Knowing your Rights is the First Step to Communicating with Police

A Guest Blog Entry by Nathan Kraus (student, guitarist, world citizen)

After my last blog and constant thought of social justice being violated by communication errors, I realized a power that seems so easy to abuse it’s no wonder police officers do. To avoid the impact of the law I will speak of, it is important for people to know their rights so police officers don’t take advantage of them, they will if you don’t.

To me, a main law that I can understand as a safety measure cops have is the right to handcuff anyone at anytime. They do not need a reason, they simply tell you they need to restrain you at the moment and that you are not currently under arrest.

To me this is bull.

The cop treats me like a criminal and I’ve done nothing wrong. Is the cop profiling me as someone who would try to attack a police officer? Am I going try to run off or pull a gun? No, I am a good citizen and the law should respect that first, and respect that I pay my taxes and employ their wages, technically, as a taxpaying citizen.

Cops don’t appreciate this and the reason I bring this into matter is that the communication of that law and officers is used to gain advantages over citizens. If I’ve done nothing wrong why does the cop have the right to chain me up while talking with his hands free in the air? Why can’t cops talk to you like a normal person, in normal conversation? Because, cops instantly feel power from not talking to a person in a normal conversive manner.

Using the technique mentioned above gives them the upper hand and communication goes from speaking to one another to simply the cop asking the questions and letting you know who is in charge. They lie to you and try to get you to confess to things you didn’t do. They make you feel like you are already in trouble.

Finally, I believe this law to be completely unjust because police officers will use their favorite term “DON’T RESIST”. And if it’s as simple as the cops telling you they are going to cuff you and you refuse, you can then be arrested instantly for RESISTANCE, which is total bull. No communication of the situation needs to be done, the first words from the officer can be “your being cuffed” and you have to do it.

Simply put, this law violates social justice and kills the communication in it.

So to ensure that police don’t keep violating our rights, we must knowledge ourselves, and communicate to the fullest!


38 thoughts on “Knowing your Rights is the First Step to Communicating with Police

  1. I politely disagree with many points throughout this article. I think that it’s a good law that police officers have that authority to try to protect citizens. I don’t believe that police officers just go around arresting people off the streets because they have that power to. Like in any business, there are always bad apples. So, I’m not implying that every officer has a legit reason to handcuff someone, but I believe most officers do have reason. An example would be if someone had the same characteristics as a wanted criminal they were looking for, I think they should handcuff the person and see if they have a match. Even if it turns out not to be the criminal, they did the right thing because if they didn’t have that law and it was the criminal but they weren’t positive, then they just let a dangerous criminal walk the street. Police officers have a tough job, which is to protect us citizens and keep us out of harm’s way and I believe they do a great job.

  2. I agree that, the more protection we want, the more power we need to give to those protecting us. With this in mind, this law should be not questioned, but at the same time, of course it should not be abused. How much good do you think a cop could do to protect us if all he could do was walk around with a flashlight and politely ask criminals to please stop and nicely walk to the station with him to be put behind bars without ever cuffing them or controlling them in any way? I would say these methods would not be too effective. This law now seems necessary when thought of in this manner.

  3. Like we have talked about in all of my criminal justice classes, that it is the police’s job to help protect citizens and keep them safe. Just because there are or is one crooked cop that does what he wants does not mean they are all bad. Every cop that I have dealt with has been stern to the rules but also respectful. I know that if i ever come across a crooked cop as we call them my perception will probably change. Your perception is in your own hands. You have to remember that because, if you have that one bad situation and look at all cops as being bad from that point on, then you block out even the good ones that are there to help. I myself would never want to be a cop for the exact reasons this article explains. I would get so much hatred just for having the title. I on the other hand respect them for all the stuff they have to go through, like Andrew said if someone knows they are getting arrested they are not just going to politely walk into the station we need the power there other wise guilty criminals and people go free. Do not get my thinking wrong though, I do agree still that some police abuse the laws just not all of them. We as citizens have to stay open minded to stay protected.

