I Am Not A Cop Basher
Let me preface this by saying that I was a police officer for over 15 years, serving as a lieutenant for the last few years of my career. Most of my friends are or have been police officers. I have a great deal of respect for the law enforcement officers who help keep our communities safe and lock up the bad guys... while understanding and supporting our rights. I think the Oath Keepers organization has an awful lot going for it and support what they do - in fact, I put my money where my mouth is and just switched away from typing this to join as a full member. I understand that officers have to enforce laws that some might consider stupid or useless. If we don't like the laws, it is up to us to get them changed.
I do not support officers who abuse citizens, violate rights, use unnecessary force, flex their authority as bullies, or believe that they are "better" than the rest of us.
I decided to write this tonight primarily because of a video that seemed to make the rounds on Facebook today. One of our readers, Shanna, posted it, as did SurvivalMom and an old friend of mine. It is a video of a young man getting stopped at two different Border Patrol checkpoints well inside our country... not at a border crossing. You can watch it here:
I really admire people like this guy who put their safety and liberty on the line when they are right. There is another video that shows this same guy getting brutalized and abused a couple of years ago at a similar checkpoint. The guy puts himself in these situations on purpose, but he is in the right and stands up for not just his rights, but all of ours. He is similar to the people who open carry in places and video their encounters with the police. Some officers do the right thing and others get abusive or authoritative. The people who take these chances don't know what kind of officer they will encounter, and put themselves at risk to stand up for their rights. The guy in this video stirs some of this up... he comes across as a jerk at times. He could get the same thing accomplished without calling the officers Nazis. He also has some other issues with some of his sermons (he's a preacher) that supposedly call for the death of homosexuals and others. But that doesn't take away from the fact that in this case, he was in the right.
I'm going to offer up some advice for you if you get stopped by the police. This is NOT legal advice. Different states and localities have different laws. It has also been about 5 years since I was a cop, laws and interpretations have changed. Use my advice at your own risk. Research your laws and consult a lawyer if you think you should. This is also not advice for you to go out and become an activist like the guy in the video or other folks. This is for regular folks who get stopped by the police on a legitimate traffic stop or in a DUI or seatbelt checkpoint. It is not advice to get out of or beat a ticket... simply some suggestions on ways to ensure that you protect your rights. Most cops are decent, good "guys."
1. Drive it like you stole it - I've never understood why people say that when they are talking about driving fast and crazy. I've always thought that if I ever steal a car, I will make sure all the lights and accessories work, I wear my seatbelt, I'm sober, I drive within a few MPH of the speed limit, I use my turn signals, etc... In other words, don't draw attention to yourself and obey the laws of the road. That's the best way to not get stopped by the police in the first place.
If you are getting pulled over:
1. immediately slow down and pull over in a safe location as quickly as you can; pull as far of the road as you safely can; put the car in park and turn off the radio; if you are on the phone, maybe don't hang it up, but set it down so the person on the other end can hear what is going on; turn on your hazard lights
2. roll down your window and rest your hands on top of the steering wheel - if it is after dark, turn on your dome light
3. many officers are trained in Verbal Judo and will initiate the conversation with something like: "good afternoon, I'm officer jones of the capital city police department. I stopped you because you were driving 62 in a 45 zone. Is there a reason you were driving that fast? ...pause... Please tell me where your license and registration are and hand them to me." Go ahead and comply. Don't argue... but don't admit either. Other officers might walk up and simply ask for your license and registration. It's tempting to ask them why they stopped you before you had over your documents, but just hand them over. He'll tell you why after he gets them. You don't have the right to know why you are being stopped before you identify yourself. Arguing the point will get you nowhere... plus remember, don't argue or admit anything... simply acknowledge. If he asks where you are coming from or going, you don't need to answer.
4. If your state requires you to notify the officer of your concealed weapon, do it. If you are not required to, don't. No officer is going to give you a break because you have a concealed weapon permit. Find out what your local laws are if the officer asks you if you have a concealed weapon. Don't do something stupid like keep your drivers license tucked behind your holster or keep the pistol in the glove box with your registration. If you are not required to answer, don't... but don't lie either. Simply tell him that you don't want to answer. That will likely make him more cautious, and maybe even aggressive, be prepared. If you are carrying legally, you can tell him you are if you want. Some officers will tell you simply to please not make any sudden movements or ask you where it is. I think most have gotten away from taking it from you and unloading it or holding it until the stop is over.
5. When the officer comes back, he'll probably have a summons (ticket, citation) for you or tell you he's giving you a warning. Accept what he has for you, sign the summons if you get one.
6. He may say you are free to go, but he would like to ask you a few questions. Confirm you are free to go and then leave. You don't need to answer his questions.
7. He may ask you if you mind if he searches your car for illegal items. Ask him if you are free to go and leave if you are. If he evades an answer, keep asking, but maintain your cool. If he is asking to search, do not ever give permission or consent.
8. When you leave, leave cautiously.
Short answers: drive legally; don't argue or admit; obey state laws regarding concealed weapon notification; don't argue, admit anything, or lie; if he tells you that you are free to leave... leave; never grant consent to search; if he is "fishing," ask if you are free to leave.
If you get stopped at a checkpoint:
(Here I am going to talk about regular local or state police DUI/Seatbelt/License checkpoints-not federal border patrol ones-I have no experience with those)
1. Again, make sure you and your car are legal whenever you drive
2. These checkpoints are legal - don't argue
3. Roll the window down, follow instructions about showing ID or whatever - you do not need to tell them where you are coming from or going; you do not need to chat or answer questions. They may say something like, "I'd like you to pull over to the secondary screening location." Ask if they are telling you or asking you... ask if you are free to go. If you are wearing your seatbelt, have a valid license and registration, and no alcohol on your breath, you should be free to go. A checkpoint should take no more than 15-20 seconds if you are legal.
4. Again - do not consent to a search and ask if you are free to go. If you are, then go.
If all of this goes bad for a checkpoint or a traffic stop, submit without threat, force or violence. If you get arrested, go willingly. It will be a pain in the butt, but if you are in the right, it will come out in court. Don't fight the police on the street, fight them in court.
After a kind of heavy topic, here's a little comedy on the same topic. I first saw this when I was at the police academy for an instructor recertification class. It's Chris Rock, and does have quite a bit of profanity, so don't watch if you don't want to hear it.