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You Have The Right To Know Your Police

Police men and women are also known as civil servants (or public servants) whose primary functions are; to enforce the law, protect personal and government property and prevent, limit or stop civil disobedience. The powers of your local police forces are limited but you may not know that also are their responsibilities to the public.

US Police

FPS Color Guard
Photo By Tom [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Besides the common fear we all have upon seeing flashing lights in our rear view mirror, we are innocent until proven otherwise, a point that’s easy to forget when being questioned by the police. Since police are providing a civil service with tax payer money, you have a right to know your police and citizen rights when dealing with your local law enforcement.

Here Are Some Facts And Figures To Help You Know Your Police

In 2005 the US Supreme Court made an official ruling that police officers are not “constitutionally” required to protect people from harm.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund there are 900,000 police officers that are serving in the US as of 2012, only 12% of sworn in police officers are female.

Being a police officer or firefighter is a profession many children dream about, yet not nearly as many children end up becoming police officers as those that fulfill their dreams of firefighting, even on a voluntary (unpaid) basis there are more reserve firefighters than volunteer police.

Dodge Charger Police Car

2006 Michigan State Police
Photo By:GPDII [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There are of course no shortages of alternate (or slang) terms to identify a police officer, which may be part of the reason firefighting is considered a more heroic profession in the US.

The most common terms of endearment for the police in the US are; cops,five-O, pigs, po-po, buzzkill, the fuzz, name your city ‘s finest, brass, doughnut patrol, the man, narc, or zebra (alluding to the cop cars colors).

Around the world some other monikers include; Bear, or Bear Bait, Berry, The Gaver, Mr. Plod, Tyre Biters, cozzer, squeaker, snut, smurfs, la pula, polenta, M.U.P.P.E.T.( Most Useless Police Person Ever Trained) , Musora (Russia), Mounties (Canada), hot dogs (Japan), bobby, lids, and Ecilop (police backwards-as written on the front of police some vehicles so you understand who is behind you in the rear view mirror).

Knowing your rights as a citizen or resident in the United States is important, so some official police etiquette and knowledge is useful as well, especially if you do not want to go directly to jail.

Lamborghini Polizia

Adriano from Wikimedia, GFDLor CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Did You Know?

Most police officers consider a D.A.R.E. or “Support Your Sheriff” stickers red flags.

If you get pulled over and have been drinking you are not required by law to take a breathalyzer test, but the consequence is still a suspended license. Incidentally there are many reasons that breathalyzer tests can be incorrect (besides asthma).

Random checkpoints for sobriety tests (and drug searches) have been found constitutionally permissible by the US Supreme Court, but 10 states have made them illegal in disagreement of that ruling made in 1990.

Police are legally allowed to lie and often do under oath even. According to an Opinion published in the New York Times Sunday Review there is “incentive to lie” for law enforcement and that police in general “have a special inclination toward confabulation”, the author, Michelle Alexander was referring particularly to narcotic searches.

It is recommended to ask the police to clarify between a request and an order- BIG difference.

Most importantly everyone should know the IVth Amendment of the US Constitution, here’s what it says in part, “The right of the people the be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated…”

Being a police officer is dangerous work of course, but can also be a great source of employment for America’s finest retired military. In fact the statistics show that the numbers of police officers killed in the line of duty in the year 2013 was the lowest its been since the year 1887 at 33 deaths.

Feature image courtesy Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, “Police In Riot Gear”.


About Tonya O'Dell