Apparently, I have neglected to instruct you guys on how to talk to the police.
Only one person ever talked to me about how to talk to the police; he was a county officer who volunteered to speak to our high school history class. I remember only a few lectures from high school and that’s one of them.
Picture about sixty teenagers with very big hair and too much eyeliner having the process of peacekeeping explained to them. There were girls in that class too.
Har. The seventies.
“You probably feel targeted by police when you’re just standing around in front of a convenience store, right?” he asked. We agreed.
“You are being targeted because teenagers who are just idling in public are exactly the type of people that commit most of the crimes around here.”
It was a flashlight moment of reason and it fit perfectly with my experience.
I had more police encounters as a teen than I have ever had as not a teen. We didn’t steal or litter, but my friends and I did break more laws back then out of pure boredom; we trespassed, we substanced, we definitely disturbed the peace, and we even tried to call the news desk to report a sighting of the moon, which we believed was a UFO.
By the way, when you can’t identify the moon, you should just go home.
Considering those tendencies, I was very lucky that I never needed police assistance. But for that school lecture, I would have interpreted my experiences of all hassle and no help very differently.
There are three rules to remember when encountering the wild POPO in the U.S.
First of all, be polite. Do not call them the POPO, or the bacon. They may not be polite to you, but you need to keep your composure and make sure you don’t make anything worse. Once you’ve been arrested, no one is going to listen to your bad cop story, except possibly me.
Be polite in your body language, also. Aggressive postures or sudden moves have been misinterpreted in tragic ways many, many times. Most certainly do not grab your bag of chips, no matter how the munchies are bothering you. They don’t know you, so they don’t know you’re harmless. (If they do know you, what is the matter with you?)
Second, be careful. Do not agree to anything or allow any searches. You don’t have to, unless they have a warrant.
If they have a warrant, read it. It should be limited to a specific item or area. You do not have to give them your cell phone or answer any questions. No thank you and lawyer please may be the only phrases you need.
Third, if you say anything, be honest. If you lie to them, you have just broken the law.
Keep in mind that they are trained to get information from all sorts of people and you are at a disadvantage from the first instant of contact whether you have done anything wrong or not. Keep the interaction as brief and rare as possible.
It’s a terrible time to be police and a really terrible time to be a suspect. Just behave, why don’t you?