How to Interact with the Police

Police interactions are not always the most pleasant experiences. In fact, given recent stories, they seem to get more stressful and full of tension over time. Several high-profile deaths of both citizens and police officers in the last year highlight just how dangerous police interactions can be. As a result, even the current presidential race has emphasized police-citizen relations.

Given this recent attention, you might feel nervous when you interact with the authorities. While you want to stay safe, you don’t want to be taken advantage of either. If you feel uneasy about dealing with the police, here are some tips to help you out. Use them to stay safe and avoid unfair treatment.

The Challenges of Police-Civilian Relationships

When you interact with the authorities, the main challenge you face is upholding your rights while avoiding danger. The law gives you certain protections against unfair police practices, such as unreasonable searches or arrests. At the same time, you need to keep yourself out of harm’s way. Is insisting on your rights to unreasonable search and seizure worth an overnight stay in jail or worse?

The best way to balance your safety with your rights is to stay peaceful and respectful. If you keep the situation calm and follow the law enforcement official’s orders, even unlawful ones, you can prevent unfair practices and build a strong case if the officer acts unfairly.

What to Do When an Officer First Confronts You

When an officer pulls you over or confronts you on the street, your first few actions determine the rest of the interaction. Here are a few tips you should remember:

  • You never have to talk to a police officer. Loudly and clearly say you wish to remain silent. In Nevada, you only have to give your full name to law enforcement. If you are asked about your immigration status or asked for your papers, you can still refuse to answer.
  • Ask the officer if you are free to leave. If he or she say yes, calmly walk away. Don’t run from or insult the officer. Those actions will raise his or her suspicions.
  • If the officer asks to search you or your car, you may decline. Watch out for seemingly innocent phrases like “can I look around” or “what is in your pocket.” However, the authorities can do pat downs if they think you have a weapon.
  • Remember, stay calm and peaceful. Always keep your hands where the officer can see them.
  • Always tell the truth or say nothing at all. You don’t have to answer any questions and a lie often causes stiff legal penalties.

How to Approach an Officer in Your Home

The rules of police interaction stay the same if an officer comes to your home. However, here are a few extra considerations:

  • Don’t let officers into your home without a warrant. If they do have a warrant, don’t let them in until you have read the warrant completely.
  • If the police have a search warrant, make sure you know what areas the authorities can search and what they are looking for. Everything else is off limits.
  • Remember, you don’t have to answer any questions, even if the officer threatens you. If you do choose to speak to a law enforcement official, do it through a window or go outside and talk to them there.

Which Precautions You Can Take

In the age of smartphones, almost everyone has the ability to record audio or video at will. And in Nevada, it is perfectly legal to film a police officer without their consent when they are in public. However, if they are in a private location, you will have to notify the officer of a recording. You should still follow all orders from the officer and you cannot physically resist them if they take your phone.

How to Act During the Arrest

If an officer arrests you, the rules for interaction change. Remember, do not resist the arresting officer. Remain silent at all times and clearly and repeatedly ask for a lawyer. Do not talk to anyone but your lawyer and don’t sign anything. You also have the right to a phone call, so memorize the number of your lawyer just in case.

How to Challenge Police Abuse

If an officer has abused your rights or used excessive force, you can make a complaint.  Here are a few tips to help you make a successful objection.

  • Write down all you remember about your interaction. Review your recording if you have one, and document any injures you have.
  • Go to the police station or civilian complaint board and make a written complaint. Talk to a lawyer or advocacy organization if you require extra help.

As you interact with law enforcement officials, respectfully insist on your rights to protect yourself while also avoiding danger. Remember our tips to stay safe and circumvent negative experiences with the authorities.