For the last several weeks I have been participating in a broad stroke study of law enforcement practices on city streets across America. I have done ride-alongs with police officers from coast to coast - Portland, Oregon to Austin, Texas to Cincinnati, Ohio to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These ride-alongs are usually in the form of 22 minute segments during which I am transported to the ride-along locations using a technology called "Court Television." As the ride-alongs start to blur together and the study comes to a close, I thought I would share some of the conclusions that have come out of the experience, in no particular order:
- If you are an officer driving your unit in pursuit of a motorcyclist refusing to stop, you should avoid pulling your unit onto railroad tracks to continue the chase, as this will usually result in several flat tires, structural damage to the unit, and a severe loss of peer esteem on the part of your fellow officers.
- If you are a sex worker, and you see several law enforcement vehicles in the area of your office space, just because the actual vehicle that arrives to request your services does not say "POLICE" on it, there is still a good chance that it is an undercover officer trying to make a bust. When you are busted, your command of an extensive fabricated back-story about how you know the undercover officer and what you were doing together will rarely turn out to be useful.
- Every police officer across the country is taught to ask suspects if they have anything sharp on them that might harm the officer during a pat down. However, most every officer asks this question while already sticking their hands in various pockets and crevices on the subject, effectively making it an irrelevant inquiry.
- When running from the police, if you have illegal substances on your person and you decide to throw those substances away from you during the pursuit, the officers *will* take the time to go back and look for it and wave it in your face when they find it. For this reason, you should only ever carry illegal substances in invisible packaging, or with small rocket engines attached.
- If you live in New Jersey, you should not ever get pulled over by the police.
- Most police officers are fairly out of shape and have several hundred pounds of gadgets around their belts, and so are incapable of sustaining a fast pace when pursuing a subject on foot. They rely instead on collaborative efforts of fellow officers, or on erroneous choices of the suspects, the latter being a surprisingly reliable factor in successful apprehensions.
- When you decide to rob a convenience store or a bank or any other location that is commonly known to employ the use of video surveillance, and when you then later deny the events captured in living color by said video surveillance, you should be prepared for officers to laugh and point at you extensively.
- "Probable Cause" is the bread and butter of law enforcement procedures in the field. If you drive suspiciously, the officer has P.C. to pull you over. While pulled over, if you act suspiciously, the officer has P.C. to do an overview search of your person and the visible areas of your vehicle. If anything suspicious is found, the officer has P.C. to do a thorough search of your vehicle and possessions. And so on.
- Many law enforcement officers see their work as taking place in a black and white world of good guys and bad guys. However, they are surprisingly non-judgmental about the character and motives of any given offender. The approach often turns to a form of excessive nonchalance, and so whereas the offender in a crime may be shocked and bewildered at their capture and the earth-shattering implications it has for their life and future, the typical arresting officer tends to view such an event as a notch on the ol' utility belt, another bad guy gone down. This is probably necessary to be able to do their job at all and not go insane.
- Being tasered hurts like hell, reducing any person of any size and strength of will to a sobbing, curled up baby. It will make you beg for mercy, and admit to crimes you aren't even capable of committing, just to make the pain stop, oh please, make it stop.
- Most cops become law enforcement officers through the influence of an immediate family member or close friend. It usually not an academic decision made abstractly, but one solidified through the reinforcement of its appeal during one or more exchanges with these influencers on the job.
- Cops probably do not watch "Cops".
- If you are pulled over for a traffic stop, you should not get out of the car. You should turn on your interior dome light and then put both hands in plain sight, probably at the top of the steering wheel. From that point on, you should not make any motion that is not asked of you by the officer, and when you do move, do it slowly and always with your hands in plain sight. If you make sudden movements, put your hands in your pockets, or otherwise create any indication that you are moving in contrast to their wishes, you may be yelled at, tasered, shot, or otherwise beaten senseless.
Cops are people too, and most of the time they are just doing what they think is right. But sometimes they are bad boys, bad boys, and you really have to ask yourself, seriously now, what *are* you going to do when they come for you?