that someone else is lying, that someone else is probably telling the truth. We aren’t “anti-police,” we are anti-bad-police-establishment.” – S.T.


Mr. Rawles,
The recent article by G.S. suggested that prepper’s maintain a distrustful attitude when interacting with law enforcement personnel.  This was followed by R.B.’s disdainful view of the defense bar and belief that law enforcement personnel can be trusted to protect the constitution rights of citizens.  Taken together, these viewpoints demonstrate something that preppers should carefully consider; the law enforcement environment in which they are operating, and what steps to take to protect themselves.

I have no doubt that in the Western state that R.B. works to keep safe, law enforcement officers use common sense and can be trusted to understand the Constitutional rights of Americans.  Similarly, we have seen enough stories to know that there are parts of this country, certainly where G.S. resides, where police view Constitutional rights as nothing more than a hindrance and common sense plays little role in decision making.

It is vitally important to learn about your legal and law enforcement environment before significant contact with law enforcement, rather than after the fact.  Here are a couple ideas:

– Talk to a lawyer.   If you don’t already have one or know one, it is much easier to shop around for a good plumber before your pipe breaks. The same is true for attorneys.  Ask around, find one with a good reputation.  Many attorneys will set up an appointment for a nominal fee.  While attorneys cannot divulge the content of your discussion, there is no need to share details about your preps, numbers of firearms, etc.  It may be enough to ask “what should I do if and intruder is on my property or breaking into my home?”  or “Do we have a ‘stand-your-ground’ law here?”  The answers may be different depending on where you live.

-Find out about the prosecutor in your area.  Is the prosecutor elected or a political appointment and if so, by whom?  Are judges elected or appointed?  Is your local prosecutor or police chief involved with anti-Second Amendment groups?  The mayor?   Does your local prosecutor have a history of filing charges against citizens protecting themselves and their families? 

-Learn about the police and sheriff.  Knowing what precinct and beat you live in is particularly helpful if you are monitoring a radio scanner or an online police scanner.   If there is a neighborhood police meeting, take the time to show up and meet the officers working in your area.   You can get a read on the officer’s view of public safety and information about the crime trends in your area could be critical to your family’s safety. 

-Check the news.  Have there been a string of police misconduct complaints?  In proven cases of misconduct, have offenders been punished or is everything swept under the rug?   Do the police have a written or unwritten policy of making an arrest every time someone defends them self from attack?

In many cases, the law enforcement environment in an area is reflective the quality of local government in general,  the area economy, level of personal freedom, and so forth.    When it comes to interactions with law enforcement, like everything else in preparedness, know your environment and have a plan.

How you would deal with a deputy who you know on a first name since grade school would be completely different than a police officer while visiting a major East coast city.   Regardless of your environment,

-Be courteous.  Presume that the officer is doing his job in a manner that deserves our respect. 

-Know your rights.  Don’t think you know them, find out exactly what you can, cannot and must do in your jurisdiction.

-Do not lie.   You may have the right to stay silent, you don’t have the right to say something is untrue.

-Keep your paperwork straight and vehicle in good working order.  Avoid interactions in the first place by ensuring your tags, insurance, etc. are up to date, and your vehicle is in good shape.  This is particularly important if you preparations include a bug-out plan using your vehicle.

-If you determine that an officer is acting in an inappropriate manner and you must invoke your Constitution rights to refuse to make a statement or consent to a search, continue to be courteous and even tempered.  If your rights are violated you can tell the judge, citizens review board, or other authority when the time is appropriate.

After reading both articles, I believe that both G.S. and R.B. are correct as concerns their locale.  Preppers should examine their own locale, and consider their own legal environment and what that environment might become in the event of a local or widespread disaster. – R.L.W.