If you’ve been reading our articles about police abuse and brutality, you are probably aware of the threat to your life and safety from police officers violating the law. But a far more common threat to innocent people comes from merely talking with police. This article discusses why you should never, ever talk with police. That is especially the case if the conversation is not being recorded by you and somebody aligned with you and if you don’t have an attorney present. But even in those circumstances, simply talking with police is a major risk with little if any benefit.
Let’s say you’re a typical law-abiding citizen who has never been charged with a crime. While you might be aware of the police being a threat to your safety and life as they have been to countless other people they have assaulted and even killed with no provocation or just cause, you might think you can safely talk with the police.
You’d be wrong.
Police Are Not Accurate Reporters
First, get it though your thick head that many police officers will not give accurate testimony. Some of them are liars and perjurers. They will not tell the truth if it doesn’t help them. Some simply can’t remember what was said or happened accurately, just like many other people have the same problem.
Police Not Paid To Find The Truth
Second, realize that the police are not there to find the truth. They are there to throw somebody in jail, build a case to keep them in jail, and if the opportunity to get away with it presents itself, some of them even believe they are there to kill somebody they think looks guilty. If they can’t find somebody to throw in jail or kill who looks like a better (meaning “easier”) target than you, you may find yourself prosecuted or even murdered for something you didn’t do.
You may balk at the idea that the police are out to kill people. But what else can you call it when a cop shoots an unarmed person and then lies about the nature of the shooting? Such cops are not interested in justice or fairness or even solving a crime. They are interested in punishing somebody to make it look like they are doing their jobs. They might be OK with arresting you and throwing you in jail, but if they don’t think it will stick because you’d defend yourself, some of them may think killing you is a good option if they think they can get away with it. Police getting away with murder may simply comes down to having some bogus excuse for why they shot you. It looked like you were holding a knife, but it turned out to be a pencil. Oh well, obviously a pencil is a deadly weapon so it is a justified shooting. The police review board will snap at any opportunity to excuse an officer-involved shooting because they don’t want their community to be held liable for a wrongful death.
Police Can Ruin You Outside of Court
Third, realize that even if you are never prosecuted or murdered by police, they have plenty of ways of harassing you and attempting to ruin your life. They can put you on illegal child abuse blacklists that will ensure you cannot work in schools, hospitals, doctor’s offices, or any other jobs that involve children. Even when they are ordered by a court to remove your name due to a finding of innocence, they often refuse to do so and there’s nothing you can do about it. That’s because the government violates the law with impunity in this area. Piss off a cop and you can be ruined for life with no recourse.
They can simply harass you with threatening and demeaning email messages. Such messages may threaten your family, your property, and your life. They will deny sending them and may even blame you for them.
They can threaten you with civil litigation using their police email accounts. Even though that should be easy to prove and clearly shows a lack of objectivity, they will do it anyway. When called on it with internal affairs, it will likely be disregarded as cops stick up for cops even when they are breaking the law.
They can lie to your neighbors, friends, family, doctors, therapists, pastors, or anybody else in your life accusing you of horrendous crimes. They will say it was “part of an investigation” and point out they are no laws against them lying during investigations and that they are generally protected from liability for defamation by the law.
Police Are NOT YOUR FRIENDS
In short, the police are not your friend — unless of course you bribe them. I’d not recommend that as you might chance upon an honest cop who would rightly report you for attempting to bribe a police officer.
The best strategy is to never, ever talk with police or law enforcement.
Law Professor James Duane On Why To Never Talk With Police
But don’t take my word for why you should never, ever talk with cops. Law Professor James Duane, a former criminal defense attorney, has put together an insightful video that shows how people who made the mistake of talking with the police or other law enforcement personnel have had bad things happen to them as a result, even when they were provably innocent of a crime.
Professor Duane’s main points of why you should never talk with police include:
- There is no way it can help.
You can’t talk your way out of getting arrested.
You can’t give them any information that will help you at trial. See Federal Rules of Evidence  801(d)(2)(A).
What you tell the police is only admissible if it is offered against you by the prosecution.
If you tell the police something that is exculpatory and then try to get your attorney to get the police to reveal this, the prosecution will object to it saying that it is hearsay. The judge will grant the objection.
- If your client is guilty — and even if he is innocent — he may admit his guilt with no benefit in return.
In federal court, 86% of all defendants plead guilty at some point before trial.
Your statement to the police may not be admissible evidence by the time of trial.
Many defendants plead guilty because they feel they have no real chance to defend themselves against the government even though they didn’t commit a crime, so they plea-bargain instead. It’s the standard tactic of prosecutors, threaten years or even life in prison for something the defendant may not have done so that you can get the defendant to plea-bargain to a lesser sentence as the certainty of spending a few years in prison may look a lot better than a small chance of being in prison for life.
The Innocence Project  reports:
How did some of these defendants end up confessing? Some of them were mentally ill and were lied to and manipulated by police to make confessions and were convicted solely on the basis of those confessions, with no other evidence. In his talk, Professor Duane gives two examples of men who served two decades in prison for crimes that they didn’t commit but were duped into confessing by manipulative police.
