This is the second installment in a series on Security Culture and Don’t Talk to the Cops! A great link to know your rights comes from the Midnight Special Law Collective:
This week we need to address the most common interaction that folks have with cops, on average, which is dealing with cops on the street. If the police stop you on the street, immediately ask, “Am I free to go?” If yes, then walk away and if no, then you are being detained. Being detained is not the same as being arrested. Ask, “Can you explain why you are detaining me?”
It is important to know the laws in your particular state- in 20 states you don’t have to give your name or any I.D. In the other 30 states, the laws vary on how much you have to tell ranging from name only to name and address with showing a positive I.D. A “positive” I.D. is one that has your name and picture on it. If you are stopped by a cop and asked for your name, you may be detained for not offering your name. In New York State, you only have to provide your name. You do not have to provide your current address.
Cops lie. They may tell you that you need to tell them your address and have a positive I.D. but that’s just not true.
To stop you, cops must have specific reasons to suspect you of involvement in a specific crime. You cannot be stopped randomly. Police are entitled to frisk you (pat you down) during a detention. If police attempt to further search you, your car, your home, or your personal property state repeatedly that you object to the illegal search, but do not resist in a physical way.
Remember, a “frisk” is only patting you down- the cops cannot search your pockets or bookbag or any belongings during a frisk. They have to have “reasonable suspicion” to detain you and you can object to a warrantless search if they attempt one since you are not under arrest.
Do not give a fake name if stopped and asked who you are. That is illegal, and you can be prosecuted for it. Do not resist police in a physical way unless you understand that this is also a crime and you can be charged and prosecuted. If you have committed a crime, or if you have not committed a crime, the rules are the same: DON’T TALK TO THE POLICE.
If you have committed a crime, remember that anything you say at any time may be used against you and may implicate anyone else that you are associated with. If you plan to commit an illegal act in the name of a political cause, be prepared to be arrested. This is an important aspect of Security Culture. Be prepared to be caught, be prepared to do the time. If you are committing the act with others, run through scenarios of being caught, and gut-check each other. Know that the cops will use any means at their disposal to flip you, including telling you that one of your comrades has already cut a deal and named you as the person to blame.
The police can lie to you at any time. That is legal. You cannot lie to the police. That is illegal. Welcome to Security Culture. Know your rights. Know how far you are willing to go. Never talk to cops. Be prepared to do the time if you did the crime. Know the laws around what you are planning to do. Know that the cops may act as “friendly” toward you trying to gain your trust, but no cop is your friend. They have a job to do- uphold the system that holds us down.
Know the people you are working with- who is most vulnerable, for example someone with children that the police can threaten to take away. Make sure your affinity is real with your affinity group. Don’t discriminate against another member of your group because, for example, they have children- help make a plan for what would happen if that member was arrested, or perhaps that person wants to not participate. For anyone who does not wish to participate in an action, you should also decide how much that person knows. Just knowing about an action and not reporting to the cops can be a crime. Don’t endanger anyone in your group. And, finally, remember: No one is less of an activist or anarchist if they decide that they do not want to participate in an action that is illegal. Build affinity with this as a basis.
Copyleft, please distribute freely. Information contained in this post was obtained from the Slingshot Collective, The Midnight Special Collective, The National Lawyers Guild, and my personal experience as a radical activist.