The issues regarding police misconduct, use of excessive force, and police brutality, continues to be a growing concern for myself and my colleagues in the criminal defense community. This article offers you some important tools and information on how you should respond to and report abuses of power by the police.
The Ella Baker Center for Human Rights has some great instructions that you should follow during your encounters with law enforcement personnel. You can find a link to their site here, but I have also posted a few of their more important suggestion below:
If the Police Stop You…
- Stay in control of your emotions and words. Don’t physically resist.
- Keep your hands visible.
- Remain silent.
- The less you say, the better. Silence is not a crime.
- Ask, “Am I free to go?” If they keep you, you are being detained.
- Ask, “Why are you detaining me?” To detain you, the police must have reasonable suspicion that a person has been involved in criminal activity.
or Stop You in Your Car…
- When they ask you, show them your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
- Tell the officer, “I do not consent to a search.”
- Don’t open your trunk or car door.
- The police can order occupants out of their car for police safety. As long as you maintain that you do not consent, opening your car door doesn’t necessarily mean you consent to a search.
- If they give you a ticket, sign it. Otherwise you can be arrested. Fight the ticket in court later.
- If the police suspect you of drunk driving and you refuse to take a blood, urine or breath test, your license can be suspended.
Always Be a Witness
- Always be a witness for a friend, relative or stranger.
- Stop and watch.
- Record the officer’s name, badge number, and car number. Write down the time, the place, who said what, and who did what.
If the officer tells you to leave, say, “I have the right to observe from a safe distance.” Assure them, “I’m not trying to interfere.”
Regardless of what you may have been told or heard, it is not illegal for you to record the police in a public place! In fact the ACLU has created a mobile app, MobileJusticeCA, specifically for that purpose. The app is easy to use, and automatically uploads the video to ACLU. The automatic upload is necessary because of the unfortunate instances where police officers have destroyed witness’s phones and cameras.
It is important that we do not allow the minority of officers who engage in police misconduct, tarnish the reputation and respect of those officers who exercise common sense and proper restraint. Holding peace officers accountable for their actions, and ensuring that they conduct themselves in a professional and legal manner, protects not only civilian community, but the law enforcement community as well.
If you have any questions regarding this article, or if you or a loved one are facing criminal charges and believe that you are a victim of police misconduct, please call our office at 310-633-4612 for a free consultation.