  4. I think that everyone should freshen up on reading about the law. I do believe a lot of people do not know the law like they should and at times that police officers take advantage of their power. We all have equal and certain rights, but if you are not aware of the law then you could be fooled and taken advantage of. Even though you may look, feel or and may just be a respectable citizen, cops do not know that. The main purpose for cops are to protect and serve. They are human beings just like the rest of us. It’s their jobs to protect themselves as well. Being a cop is a very dangerous job so they should take precaution but sometimes not to the extreme as they seem to do.

  5. I would have to respectfully disagree with this article. I believe that some cops do abuse their power but that is pretty much giving them a stereotype. I mean usually if an individual talks with respect there isn’t a problem. A cop isn’t gonna pat you on your back and say thank you for shooting your neighbor. They are gonna be stern and aggressive with you, and that’s what some individuals need in society today. I’m not trying to defend the police in any way, but I believe in most cases an officer is doing their job, and that is what they are trained to do.

  6. I agree with Charlie J. she is very smart with what she is saying. how strict would you be if you know when you wake up in the morning to do your job you can get shot and killed or something. cops have the right to do whatever they want to get the answers they want. their job is extremely dangerous. put yourself in their shoes. if you’re a cop, you need to ask someone something and you have a feeling or something that this person can be dangerous you must detain him for your safety and the others around you. If I were a cop I would honestly be a prick. you would have to. what kind of cop is gonna be nice all the time, their job is stressfull. a lot of people become cops to have that kind of power due to there insecurities so they feel powerful and in turn you must act powerful.

  7. I personally have friends that are cops so, what I write may be one sided. But I don’t think cops have any more power than we give them. After all power is just an illusion what the eyes see and the ears hear the mind believes.

  8. I seem to be the only one here that does agree with this article. I’ve had bad experiences with cops and so have many people that I have known. Even for just a simple traffic stop cops treat you like you’re a bank robber on the run. They do treat you like you’re going to run or you might pull a gun out and start a huge stand off at any moment. If you do anything wrong such as reaching in the back seat for something like your purse, they freak out because they think you’re going to try to harm them. Seriously… for a traffic stop… cops think they have so much authority over “regular people”. They do try to push you into admitting things that aren’t true. They lie to you to get you to confess to things. They manipulate you and attack your emotions and vulnerability. They are so quick to put cuffs on you and don’t care why you did something or if it was accident as long as they’re getting their quota in. This is why I hate cops and I think they’re stupid as Hell. Seriously, they act like it takes so much to get a law degree. If so, then why can I get a certification to work in law at a police station doing police duties by attending a junior college. Pathetic.

  9. I would have to agree with Tara Fowler and this article. I understand that cops have to follow the way they were trained for there own safety. If we follow their instruction, we should not be interrogated, especially when getting pulled over for speeding. I’m trying to get to school on time, speeding 5-10 miles per hour over on the highway. That should not be a traffic violation if I am not endangering anyone. All cops want is their money! Tickets are getting more expensive each year. I got a speeding ticket and had to pay over 200 dollars to get court supervision with driving school. Is it necessary to go to driving school for that reason? I don’t think so. Basically, everyone breaks the rules, if you get caught, your just one of those unlucky citizens.

  10. With this article I can relate to. I have been in those situations where I feel like I get handcuffed for no reason, where the cops believe that I would do something wrong. For example, I went to pee in an ally where there was no one in sight when there was nowhere else to go at the time. I get into a friends car and right away a cop pulls us over and makes us get out of the car for no reason. I was so confused about him searching us. I ask the cop what was he doing and he goes “making sure you don’t have anything.” A cop can run my record and find nothing on me and he assumes that I’m doing something bad. He pulls me and my buddy apart and questions us when all I did was pee in an ally. I see so many cops where they assume things. For example, one night when it was raining a cop pulled me over for supposedly not wearing a seat beat, but after reading this article, it makes me realize how so many points it hits on being the truth on how cops take their power way too far. It makes me so mad on how they can be so mean at times when you are so nice to them, even telling the truth. They reverse the matter and try to make it a bad situation. It ends up making your day worse when you have no clue what it can lead you towards.

