know your rights


Cops are predators, just like any other predator, and they will prey on the most vulnerable.
You have rights, but many police will not respect your rights.

You have the right to be in a public place and to observe police activity.
If the police stop someone, you can STOP AND WATCH.
Maintain a reasonable distance, and if a cop threatens to arrest you, explain that you don’t want to interfere, but that you have the right to observe their actions.

Write down officers names, badge numbers, and car number.
Cops should give you this information when asked.
You have the right to know their identity.

Write down the time, date, and place of the incident.

Ask if the person is being arrested, and on what charge.

Get names of witnesses and how to contact them.

Try to get the name of the arrestee, but only if they have already given it to the police.

Write down all the details as soon as possible.

In case of police violence, remain calm and urge the police to be calm and nonviolent.

Note: Police can arrest someone they believe is “interfering” with their actions.
Maintain a reasonable distance, and if a cop threatens to arrest you, explain that you don’t want to interfere, but that you have the right to observe their actions.

If the police stop you:

Ask, “Am I free to go?”
If not, you are being detained.
If yes, walk away.

Ask, “Can you explain why you are detaining me?”
To stop you, the officer must have specific reasons to suspect your involvement in a specific crime (not just a guess or a stereotype).

It is recommeded that, for everyone’s safety, you do not resist physically.

Remember names and badge numbers of officers involved.
If a cop tries to search your home, your car, or your person, say repeatedly that you do not consent to the search.

It is recommeded that, for everyone’s safety, you do not resist physically.

If the police arrest you:

Say repeatedly, “I don’t want to talk until my lawyer is present.”

Even if your rights aren’t read, refuse to talk until your lawyer/public defender arrives.

If the police abuse you or violate your rights, write down details of the incident immediately.
Photograph your injuries and get a medical report describing them.


18 Responses to “know your rights”

  1. Captain Ottinger Says:

    And whatever you do, never, ever, ask your arresting officer out on a date! (Unless the officer is really hot. I mean, come on, haven’t you seen Raising Arizona? Hubba! Hubba!)

  2. Jeff Says:

    Dear Neighbor

    There is much in this post I find valuable. Personally, I would like to see a public service where citizens with video cameras tape officers performing their duties. The tapers should have a certificate from a training program. Such a system would protect citizens and officers alike.

    The first sentence of this post is inflammatory, and not fully true. First, I’ve asked several, and police officers prefer to be called officer, not cop. Even if they are behaving poorly, you should not. Second, officers are not necessarily predators. Some are all the time, and all can be some of the time. Mostly, they are people doing a job for a paycheck. If you treat them with respect, while firmly defending your rights, you increase the probability of justice. It’s basic human nature. How do you feel when you read the inflammatory comments of captain ottinger? If you had the opportunity to cause him some grief, would you take it? If you answered something like, it annoys me, and yes I would, then perhaps you can understand that it is more effective to behave respectfully.

    In years past, I spent many hours on the Plaza, and I’ve been witness to a few incidents with oolice officers. I’ve seen them provide needed and valuable service with appropriate methods. I’ve seen them behave despicably with predjudice and worse. I’ve made informal complaints in person to the shift commander, and I once wrote a formal letter of complaint to the chief, and to the judge handling the case. This latter action taken by a group, resulted in disciplinary action against the two officers involved.

    Using respect usually produces the best results.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Stringy, the outcome of your suggestion in Arcata translates into the bulk purchase of video cameras for homeless folks because Arcata will never disciminate against finanicially disadvantaged citizens. Save ’em a step and just hand the homeless a hundred bucks, whatever the pawn value of the camera would be.

    As for your pointing out Plazoid’s inflammatory rhetoric, that’s beside the point. The last thing he wants to do is admit these people are humans and have feelings. No no no, the plan is to dehumanize them into stormtroopers. The cops are evil and if you get stopped by one, you are always the victim. That is the official line.

    Cops = Evil

    Homeless = Saints

    Everyone Else = Tool of The Man

    Understand now?

  4. Jeff Says:

    I expect the citizens to provide their own cameras. I have a cheap but effective camera, and I’d carry it and be willing to document officers’ encounters, an ombudsman service. I’d want to attend a training session, and have a credential as an official citizen videographer of police encounters. I can’t imagine why you assumed my idea translated into “…bulk purchase of video cameras for homeless folks…” What do you mean that “….Arcata will never disciminate against finanicially disadvantaged citizens.”? Is it meant to be a derogatory comment on Arcata City policy regarding the ‘plazoids’?

