Mimesis Law
26 September 2020

Cop Tips: Eight Things Cops See & Hear

September 6, 2016 (Fault Lines) – There are many things that police officers see that the general public does not, things that people who are not on the street do not understand. Sure, you can intellectually teach someone these things, but cops understand these things at a gut-level, not as an intellectual exercise, for a good reason.

Some of these things keep cops alive. Some of them are just from doing the job for years. All of them are obvious to cops and not obvious to the public.

Let’s look at some of these.

  1. Cops get real nervous when someone “blades” away from them when the cop starts to talk to them. Blading away means that you are turning one side of your body away from the cop, normally your right side. It is what cops are trained to do to protect their gun from people, to put their body in between it and a potential threat. So when someone does it to them, instead of the normal face-to-face conversational style of most people, cops get nervous. It is also an indicator of fight or flight response, meaning you may be fighting or chasing the individual in the next few minutes. Most cops dislike either of those options.
  1. Red lights[1] and siren means that the cop is trying to get somewhere, fast. It may be to help another officer, or to try to get to a domestic violence victim before her insane ex‑boyfriend beats her to death, but he needs to get there fast. Slamming on your breaks in the middle of the road is not helpful, and merely makes you an obstacle. Yes, most cops have been through an emergency driving course[2] but that doesn’t mean that they want to exercise those skills because you decided to stop in the middle of the road. Pull over to the side. It’ll make the cop happy and possibly save both of your lives.
  1. clip_image002No, you didn’t only have “two beers.” When you say “two beers,” this is what cops immediately see in their mind. Your driving did not indicate that it was likely you only had two beers, your performance on the field sobriety tests confirm that, and your breath or blood test is going to show a much higher alcohol content than is possible from two beers. Besides, why answer the question of how much you’ve had to drink? The cop is not going to use it to help you, he’s going to use it to try and put you in jail. Keep your mouth shut and don’t answer questions.
  1. Speaking of shutting up and various other constitutional rights, you really don’t know them as well as you think you do, and some things you believe to be right are absolutely wrong. For example, no, I did not read you any Miranda rights, tell you about your right to remain silent, or to have a lawyer present during questioning, etcetera. There is a simple reason for that. I personally saw you commit the offense you are being arrested for, and I’m not asking you any questions about that offense. That means I don’t have to advise you of your rights, because I’m not going to ask you any questions, and yet I know you’ll continue to talk. On video. About the offense.
  1. clip_image002No, I really don’t need a warrant to search your car. Why? Because when you rolled the window down and the marijuana smoke pours out like a Cheech and Chong movie, when there’s a blunt in the ashtray and a one‑hitter in the center console, that provides what we cops know as probable cause and the Carroll case provides the exception to the warrant requirement. The rolled up joint tucked behind your ear is also a clue.[3]
  1. If you speak English and you do not speak Spanish, but look Hispanic, don’t try the “No hable” It doesn’t work, for a number of reasons. A smart-ass high school student[4] tried it on me one time, and as soon as he got the words out of his mouth, I responded:

Usted ha violado una ley de tránsito. Dame tu licencia y tarjeta de seguro, por favor.[5]

The dumb look you gave me at that point, combined with the hysterical laughing of your girlfriend, pretty much tells me that you really didn’t think this through all the way. At least she didn’t have any unpaid tickets that had gone to warrant. And she has a license, and now she has your car…

  1. If a cop is directing traffic at a special event, the road ahead of you has barricades, or cones, or is otherwise blocked off, and he is directing you to turn, just do so. Asking him if you can go straight, past the barricades, or telling him that you “need” to go straight, isn’t going to convince him that you need to go that way. It’s just going to convince him that you’re an idiot. He’s not going to want to discuss it with you either, and after several hours of standing on hot pavement breathing exhaust fumes, he’s going to be rude. Just go where he tells you to go, they have really thought this out and they do have a plan to get you to the event.
  1. Finally, if you are driving a stolen car, we really can figure it out. If the rear license plate has a bunch of bug splatter on it, we know it is a stolen front plate. The towel that you have draped over the broken steering column is also a clue, as is the large flathead screwdriver in the center console. The headlights being stuck on highbeam is also a clue. Telling us you borrowed the car from your best bud, Skeeter, when you don’t know his real name, address, or phone number, is just going to dig the hole deeper.

These are just a few of the stories that all cops have. There are plenty more, like faking medical emergencies, who you (or your husband/father/etc.) are, puppy emergencies, or whatever. The cop has likely heard it before. And he believes it about as much as a parent believes their kid telling the parent that they (the kid) didn’t do it. Yeah, right.

[1] Yes, I know that some of the states use blue lights only.