  11. I’ve had bad experiences with cops and I’ve had good experiences with cops. Cops are just like the rest of us, trying to do their job and stay alive while doing it. Yes, some of them abuse their power but you will find that in every walk of life. Each job holds its own power and there always people who abuse power. Classifying all cops as power hungry is stereotyping at its best. C. Wright Mills would say you should look at the big picture, the group as a whole and not classify the group because of the actions of a small number of individuals.

  12. I strongly agree, I feel cops take their authority way out of hand sometimes. I feel that if cops just talked to us like normal people that we are they would not have as many issues as they do. My take on this situation is you do what the officer asks of you and you say nothing and keep your mouth closed until you have a lawyer present. This way you know what needs to be answered and how to respond.

    1. Frank, you nailed that one on the head. If you do as you are asked, you are less likely to be considered to be a problem for them.

  13. I agree with you that cops always have that voice of power in their communication. Yeah, it is true that crops are there to protect the citizens and prevent the crime in the city. I am completely respecting our justice system and the hard work our cops are doing for our community. I had a bad experience with the cops. The incident was happen in one of the college in USA. In our college our group of friends had the one particular meeting place. That day begin as typical as any other days. We all were chitchatting there. Everything happened very fast, one of my best friend write a famous movie name in the wall. Suddenly college safety cops appeared and they handcuffed him in front of everybody in our college hallway. The name was not in English, so the cops checked the meaning and said it could be some gang’s name. My friends charged with criminal felony. He had to pay fine and community service. I never could absorb the fact that he got handcuffed for that. Probably it is because I grew up in a different country and with different life style. I never understand that why they made him walking through that hallway as a criminal for the five-letter word he wrote. In my country you could not see one wall without writing. I got surprise to hear that it is such a big crime in this country. They took his picture from all the angles and they made scan his hand figure by one by one. They asked him questions for continues four hours. Cops have power of voice, I agree. I just think they could be little bit kind to him at least avoid the handcuffed part. Because in our county cops only handcuff those who murder some one or those who committed such high range crimes. I guess there are good cops out there.

  14. I politely would have to disagree with Diane Hurley. I believe you are contradicting yourself at the same time because cops use a stereotypical view toward all citizens. They are trained to assume we are all criminals and cannot be trusted. Although I completely agree that calling policemen power hungry is stereotyping and that we should look at the big picture, the group as a whole and not classify the group because of the actions of a small number of individuals, according to C. Wright Mills. What if cops actually trusted more, showed more respect, and did not assume the unexpected? Would that benefit policemen or endanger them?

    1. I disagree. I don’t believe that ALL cops use a stereotypical view toward ALL citizens. They are trained to protect the public and themselves while doing their job. I believe your statement about cops trusting more and showing more respect would be an effective trait for all of us to try. Again, you are yourself stereotyping by suggesting that all cops need to trust more and show more respect making the assumption that some are not already doing so.

  15. In response to Monica, I do believe that if cops respected and trusted people more it would in fact endanger them. It would lead to less suspicion and cause cops to focus less on the task at hand. If cops no longer looked at everyone as though they were a suspect and an individual unit that could be corrupt they would not be doing their job.

    By looking at everyone as though they were the victim, if you will, rather than a supposed criminal it will fog cops judgment. Now I do not always believe it is right for cops to jump to conclusions in order to solve a crime. However, I do believe it is their job to look for suspicious characters in order to make the neighborhood a safer place. This may mean accusing a few innocent people of crimes they did not commit but it’s better than having cops wait for the evidence to come to them.