    I don’t believe that “…the plan is to dehumanize them into stormtroopers.” I don’t believe the PLAZOID is attempting to foment revolution.

  5. the PLAZOID Says:

    Thank you Stringy for your comments. You are right on when you say that cops are human beings and that only through the recognition that all of us are human beings can we put an end to all the hostility.

    It is my personal belief that enforcing one’s beliefs onto another in attempt to forcibly change the target person’s behaviour has been tried and tried with the result being ever more and more technologically advanced warfare, brutality and dehumanization. The only real change that I have percieved in my life is that which comes from within, when a person decides in their heart that the time for a change has come and can no longer be denied, no matter what the consequences.

    On the issue of “respect,” and the term “officer”: Well, how much respect should a slave have for an overseer? Consider the saying “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and consider that you are the one terrorizing innocent civilians. Wouldn’t you want someone to firmly but nonviolently express a completely honest assessment of the situation? I feel that it would be dishonest for me to call a cop “sir” when I’m thinking “violent hypocrit” and to say “thank you” when I’m really thinking “fuck you.”

    But still, cops are human beings, equipped with a conscience, however repressed, that can see through the bullshit and brainwashing, and only through connection with that innate understanding will real change happen.

    Thank you again, Stringy, for your comments.

  6. the PLAZOID Says:

    STRINGY: you might like this link – it relates to your vision of “citizen videographers.”
    Some people are putting this idea into practice already here and in other areas.

  7. Jeff Says:

    You are welcome.

    I checked out the link to copwatch. The latest post seemed to be from ’96.

    When emotions are heated, words are too. When confronted by someone abusing their authority, remaining calm and rational may not be possible. Pride and anger are human traits.

    I suggested calling them officer (although it ends with ‘sir’, it’s not the same). What is best is to call them by their name, Officer Brown.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Stringy, your true agenda was revealed when you said, “I expect the citizens to provide their own cameras.”

    Please explain how our homeless citizens will videotape the evil cops victimizing our helpless homeless saints. Do you expect Average Joe Homeowner to camp out with our Street Angels so that they are there to witness stormtrooper activity? Heck no, they won’t “lower” themselves to that level. The only solution is to put free video cameras in the hands of those who are being victimized. Anything less is a sham.

  9. Jeff Says:

    The way I envision the program is that citizens like myself would attend a training on how to effectively record the police detaining or citing someone withouth interfering, minimizing the risk to themselves. The participants in the program should sign an oath of ethics. Once certified, we videographers would carry our cameras. If we witness an encounter between police and citizens, we can stop, identify ourselves as certified videographers, and begin recording.

    The homeless wouldn’t likely be the ones taping.

    Not all encounters would get recorded. Other encounters could be witnessed as per The Plazoid’s post that we are commenting on. If democracy is to thrive, the police must be monitored. There in no panacea; having multiple systems in place increases the monitoring, decreases the abuse. Abuse of authority will likely never be eliminated, but we should do our best to minimize it.

    Your repeated characterizations of the homeless as angels and the police as storm troopers is an example of the strawman fallacy. I certainly don’t believe either. The Plazoid doesn’t either: “You are right on when you say that cops are human beings and that only through the recognition that all of us are human beings can we put an end to all the hostility.”

    I don’t think the hostility can end–there will always be incidents of abuse on all sides. I think we have a duty to do our best to minimize the hostility.

    This is my true agenda. Does it match what you were thinking?

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Your assumption is that the police are corrupt, hence the need for videotaping. Your other assumption, that police are not monitored, is simply bogus. They mostly do their work in plain view of the public. If anything, give cops car and shoulder mounted cameras to erradicate bogus abuse claims. Car-mounted cameras have done wonders for eliminating bigotry against police officers and shutting up the naysayers.

  11. the PLAZOID Says:

    to Stringy:
    as far as copwatch goes, I know that the Berkeley chapter was still doing trainings last summer and it has been recommended to me to call them to ask them to come up here to do a training (or maybe a bunch of us could go down there). You should be able to contact them yourself if you want to by the* einternet or phones or whatever.
    Also, you may be right that hostility can’t end, I don’t know. Please forgive my idealism.

    To “anonymous”:
    Your denial of reality is just not convincing to eye-witnesses of police-misconduct. There already exists plenty of video-taped evidence of police brutality and many have been shown in the courtroom. Some of that video-evidence is actually from “law-enforcement” cameras.