- Even if your client is innocent and only tells the truth, he will always give the police some information that can be used to help convict him.
As the US Supreme Court in Ohio v. Reiner, 532 US 18, 20 (2001)  stated:
“One of the Firth Amendment’s basic functions is to protect innocent men who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances. Truthful responses of an innocent witness, as well as those of a wrongdoer, may provide the government with incriminating evidence from the witness’s own mouth.”
Professor Duane gives an example in which an innocent target of an investigation points out the police that he didn’t kill the man, didn’t own a gun, has never used a gun, and that although he didn’t like the man nobody else did either. The prosecution would seize upon putting the statement about not liking the man in front of the jury. They would look at it as motive. Even a factually accurate and seemingly innocuous statement can be twisted by the police and prosecution into evidence of guilt.
In Ullmann v. United States, 350 US 422, 426 (1956) , the court opined on the Fifth Amendment:
“Too many, even those who should be better advised, view this privilege as a shelter for wrongdoers. They too readily assume that those who invoke it are either guilty of crime or commit perjury in claiming the privilege.”
- Even if your client is innocent and only tells the truth and does not tell the police anything incriminating, there is still a grave chance that his answers can be used to crucify him if the police don’t recall his testimony with 100% accuracy.
Think about that for a minute. I already told you some police are liars and perjurers, obviously they may not be accurate reporters of fact. But even the ones who are not liars or perjurers do not have perfect memories or hearing. It is easily possible for them to miss a word that totally changes the meaning. Take the “not” out of this sentence and it becomes incriminating:
“I did not kill Mr. Brown with a gun.”
If there was a noise in the room that made the “not” hard to hear or simply the cop was lost in thought for a moment, the cop might honestly think you said “I did kill Mr. Brown with a gun.” You’re in deep trouble given how people are sometimes convicted on the basis of a confession and no other evidence.
You should be particularly wary of any cop who refuses to allow you to record a conversation with all parties present being recorded. Such an attitude screams “I am a liar and want to be able to lie about you with impunity.”
Even if your client is innocent and only tells the truth and does not tell the police anything incriminating and his statement is videotaped, his answers can be used to crucify him if the police don’t recall their questions with 100% accuracy.
Imagine that you are accurately quoted as stating “I have never owned a gun and never used a gun and certainly did not kill Mr. Brown with a gun.”
Now imagine what it will sound like when the detective who was questioning you says on the stand that your answer was really strange because he never said anything about a gun, he clearly remembers referring to no weapon used in the murder. You will look guilty even though you are not.
Even if your client is innocent and only tells the truth and does not tell the police anything incriminating and the entire interview is videotaped, his answers can still be used to crucify him if the police have any evidence, even mistaken or unreliable evidence, that any of his statements are false.
The example the Professor Duane uses is a statement along the lines of “I was never in Virginia Beach that day, I was four hours away at my mother’s home in the Outer Banks.”
The prosecution can make you look like a liar by producing a witness that says you were somewhere else than where you said you were. While paying or otherwise compensating a witness to lie, such as by offering immunity for testimony against you, is one way to do this, that may not even be necessary. It could be that somebody who looks a lot like you was caught on a video tape in a store somewhere in Virginia Beach and the sales clerk will testify that he saw you and identify you in the courtroom by pointing at you. He may even honestly believe it was you, but it was not. Now you look like a liar, even though you are not. You will also look guilty, even though you are not.
Please watch Professor Duane’s presentation. It could save your life.
Officer George Bruch On How Police Control Interviews
Also, for an alternate perspective on talking with the police from a cop’s view, you may want to view a related presentation by Officer George Bruch of the Virginia Beach Police Department.
George Bruch’s opinion is that his job is to develop probable cause and a case that can be easily prosecuted without much effort. He says he doesn’t want to send anybody to jail who is innocent, but that he doesn’t bring anybody into an “interview room” (he notes they intentionally avoid using the word “interrogation” because “interview” sounds nicer) unless he thinks they are not innocent. There have been a couple of times when he let somebody walk because he thought after talking with them that they were innocent, but it is rare.
Bruch points out techniques the police use to manipulate and mislead people to implicate themselves in crimes. He talks about how he uses his own tape recorder to manipulate them to think the interview isn’t already being recorded by microphones in the room. He talks about how he gets people to write apology letters and then uses them as evidence to convict the person, a tactic that always works.
He also talks about how recordings are not required and that he can rely upon his written notes for his testimony. As we all know, sometimes people can’t take notes fast enough or don’t hear something accurately. I’ve personally seen court reporters do this, too. You cannot count on people’s hearing and memories to be accurate, yet our “justice” system pretends they are especially if the person is a government employee.
Bruch’s presentation is definitely worth watching. I was surprised at how candid he was about his work. Possibly he is one of the good cops who is honest, but in any case he does give some good insights into how cops think and do their jobs.