  16. I definitely agree with this article. It is too often you see cops walking around like they can do whatever they want and get away with anything they want. I’ve personally seen police pull up in a no parking zone or in front of a fire hydrant, go into a restaurant for 45 minutes and kill time (while their car is still on and burning away our tax dollars), and drive off as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. They take their authority for granted and see themselves as omnipotent. Yes, they do help our society out in a huge way and yes, not all cops are as ignorant as the ones who give them such a bad rep, but I think if you are brave enough to become a cop in the first place, you should have the right morals and attitudes to carry yourself in an orderly manner, and to set an example for the community to look up to instead of despise.

    1. Scheffler, I agree with you. It does seem that some professions have a tendency to attract power hungry individuals. Maybe there should be better screenings of new hires or stiffer penalties for abuse of power.

  17. I would like to preface this comment by asking readers to perform a Google search for the name of any profession followed by the word shooting. How many results can be found involving a hair stylist being shot multiple times while standing beside their chair? How many results can be found involving a travel agent being shot dead while booking a flight? Zero. The reason is that no other profession has been qualified as the most dangerous. At any point during the course of a routine traffic stop, a subject could draw a firearm hidden inside the enclosure of their vehicle, fire every round in the magazine, and simply drive away. Officers are empowered to detain citizens in the course of questioning because of this inherent danger. If more than 126 hair stylists had been shot and killed by their clients during appointments in 2009, I have a strong inclination to believe we would all be handcuffed to the red leather chair during our next visit.

  18. I think this blog hits the point right on. You have to know your rights when dealing with the police. What if they are trying to pinpoint you for a crime you did not commit, you have to know that you have the right of a lawyer. For example; if by protecting yourself or your family you cannot answer a question, you need to know the Fifth Amendment. Police have many strategies in trying to make you say things that can make you look like a suspect. You need to know how to protect yourself by understanding your rights.

  19. I do find the way cops and the law to be highly unfair. Even though you may know your rights as an individual it seems like when in a real life situation the cops seem to deny your rights. They find loop holes and reasons to justify why they are breaking these rights. Yet the reality is they are not out to get you. Those people who feel like every time they are approached by a cop they feel like a criminal. This is usually because these people who use this defensive technique often do have something to hide. The best thing to do when confronted by a cop or the law is to simply listen, answer their questions politely and comply. If you have nothing to hide, you should be fine. Although this concept may not apply to all such as minority groups who are faced with police brutality and discrimination. But all in all all cops want is your full attention and compliance.

  20. There are parts of this blog that I agree with and others that I do not. I don’t agree that all police officers abuse their power. Yes, there are some that do, but there will always be. Sometimes the power goes straight to a police officer’s head. I think that our government has done a good job to enforce laws and rules for police officers to follow in order to help diminish this problem. Unfortunately, this is going to continue being a problem because some people just ca not handle the power that plays along with being a police officer.

  21. I think that law enforcement policy is grossly stretched and skewed in order to benefit the police. Me and my friend were once pulled over, after a short conversation with the officer, he informed us that he was going to take both of us into the station, without telling us what we were being charged with. We were held, without explanation for over three hours. We were then released for free, with no charges or information. I would love to know what purpose that police officer had to hold both of us. Upon returning to the car, which was parked in the front of the naperville police station, instead of being impounded, a significant amount of gas was missing. When we turned it on, the music had been left on full blast. The kicker had to be that whoever drove our car, presumably a cop, had taken our Swisher Cigarillo too. I wonder what he was doing with that? I think the police are up to way more than we give them credit for.

  22. Yes, I also agree with your article. They say your innocent until proven guilty, but nowadays your guilty until proven innocent. The police should focus on more important things instead of pulling people over for speeding 5 over. I have never been in trouble with law enforcement or have any record. Every time I’m driving and I see a cop, it makes me feel uncomfortable, like I am doing something wrong, and I have to try to drive carefully, because and sudden movements and next thing you know it I’m a drug smuggler.

    1. I agree with AriR’s entire comment. I feel like police officers jump to conclusion too fast and that they don’t listen to the people. I too have never been in trouble with the police but whenever I’m driving I feel paranoid like I’m doing something wrong when I know I’m not.

