i don't think i'm the only one who gets a little bit more skeeved out when the cops are around. it could be the loaded gun, the knowledge that they could flip out/have a flashback at any moment, my natural suspicion of state authority, or just my natural aversion to cold eyed dudes in uniform.
but it's helpful to keep one's cool when in the presence of the law. one can't always rely on one's sweet looks or big vocabulary. folks will say that this just makes civilian/cop interaction needlessly adversarial. i say it's forcing them to do their jobs correctly.
they take shortcuts because we (the general public) allow them to take shortcuts.
via the ella baker center for human rights some advice (which i am going to snatch whole):
If the Police Stop You...
Stay in control of your emotions and words. Don’t physically resist.
Keep your hands visible.
Remain silent. They have guns, pepper spray and billy clubs. Your strongest weapon is your mind.
The less you say, the better. Silence is not a crime.
Ask, "Am I free to go?" If they keep you, you are being detained.
Ask, "Why are you detaining me?" To detain you, the police must have concrete reasons to suspect your involvement in a specific crime.
If you’re detained, show ID. If you don’t, they can hold you for three days to ID you.
or Try to Search You...
Never consent to a search.
Say loud and clear (especially if there are any witnesses present): "I do not consent to a search."
Don’t resist physically.
Don’t open your bag for them. It will count as consent to the search.
Police may 'pat down' your clothing if they suspect weapons or drugs.
or Try to Enter Your Home...
Never consent to a search.
Step outside. Lock the door behind you.
Ask to see a warrant. Make sure it has the right information (e.g., address) and a judge’s signature.
They can do only what the warrant allows them to. Warrants often limit the search to one room, one day, etc. Make sure they are complying with the warrant.
or Stop You in Your Car...
Stay calm. Again, you do not have to answer any questions.
When they ask you, show them your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.
Tell the officer, "I do not consent to a search."
Don’t open your trunk or car door. It will count as consent to a search of you and your property.
If they give you a ticket, sign it. Otherwise you can be arrested. Fight the ticket in court later.
If the police suspect you of drunk driving and you refuse to take a blood, urine or breath test, your license can be suspended.
If the Police Arrest You...
Do not answer any questions until a lawyer arrives to represent you.
Say only, "I choose to remain silent and I want to talk to my attorney."
The police may handcuff, search, photograph and fingerprint you.
Do not talk about your case to anyone except your attorney.
If You See or Experience Police Brutality
Write down the details of the incident, badge numbers, and names of witnesses immediately.
Get a medical report immediately, as well as photographs documenting any injuries or property damaged.
Always Be a Witness
Always be a witness for a friend, relative or stranger.
Stop and watch.
Record the officer’s name, badge number, and car number. Write down the time, the place, who said what, and who did what.
If the officer tells you to leave, say, "I have the right to observe from a safe distance."
Assure them, "I’m not trying to interfere."
Don’t talk to the police.
If arrested, say, "I choose to remain silent and I want to talk to my attorney."
Never consent to a search of your person, vehicle, home or property. If the police search you, state loudly, “I do not consent to a search.”
Document and report police misconduct.
are these tips going to stop a bullet? no.
but rights are rights and we have to start exercising them some time.