  12. Jeff Says:

    My assumption is not that police are corrupt. Where did you get that idea? My assumption is that all people are capable of abusing authority, some more than others. I also never stated that police are not monitored. I’m advocating for additional methods of monitoring their activities. And as I stated that “Such a system would protect citizens and officers alike.” I’m in complete agreement with you about the car and shoulder mounted cameras. I believe that the police would benefit most from this system. I know that you’re right that “Car-mounted cameras have done wonders for eliminating bigotry against police officers…” Why do you keep assuming things that just aren’t true about me?

    Not all the “naysayers” are unwarranted. I’ve personally witnessed the police abusing their authority. Incidents of unwarranted police brutality do occur. How can we protect our officers and our citizens? Treating each other with respect can help make each other respectable. Acting upon unverified assumptions and name calling is likely to make things worse.

  13. Jeff Says:

    Yes Plazoid, and please forgive my cynicism. Some people just totally suck, and I don’t think we can change that. There are rapists on the streets of our cities. There are supremists on the police force. I do believe we can end the abuse of decent people by decent people. What is really a shame is when basically decent officers get caught up in a heated situation and join in the abuse. Adrenalin can be a terrible drug. Then of course they absolutely have to lie about it. It’s the human condition. Greatest good for the greatest number is all I can find hope for. Reduce suffering where possible, have compassion where not.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    “I’ve personally witnessed the police abusing their authority.”

    Stringy, that’s an interesting thing to say. In what city and what officer(s) (names or badge numbers; times and locations) did witness peace officers abusing their authority? Please explain in detail.

    Plazoid, uhhh, at this point it’s difficult to have anyone other than Stringy take you seriously. God Bless You Stringy for being such a trusting, and at the same time, completely untrusting, soul.

  15. the PLAZOID Says:

    dear “anonymous,”
    If you do not take any of this seriously, then perhaps you can at least acknowledge that the Humboldt superior court does, as shown in the previous post on this blog entitled “VICTORY IN CORT!!!”

    Maybe you will take it seriously when it’s your turn to lay face down on the concrete with a police boot on your neck and a shotgun to your head.

  16. Anonymous Says:

    Heh, hood and shotgun. What fantasy land do you inhabit? It sure ain’t Arcata. Keep talking. You only worsen your case.

  17. Jeff Says:

    You made a good point Anon. A statement like “I’ve witnessed…” needs backing. Unlike you, I will directly address your challenge.

    In Arcata, several years ago, I was sitting in the shoe store doorway (it was still the shoe store) playing guitar. A mini truck came by with 5 male youth in it. One of the young men who was sitting with us, I didn’t know him but I suspect he suffered from mental illnes, he yelled out something like where’s the party. The truck stopped, the youth came charging over yelling as if he’d insulted them and began threatening all of us sitting there. They started punching the young man who’d yelled, then they jumped back in the truck. The beaten man was upset and yelling incoherently, and atarted walking off. A police car arrived because somebody had called in the incident, and they pursued the man. They grabbed him and took him in the alley near Don’s Doughnuts. A couple of us tried to explain to the officers that he had just been beaten up. We gave them the license number of the truck and said that they’d just driven off. The refused to call it in, told us to leave. I stayed and stated that I wished to speak to the watch commander, and the officer (who’s name I’ve forgotten) told me I could go home and call him, and that I needed to leave. Meanwhile, the other officers have the beaten young man in the alley, out of sight, and speaking derisively to him. I asked what they were doing to him, and the officer said he was being arrested for disturbing the peace. When they’d grabbed him, he was walking away, not from the officers, just to get away from the embarrassment and pain from being beaten for no reason. I again tried to explain that he was the victim, and again the officer told me to leave, that he would be arrested. He was standing right up near me, and I felt afraid of him, that he was going to arrest me. Fortunately the officer in charge of the watch arrived. I told him the story, he took my statement and he wrote down the license plate number. The other guys who’d been sitting there came over and they told him the story. He said he’d take care of it, and I trusted him. I never followed through any further, because like you said, average joe citizen isn’t very motivated to get involved. I did a little something, and I think the situation ended up better than if I’d done nothing. But I wasn’t motivated to push further, like insist that charges be brought against the youth that attacked the young man.

    Now could you please explain what you mean by, “God Bless You Stringy for being such a trusting, and at the same time, completely untrusting, soul.” I appreciate when you point out unsubtantiated claims. I really wish you wouldn’t just ridicule.

  18. Anonymous Says:

    Several years ago and you don’t remember any names. Cute. Forgive me if I totally don’t believe you.

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