  23. This is true because they, not only do they abuse this power but also use racial profiling. They immediately try to make African Americans and Latinos trying them to confess to crimes that people associate with their race. such as for African Americans being involved with drugs and Latinos not having the right documentation.

  24. A police officer’s main job is to regulate the state laws that are put into place. Being a police is a job. They are risking their lives everyday to maintain social control in society. If a police officer pulls you over and searches your car. He places you in handcuffs because he doesn’t know and does not trust you. Put your self in the shoes of a police officer. If he pulls over some kid that is giving him attitude while he is just doing his job of course he is not going to talk to you like a normal person. Once you take the oath of becoming a police officer you are held to a higher standard by society. Some let that go to there head which effects how they police in there city. I believe that is the job of their bosses to keep the police officers in check and not let things get out of hand. Police Officers should be respected and if they are not they will give you the same attitude back that you give them. So just remember what you say to them. If you treat them with respect they will treat you with respect.

  25. I am very sorry for you incident but right away I will have to disagree with you. You are exactly right to question why in fact you are being treated like a criminal for when you have done nothing wrong. The example being you being handcuffed, now I don’t truly know the situation or intend to infer that I think I know what was happening during your run in with the law, but I can start off with; there was a reason why you in fact you got hand cuffed. In some way that officer felt as if his safety was in jeopardy, so he acted on it as all police officers are trained to do and took away that threat. He did not throw you to the ground or use excessive force, but simply handcuffed you until the situation was taken care. The thing that people seem so hard to understand, is that on a day to day basis law enforcement officer deal with an abundance of people ranging from a serial murderer, to a little old lady being pulled over for a traffic violation. On a routine stop they have no idea which type of citizen is going to give them a hard time or fully cooperate with them. MANY MANY MANY times has an officer gone out on a routine call, to be shot at once he reached the driver’s side window, or knocks on that front door of a household. So can you honestly sit there and blame them for taking few safety precautions to ensure the safety of them as well as you??

    On top of it, law enforcement officials are “torn a new one” everyday by the citizens within our community for doing their job, citizens have even shown public hatred for law enforcement officials multiple times and we wonder and question why a police officer might feel a little un safe when even making a routine stop? Huh?

  26. I do agree that sometimes police officers can take advantage of the power their job gives them. It’s a huge responsibility to hold so much authority over such a large group of people and not everybody uses it appropriately. Although police officers are given a lot of power and authority you have to take into consideration the amount of danger they are in while on the job. All the regulations civilians have to follow at the hands of the police are for the officers safety. Just think, there’s a reason police officers act the way they do, there probably was a time when officers were more lenient but people most likely took advantage of that, causing more rules to be created and more heavily enforced. People have a tendency to forget that police are in place to protect us, and in most instances if you aren’t doing anything wrong you shouldn’t have anything to worry. Being a police officer is a really difficult job, they are constantly under scrutiny regarding whether or not they made the right call or if they used too much force but at the end of the day those who choose to be officers are the ones we will most likely call when god forbid something goes wrong.

  27. I do agree with you but, you have to think that the police officers are just trying to take caution to anyone they are pulling over or anything in a way. I do believe that if they know that you are innocent in away then they should treat you in that way and not treat you as if you are giulty from the start.

  28. I’ve known people who have opened the door and gladly let police officers into their house with a single knock on the door. This is even when the home owner knows they have something illegal in their home. These people rack up fines from these officers when it all could have been avoided by telling the officer that they cannot enter their home until they have a search warrant. Laws are taught in high school but not in depth enough for the situations these students are getting in.

  29. Granted, officers get the cuffs out maybe because they’ve been in a bad situation before you. It’s still a power trip. I understand that they may do more good than bad but they’re still on a power trip. Just the way they talk to you is to show authority. Maybe all you have is a speeding ticket. But yes they lie, I’ve been in the situation where a officer tells me he had the right to enter my home blatantly. Because I admitted to knowing someone and then that’s hard core evidence that he may be hiding in my home. It becomes a complete lack of security. a fear of the people who are supposed to protect and serve. I also know that when agreeable and talking to the cop like a normal person you will find that they usually treat you the same.

