Police Confrontation: What Can You Do?
In my senior year of high school, my AP Government/Economics Honors teacher taught us how to act when the police confronted us. He believed that every student should know their rights so that no matter what happened, we didn’t need to serve a longer time than it needed to be. The class and I took notes on the documentary called “Flex Your Rights: 10 Rules of dealing with Police.” When we watched this documentary, Ahmad Aubrey’s footage came out, and it was horrifying for me to see. From Breonna Taylor to George Floyd, many other lives are being thrown away because the system we live in is unjust. But now that I am working at YouthLINE, I get to do my best to help the youth, the next generation, and other people. So get ready to see my team and me be part of your voices.
Flex Your Rights is a nonprofit organization that educates the public about when people encounter law enforcement by using the Bill of Rights. They produced “10 Rules of Dealing with Police” for anybody who dealt with the police and didn’t know what the police can charge you. I am not an expert in the law, but I am here to make sure that younger people understand and have the rules easier to memorize.
So here are the 10 rules that you should know when confronting by the police and the steps that people should follow:
Don’t run. When you see the police, either driving, walking, or going up to you, running will make your time worse than it needs to be.
Always be calm and cool. It sounds cliche, but no matter: if someone acts aggressively with the police or someone’s surroundings, they will retaliate and hurt you, or worse, kill you. Cool doesn’t mean you should act like the main person. It means to have a better composure so that the situation doesn’t escalate.
You have the right to remain silent. Again, this advice is in the movies, and everybody talks about it. So when you are pulled over, and you hand the officers your license and registration, if you can keep yourself quiet for an extended amount of time, you can tell the cops that it is your right to remain silent. If they question you: “do you know why you got pulled over” or “where you are heading.” It’s even better if you ask the police officers WHY you got pulled over.
Don’t do anything illegal. It makes sense, but there is evidence that police officers would magically find things in your car, in your house, or anything in your property illegal. This is still low, but as long as you know the legal or illegal things, the police will have a more challenging time searching your stuff. Learn what is legal and illegal in your state regarding drugs, driving, and other situations where police may be involved in your state, city, or residency.
You have the right to refuse searches. This is another thing that movies, media, or society tell you a lot. But here it is again: ask the police officers if you can see the warrants. If they don’t have any warrants, then you can decline them to search your surroundings. If you consent, your goods may get damaged through the search, and you can’t do anything about it.
You don’t have to let them in. Just like in the previous rule, if the police don’t have the warrant to search you, you can refuse them to go in. If you live in an apartment or anything dealing with landlords, then they must require the police to have warrants to get into your place.
Don’t get tricked into waiving your rights. Police officers will find any excuse to search your stuff and use it against you. They may ask you to sign “to show proof they treated you well” or something similar. It can be a lie and trick you into giving your rights away. Even if they threaten to set extra charges. Know that the judge will determine if the costs are going to happen. Just say, “I don’t give searches,” and they can’t do anything about it.
Determine if you’re free to go. After all the things that you are going through, you might wonder when you can leave. You can always ask the police if you can go. Ask them, “Officer, am I being detained, or can I go”. Suppose they let you go - great. But leave politely. If they say no, then continue being quiet and wait until you can go. You then can ask for a lawyer. They might still ask you questions, but they can’t get anything out of you if you wait until you have a lawyer.
Never touch a cop. They have weapons. So don’t try to reach for it. If you do, then they can say that in defense, they shot you to protect themselves.
Report misconduct: Be a good witness. If you see anything wrong going on, either from the police or other people. Then you can always be a witness. However, do not take charge to help the police officers when they have the scenario under control. They will see you as a person who is interfering or a person going to hurt other people.
Now, the time has changed since the documentary premiered. But it can still help people like you. You probably heard of this so often, but the thing is recording the police. Many people record the police when something seems upright. But my recommendation is to record the law no matter what is going on. They have body cameras on and record you when they walk up to you. Even if nothing happens, they still have it recording. So you might as well. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, they wrote that the police couldn’t go through your phone unless they have a warrant, especially if you are under arrest. Therefore you can decline the search for your phone.
Here is the link to the full youtube video, but I will make a more relevant video.
How can you help?
Spread this on the internet. Tell people about this blog, or video, or other articles. You can actually save a person life by spreading this awareness.
Remember: Together, we are more united than we are divided. The victors write history, so let us be the victors & write history the way it should be not only for us but for future generations.
Written by: Julian Calderon