[2] It’s not as fun as one would think—a large part of the course involves backing a full-sized cruiser through a course barely wide enough for a Mini Cooper, under a time constraint. Without hitting any cones. Plus, squad cars are made by the low bidder, and things break.

[3] All of which have happened in front of me.

[4] Seventeen-year-olds are adults in Texas and subject to adult arrest if they don’t pay their traffic tickets.

[5] “You have violated a traffic law. Give me your license and insurance card, please.” I don’t speak Spanish, but most officers know some basic phrases, like this one, that they can spit out when necessary.

10 Comments on this post.

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  • Bob
    6 September 2016 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    Forgive my ignorance, but what is the significance of the lights being stuck on highbeam?

    • Greg Prickett
      6 September 2016 at 8:06 pm - Reply

      Two things. First, failing to dim high beams is a traffic violation and a reason to contact, but that’s sort of just a bonus. When a car thief breaks the steering column, it usually breaks the dimmer switch and puts the high beams on without a way to dim them. So stolen cars often have the high beams on, and won’t dim them.

  • MarK M.
    7 September 2016 at 4:36 am - Reply

    Your contributions are entertaining and informative. It’s intriguing to hear the street cop story without having to tease it out of a hostile witness. The stories you can’t share on the internet must be fascinating.

    • Wrongway
      7 September 2016 at 6:35 am - Reply

      Ahh .. Geez!!.. Get a Room..

  • Brad
    7 September 2016 at 5:28 am - Reply

    Some of these cry out for response:

    1. “Blading”: On video, and even in person, I have seen a policeman tackle a suspect a person without warning. Blading is a natural response, I think, to having seen that happen.

    3. Police retaliate when people exercise their right to remain silent, and people know this. I am not saying that police retaliate with illegal measures. The retaliation may take the for of ordering the suspect out of the car. It may take the form of taking longer than it otherwise would to write a ticket. It may take the form of calling in a dog (this works well with writing the ticket slowly). It may take the form of increased apparent anger (I have experienced this form of retaliation myself). It may take the form of the police officer writing up equipment violations. It may take the form of the police officer claiming that she smell mj. This is why people talk even if they have done nothing wrong. Personally, I don’t think this is a fair system, but we seem to be stuck with it for the time being.

    6. see point 3. Games can run both ways. If you are going to criticize the games suspects play to avoid talking, then consider acknowledging games officers play to make forbearance from talking unpleasant (or worse).

    • Greg Prickett
      7 September 2016 at 12:09 pm - Reply

      Sure, a response is what we look for, and the article isn’t intended to recommend that people comply with what officers want–that’s the last thing we should do. I think it does help for people to be aware of what they are doing and what police think of it. As to the comments you’ve made:

      1. Sure, blading is a natural response. That’s why cops get nervous when they see it. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t blade if you have a reason, but you should be aware that the officer will pick up on it.

      3. It’s not a fair system. I had a case where I stopped the driver for running a stop sign and smelled alcohol when I got to the car. As was normal, I asked her to step out. She refused (politely) to answer questions or to do any sobriety tests, so I arrested her for the stop sign violation. It wasn’t a matter of retaliation, it was that I couldn’t establish that she wasn’t intoxicated so I wasn’t going to just let her drive off. She followed her father’s advice (he was a district judge in Houston), and I told her that he had given her good advice. Plus, paying a stop sign ticket is much less expensive than a DWI charge.

      6. The game that the kid played ended up with him going to jail, not because of his feeble attempt to feign a lack of ability to speak English, but because he had warrants. I watched a Hispanic belittling a judge who was arraigning prisoners at the county jail one Saturday morning, making all kinds of sexually explicit comments towards and about her. He was under the mistaken impression that because she was a black female, she didn’t speak Spanish. She did of course, fluently, and he got six months for direct contempt.

      I agree that officers play games to get people to talk–that’s their job. I did so all the time, and cops today do the same. And most criminal defense attorneys will tell their clients to STFU all the same.

  • Wrongway
    7 September 2016 at 6:39 am - Reply

    I’ve always wondered..

    from a cops POV, who would ya rather deal with, the stoner or the drunk ??

    • Greg Prickett
      7 September 2016 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      It’s about the same. Stoned people, drunks, and the emotionally involved are all unpredictable.

  • Chris
    7 September 2016 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    “2 beers” is the usual, but my all time favorite to how much have you had to drink question:

    “Under .08”

    • Greg Prickett
      7 September 2016 at 5:45 pm - Reply

      My all time favorite came after a three-mile long low-speed “pursuit” with lights and siren. The illegal immigrant, when asked “¿Cuántas cervezas?” answered honestly with “Dieciocho” (eighteen). He hadn’t been running from us, he was so focused on driving that he just never noticed us.

      You gotta admire honesty.