  30. I one hundred percent agree that cops abuse people’s ignorance of their rights. Many cops racially profile people and arrest or punish them when they haven’t done anything wrong simply because of the color of their skin. My cousin Guillermo, who is Mexican, was arrested for a night when all he tried to do was grab something of his out of his principal’s hand. It was seen as him “attacking” her and she called the cops on him. An example of injustice with the police in my own life is when I was walking to the library one day, and a cop stopped me on my way because I was out during school hours. I explained that I was home schooled, but he wouldn’t believe me and requested a whole laundry list of information to prove that I was home schooled. When I said that I was uncomfortable giving him all of that information, he said he could hand cuff me and bring me to the police station. While nothing ended up happening, the fact that he threatened me with that simply because I didn’t want to give out all of my info is an abuse of power. There are better things to be taking care of as a police officer than home schooled kids being out during school hours. Cops are supposed to represent and protect the people, not bully them around so that they can feel high and mighty.

  31. Although I may not agree with the entire scope of this article I do recognize the ignorance towards the public’s limited knowledge regarding their rights, particularly in instances on when and how to properly implement them. The easiest of all employed practices would to establish an outline of your rights on an index card, placed inside a wallet or of similar significance to enable flexible mobility and be carried with you at all times. This provides the simplest method to be retrieved during any legal exchange and also eliminates the responsibility of an individual to remember or recite legal stipulations that may be perceived as “provoking” the officer. Pursuing this route assists in reaching a common ground between you and the officer, limiting those potential sequences of abuse that law enforcement may employ occasionally.

  32. I strongly disagree with everything in this article. First off, cops cannot just put anyone with just the term “restraint” there needs to be probable cause and articulable facts. Also, the courts give the right to the Police Department to use as much necessary force without exceeding to excessive force. From the National Institute of Justice, they talk about police force and state, “Law enforcement officers should use only the amount of force necessary to mitigate an incident, make an arrest, or protect themselves or others from harm. The levels, or continuum, of force police use include basic verbal and physical restraint, less-lethal force, and lethal force.” And it’s not that the cops don’t believe that you are a bad or good citizen, but that they need to protect themselves from the unexpected. How are they supposed to know who they are dealing with if they don’t know you. Cops will detain you and cuff you if you fit a description of someone who is wanted, if they find that you have a warrant out for your arrest, if someone calls the police on you for whatever reason and they feel like you are under a lot of pressure and they want to make sure you don’t do anything to them or someone else. It is also a requirement to be objective rather than subjective, which causes more problems and possibly your job.

    1. I agree that policemen have to protect themselves from the unexpected. The author of the article, Kraus, stated that he was a “good” and “taxpaying citizen”. This may very well be true but there is absolutely no way for an officer to know this. A policeman’s job is literally to seek danger and prevent it from either happening or escalating. With that being said, it is still very important that a cop treats everyone with respect. I think there is a huge problem today with how many people view policemen. I have seen first-hand, people disrespect cops and treat them coldly just because they were a cop when the officer treated them very kindly. Yes, there is a problem with how some policemen treat people. However, to throw a blanket statement over them and assume that all of them are bad and out to get people is wrong.

  33. It is essential that citizens learn the rights they have. This is not just important when it pertains to law enforcement though. Everyone should know their rights for any situation, like what acts are considered self-defense and what acts are considered excessive force. Now, backtracking to the police matter, cops can and have used a person’s ignorance to their benefit. Is this wrong of them? Not necessarily. A policeman’s job is to serve and protect the public. If an individual poses a threat then it is the officers duty to try and uncover the truth. It is not the job of the officer to inform the public on every single right that person has unless they are being arrested and mirandized. It is the responsibility of the citizen to educate themselves on their own rights.

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