There are many things about the government that infuriate me. Take the way it extorts money from its citizens through taxation, for example. Or licensing, which is nothing but a scheme of stealing the rights of citizens and forcing them to buy them back. Once one learns the truth about the State, it’s practices, motives, and the way in which it protects and perpetuates itself, it is difficult to not see treachery in everything it does. As Rothbard famously said, “The State is a gang of thieves writ large – the most immoral, grasping and unscrupulous individuals in any society.”
Perhaps nowhere does this quote apply more aptly than to the interactions between citizens and government law enforcement.
In today’s USA Today online, Cato scholar Tim Lynch has a short and well written opinion piece on the verbally, mentally and physically abusive relationship law enforcement has with American citizens, as well as what citizens can do to protect themselves from police overreach.
Most people don’t know how to handle themselves during a police encounter. They know they have constitutional rights, but they also know that they can get into trouble by disobeying an officer. Not knowing where the lines are drawn, the vast majority of people capitulate to whatever the police want from them.
From a young age, we are repeatedly taught that police officers are heroes; good people doing the hard job of protecting and serving the American people. We are expected to submit to their authority in all situations. After all, they deserve the benefit of the doubt given all that they must put up with, in large part due to the sheer danger of their job. Those in society who don’t respect the “thin blue line” are painted as anti-social outcasts, criminals, or worse.
But it’s easy to understand what’s really happening in this dynamic. This dangerous statist philosophical groundwork is being laid, in large part, by teachers (government employees) in schools (government indoctrination centers) for the express purpose of reinforcing the rules, laws and mentality of the government itself. By framing the entire debate as “good guys vs bad guys”, it makes it easy to either question the motive of the critic (after all, only guilty people feel the need to invoke their rights) or simply wave away the criticism.
This creates an environment in which law enforcement agencies are given an almost impossible amount of leeway, allowing them to take out their violent and authoritarian aggression on the citizenry. Police are so accustomed to a citizen’s total terrified capitulation that “they react angrily when someone has the temerity to invoke his rights.” As we’ve seen dozens of times, that’s when things get ugly.
The Constitution is supposed to be the “law of the land,” yet people can get arrested for invoking their legal rights. If such incidents happen with some frequency — and they do — it exposes a serious flaw in our legal system. Out on the streets, the police have all the power and we’re at their mercy.
Most people aren’t aware that police are trained to bluff, trick, lie, and physically assault people to get confessions and other information. Likewise, police routinely carry out illegal searches, seizures and arrests. The problem is that as a citizen, it is impossible to get justice in real-time. If you refuse to go to jail, no matter how good the reason or how bad the officer, police are trained to kill you. This means you must go to court to express your concerns. These are the same courts that have unceasingly expanded the very same powers that police use against you. Not exactly a fair fight. And in the rarest circumstance where an officer is held accountable in court, the money is paid with tax payer dollars directly from the treasury fund! One way to end police brutality and overreach immediately is to draw all lawsuit payouts from police pension accounts.
You don’t have to be a lawyer to know and exercise your rights, and that’s true particularly when interacting with police. The key is to be polite, calm, and most of all, prepared.
Keep the following things in mind:
First, no matter what any police officer tells you, it is always legal to record police with either video or audio. Keep your phone handy and record the entire interaction. This will help protect both you and the officer, as well as give an unbiased record of the event in the case of court.
Second, you are not required under any circumstances to consent to a physical search of your person, vehicle, or home without a warrant. Though police may lie to you to get you to consent to a search, only consent that is given freely is valid in court, another reason why recording police interactions is so vital.