If Stopped on the Street, What Should I Say?
As a general matter, disagreements between the people and the police are never won on the streets. If you have been wrongly treated by the police, you can address it at a later time and place—often with the assistance of a lawyer, a government or community organization, and the courts. Until then, no one should get hurt or in trouble during a "stop.”
For both our citizens and the police:
Stay safe on the streets. Contest in the courts.
- Remain polite and respectful. You have much to gain by staying calm and compliant, and much to lose by arguing and being combative.
- If you have trouble hearing or understanding the officer’s instructions, explain this calmly and politely. Explain that you want to obey the directions but are not sure what to do.
- Allow the officer to speak. Do not interrupt.
- Be respectful towards the officer. Do not shout or use profanity. Do not “bad mouth” or curse the officer.
- Even though the officer’s name may be on his/her badge, it is better to use the respectful terms of “officer”, “sir” or “ma’am”.
- Remain calm and avoid arguing. If you are uncooperative and refuse to answer reasonable questions, the encounter will probably last longer than necessary.
- If you have an object that might be mistaken for a weapon, immediately advise the officer.
- If you are legally in possession of a gun or other weapon, immediately advise the officer of this fact.
- Never joke about having a weapon with you.
- Do not use words or actions that might encourage others to threaten or confront the officer.
- An officer may or may not explain the reason that you have been stopped.
- Remember, everything you say to an officer is important. So is how you say it.
- What you say could be used against you in court.
- You have the right not to speak to the police. To exercise this right, you only have to explain to the police, “I would like to remain silent.”
- You may also decide to answer some questions, and then choose to remain silent.
- It is better to tell the officer that you are exercising your right to remain silent than to lie. You could face charges for making false statements.
- You do not have to agree (consent) to a search of your body or possessions. Simply explain, in a polite way, "I do not consent." (This may delay the stop and may not prevent the search, but it will help protect your rights)
- At any point, you may ask whether you are free to go. You should do so politely and respectfully.