Saturday, September 24, 2016

Don't talk to cops...

I have a very eclectic collection of friends.  Quite a few of them are liberal types I know from my artistic pursuits.  Others, such as family members, people I grew up with in rural Virginia, and people I know from my years affiliated with the military (as a spouse and brat), are much more conservative.  Sometimes, if I post something slightly controversial, they'll end up interacting.  Sometimes the interactions can become somewhat explosive.

Last night, I shared an article I read about why people shouldn't talk to the police.  It was inspired by advice given by James Duane, a law professor at Regent University in Virginia.  He's featured in a very interesting video about the Fifth Amendment.


In this 2008 video, James Duane speaks about why you should never speak to police officers for ANY reason.

And part 2...

In fairness, I knew this might be a controversial topic.  I have a couple of friends who are police officers.  I have a couple of friends who are spouses of cops.  I also have lots of very liberal friends who do not trust the police.  So I posted this article and the comments ensued.

Naturally, I heard from a couple of liberal friends who liked the advice.  I heard from one of my police officer friends.  And I also heard from a spouse of a cop.  You could probably guess how this went.  Personally, I usually take a middle of the road stance on this subject.  I think many times cooperating with the police works out okay.  Other times, it can be disastrous.  

One friend wrote that she has never had any problem just being courteous with the police and minding her manners.  This particular friend happens to be a young, blonde, white woman who has probably never had any really serious issues with the police.  Other people have not been as lucky.

Another friend, also a white woman, had written about being harassed by the police in a neighborhood near where she used to live.  That friend got into it with one of my cop friends.  They had a very long discussion.  My liberal friend who was against talking to the police explained that she felt harassed by the police.  She explained that she hadn't broken any laws and the cop was bothering her because she felt he thought she was in the neighborhood buying drugs.  She wasn't, and the officer apparently didn't find any reason to detain her, so she went on her way.

My cop friend was being defensive of the police officer's actions.  He explained what he's done when he's been on a beat (granted on a military installation).  They argued, and then another friend, who is married to a cop declared, "You're making a mountain out of a molehill." 

Things went downhill from there.  My liberal friend brought up the very real problem that people of color face when they get stopped by the police.  And my cop friend sarcastically made a comment about how he was just waiting for someone to play the race card.  With that, my liberal friend got disgusted and left the conversation.

I'm a little sad things went down this way.  I really think this is an interesting topic of discussion.  Many of us are taught to trust and respect police officers without question.  Many people think all they have to do is tell the truth and it'll all be okay.  However, as Mr. Duane explains in his video, there is a huge risk that a person who is stressed, tired, or unsure of the laws of the land might inadvertently say something that incriminates them.  People can and have found themselves behind bars for making that mistake.  Sometimes, they're there for a long time before they are finally released.

I appreciate the work that good police officers do.  It's important work, and police officers deserve respect for facing danger in the name of keeping their jurisdictions safe.  But too many Americans are ignorant about their rights.  You could be totally innocent and end up saying something that gets you in serious trouble.  I think it makes sense to ask if you're being detained.  If you are, get a lawyer to advocate for your rights.  If you aren't being detained, be on your way and don't talk to the police.  It's your right not to.

Also, for the record, I don't think my liberal friend was making a mountain out of a molehill.  It's true that her particular situation was more of an inconvenience than anything else.  But it could have turned out very differently.  

If you don't speak to the police, you can't lie to them.  You can't get carried away when you speak to them.  You can't give them any information that can incriminate you.  And it's your right not to speak to the police.  I think it makes good sense to wait until you have a lawyer who can advise you and be your advocate.  Yes, lawyers are potentially expensive, but if they can keep you out of prison, I'd say they're worth the money.