What to Say When Police Ask for Permission

This post is going to annoy some of you. I am giving you fair warning. What I am about say will seem controversial to some and downright mean to others. I am prompted to the comments I am about to make by an interesting article I ran across (via reason.com). You have been warned.

When police ask permission for something, to look at something, to enter your residence, things of that sort, in my opinion your answer should generally be no. And it does not matter whether or not you think you have anything to hide from the police. Just say no. Do not be rude about it. Be polite. Be respectful. But say no.

Why? Because law enforcement is, in my opinion, not to be trusted. Do not misunderstand me. I know most police officers are good, honest people. But some are not, and sometimes the good and honest ones will enforce laws that you did not even know you were breaking. Like the case related by the article, simply carrying a large amount of cash in your vehicle automatically makes you a suspect in the eyes of law enforcement.

Esqueda issued a warning to [Mr. Deschenes]. While [Mr. Deschenes] was signing the warning, Esqueda asked [Mr. Deschenes] if he could search his car and [Mr. Deschenes] consented. During the search, Esqueda again observed that [Mr. Deschenes]’s nervousness escalated. Esqueda found nothing in the passenger side of the vehicle or passenger compartment and found no evidence of drugs or contraband in the car. Esqueda then took the keys from the ignition and went back to search the trunk.

[Editor’s Note: Please take special note that AFTER the officer had written the traffic citation, for the ONLY offense of which the officer was aware, THEN he asked for “consent” to search Mr. Deschenes’ vehicle.  Obviously, Mr. Deschenes could have, and should have, politely said “no thank you, officer.”]

That editor’s note is in the article.

I respect police officers. They put themselves in harm’s way and work to catch law breakers to help keep the rest of us safe. But they also enforce ridiculous laws and are, it must be remembered, only human. There is no more good reason to trust a stranger who is a police officer than a stranger who is a businessman or a construction worker or a priest. And there is a good reason to not trust police officers. They are authorized by the government to use force, including lethal force.

“But we need police,” you say. Of course we do. I am not suggesting we do away with the police. I am saying that unless you know the officer personally, you should not trust them. When police ask for your consent to do something, politely and respectfully say no. Do not assume that someone in a position of authority is absolutely trustworthy simply by virtue of being someone in a position of authority. Do not assume that because you believe you have nothing to hide that those who come to enforce the law will not find any violations of the law. These days, most anyone can be found in violation of something if the person looking just looks hard enough.

And before the accusation is made, I do not hate police. In my youth, I looked up to a friend’s father, also a Sheriff’s Deputy, as almost a second father to me. I have known one or two other police officers, and they have been good people. But I have read enough news stories about law enforcement abusing their position of authority to know that blindly trusting law enforcement officers in general is not a good or wise thing to do.

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