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Dealing with Police

The following content has been put together by CrimeThinc, originally in mass hand-out form in the U.S. (printable image attached below). Your local conditions may vary.



  • To be in a public place and to observe police activity
  • You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.
  • You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car or your home.
  • If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.
  • You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.
  • Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.


  • Write down officer's names, badge numbers, and car numbers. Sometimes it can be difficult for a third party to get close enough to an officer to record their information without needlessly escalating the encounter. COPS CANBE IDENTIFIED BY THE NUMBERS ON THEIR VEHICLES.
  • Write down the time, date, and place of the incident and all details as soon as possible.
  • Ask if the person is being arrested, and if so, on what charge.
  • Get witnesses' names and contact information.
  • Try to get arrestees' names, but only if they are already known to the police.
  • Document any injuries as soon as possible. Photograph them and prepare a medical report describing details of the injuries.


  • Ask, "AM I FREE TO GO?" if not, you are being detained. If yes, walk away.
  • Ask, "WHY ARE YOU DETAINING ME?" To stop you, the officer must have a "reasonable suspicion" to suspect your involvement in a specific crime (not just a guess or a stereotype).
  • It is not a crime to be without ID. If you are being detained or issued a ticket, you may want to show ID to the cop because they can take you to the station to verify your identity.
  • If a cop tries to search you car, your house, or your person, say repeatedly that you DO NOT CONSENT TO THE SEARCH. If in a car, do not open your trunk or door- by doing so you consent to a search of your property and of yourself. If at home, step outside and lock your door behind you so cops have no reason to enter your house. Ask to see the warrant and check for proper address, judge's signature, and what the warrant says the cops are searching for. Everything must be correct in a legal warrant. Otherwise, sent the police away.
  • The cops can do a "pat search" (search the exterior of one's clothing for weapons) during a detention for "officer safety reasons." They can't go into your pockets or bags without your consent. If you are arrested, they can search you and your possessions in great detail.
  • DO NOT RESIST PHYSICALLY. Use your words and keep your cool. If officers violate your rights, don't le them provoke you into striking back. Wait until you are out of custody, then organize for justice.
  • Police can arrest someone they believe is "interfering" with their actions. Maintain a reasonable distance, and if cops threaten to arrest you. EXPLAIN THAT YOU DON'T INTEND TO INTERFERE, BUT YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO OBSERVE THEIR ACTIONS.


  • You may be handcuffed, searched, photographed, and fingerprinted.
  • Say repeatedly, "I DON'T WANT TO TALK UNTIL MY LAWYER IS PRESENT." Even if your rights aren't read,refuse to talk until your lawyer/public defender arrives. • Do not talk to inmate in jail about your case.
  • If you're on probation/parole, tell your P.O. you've been arrested, but NOTHING ELSE. REMEMBER- You have legal rights, but many police will not respect your rights.


Assembled by the Crimthlnc, Police Unwelcoming Committee CWC.

Additional Resources

Excellent Canadian information piece from the CBC: - "What to do when the police want to talk to you"

Also from Canada: BC Civil Liberties Association's The Arrest Handbook: A Guide to Your Rights, also available in  Pocketbook format.

Image Handout

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