No, this is not an Iron Curtain propaganda rag. This is about police. American police. The police in our constitutional republic.
In 1969, the Supreme Court decided that police can lie to you at will to coerce some kind – any kind – of compromising admission (Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731, 739 (1969)). More about that at this lawyerly site.
The power – I should say power imbalance – inherent in this authority is absolutely stunning. Add to it the fact that police may liberally inconvenience you by detaining and interrogating you and maybe putting you in lockup with some really bad characters, or simply denying you water, food, use of the rest room or perhaps even access to medical care (and you have no witnesses to this, of course), and this power becomes downright diabolical. In such circumstances, a normal person will feel so coerced that he will ultimately say what they want.
The practical consequence is that you should never talk to police, because you never know just how even the most innocuous of your words will be used against you, as this law professor points out here. “Under any circumstances,” he points out.
In other words, the Fifth Amendment rules. Or used to, until 2013. Now, if police want to talk to you but have NOT arrested and ‘Mirandized’ you, you actually have to invoke the Fifth, or your silence will actually be used against you. I wonder how many people can remember that in the confusion and shock that can attend a sudden police “visitation.”
And then there is the matter of police militarization – armored cars; special forces-type tactics; heavy weapons; shock and awe-type raids, sometimes on the flimsiest of pretexts; and so forth.
But the issue of the warlike hardware is secondary. The primary problem is that the above court decisions, irrespective of the hardware that police now have and the violent attitudes and tactics it engenders, have turned the former protectors of the people into enemies of the people.
This is a totalitarian’s dream, and there is the devil to pay. Some people have already paid, like this man, beaten to death by five (!) police officers because he had tried to stop an argument between his wife and daughter in a theater.
Too much brawn, too little brain: tragical enough. I know that five burly coppers could take down one man without killing him. But the greater tragedy is the callous attitude toward human life and toward the law. That can be chalked up to excessive privilege that does away with the need for thinking, courtesy, compassion – in other words, being a member, and hopefully a pillar, of the community.
I am sure that most police are decent, compassionate human beings, caught in a system that dehumanizes them by giving them too much unchecked power. So, as much as I hate to say this, do not talk to them. And record everything.