Below, you will find a highly entertaining university lecture by a law professor (James Duane) and a police officer about why you should never talk to the police. Ever.
(James Duane won a national debating award when he was still in high school. You can tell.)
Most of us are raised on fairy tales about the police that have little to do with reality. So was I.
Much later in life, when I became more proficient in legal matters, I realized that not only should you never talk to police, you should never let police into your home either, even if you’ve already decided you aren’t going to say a thing.
I’ll tell you why.
(Besides that, as James Duane demonstrates in his lecture, saying nothing is very hard.)
When I was much younger, one of my sisters had a boyfriend who was with the police. When the two visited my home for the first time, I noticed how little reticence he displayed with regard to opening the door to my bedroom and walking straight into it. I realized that it probably came from his policing background.
Would I have been happy for him to have walked in on, say, a display of sex toys or my bloody underpants on the floor because I happened to have gotten my period unexpectedly that day, or even a collection of childhood teddy bears? Probably not!
We value our personal life. Our personal privacy.
Without you being aware of it, police may already have access to all your phone calls and other electronic communications. Everything is recorded and kept these days. So, do they really still need to be able to discover that childhood teddy bear collection in your bedroom too?
You usually are under no obligation whatsoever to open the door to police and if police officers think you have done something very serious, they’ll bust the door down anyway.
This is not about being dishonest or having no respect or about trying to make the lives of police officers as hard as possible. This is about the reality that “life ain’t fair” and that stuff happens. Even when no bad intentions are involved.
Everything that James Duane says is true, and for many reasons. The main reason for how we can get ourselves into a mess is probably that most of us are chatty, perhaps particularly when we’re under some kind of pressure.
So, as Duane explains, you may end up accidentally saying something that has nothing to do with why police wanted to talk with you but that happens to reveal a violation of some obscure law that should have been updated decades ago but wasn’t and that one of the two police officers you’re talking with just happens to know about.
But as Duane also explains, you could for example mention that you weren’t in town on a certain day, not knowing that someone else firmly believes to have seen you that day. That is likely to come across as a lie on your side, even if you aren’t lying at all.
Part of being chatty also seems to be that we sometimes say really dumb things.
I sometimes catch myself saying the stupidest stuff when I am making small talk, or letting stuff rest that other people say. Stuff that isn’t true. Stuff that makes me look bad, or look silly. Nothing serious, usually. Just silly stuff that makes me look dumber than I am.
Such as that when I bought an iPad, I splashed out without thinking. I had a very practical reason for purchasing an iPad and it had to do with my business. But that’s for me to know. I don’t feel inclined to correct another person about an assumption he or she makes when all I am doing is making small talk. I know why I bought that iPad, and that’s enough for me.
But sometimes, I leave stuff unchallenged that I really should have spoken up about and at other times, I find myself automatically saying things like “yeah, me too”. I guess I do it to be sympathetic or because I don’t want to come across as too overpowering or too much of a “smart ass”.
When James Duane did his little quiz, I thought “That’s funny, I didn’t know that they had been dot dot dot but he definitely said dot dot dot” and so I too thought I knew the answer. We say what we say in such instances because we are so eager to get it right, and we know that that answer is the right one. Only, it isn’t. It is the right answer, but to a different question.