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(en) US, Phoenix, Upheaval* #2 - Cops Lie - A Tempe Case Study

Date Fri, 13 Jan 2006 17:33:07 +0200


by just a concerned citizen DISCLAIMER: To the best of my recol-
lection, this is an accurate retelling of actual events. However, I have changed
certain non-essential details for practical reasons -- for instance, while the
cops frequently called me by my name while talking to me, I omitted my name
here so as to remain anonymous.
For the longest time there was this mystery about the bicyclists in my
neighborhood. At night, all of them seemed to be using headlights. Every single one.
Of course, technically, Arizona Revised Statute 28-817A requires
that all bicycles be equipped with a headlight at night:
A bicycle that is used at nighttime
shall have a lamp on the front that
emits a white light visible from a dis-
tance of at least five hundred feet to
the front and a red reflector on the
rear of a type that is approved by the
department and that is visible from all
distances from fifty feet to three hun-
dred feet to the rear when the reflec-
tor is directly in front of lawful upper
beams of head lamps on a motor
vehicle.
Call me cynical, but something
about this just didn't add up. First
of all, bicycle headlights aren't
cheap, and don't really help you see
the road better. Why had they sud-
denly become so indispensible?
Since when has anyone paid any
attention to bike laws anyway,
when we're all riding around on
clunkers worth about three bicycle
lights altogether? Most important-
ly, since when have the police actu-
ally bothered to stop and enforce
these rules, when they've got so
many better things to do -- like
tasering children and making frat-
boys turn their stereos down?
Still, every night, my neighbor-
hood is aglow with a constellation
of little white lights attached to
bicycles. Here in one of downtown
Tempe's few remaining "Slum and
Blight" areas, folks still possess an
unflagging commitment to abide
by even the paltriest statutes on
bicycle safety. If it means we have
to strap a five-dollar penlight onto
our handlebars with duct tape, by
gum, you can bet we'll find a way
to conform to the letter of ARS 28-
817A.
Gradually, the clues started to
mount up. I heard stories of friends
getting pulled over at night by cops
while riding their bikes, seemingly
for no reason other than missing a
headlight. Every one of these inci-
dents included a thorough and
seemingly extralegal interrogation
by the pigs. The hapless bicyclists
weren't just scolded about their
lack of safety gear; cops also
grilled them about where they were
going, where they were coming
from, their home life, their occu-
pation -- even the names, addresses,
and occupations of their friends.
Cops were demanding to know
whether the bicyclists were drunk
or high; some folks were even sub-
jected to searches of their bags and
pockets.
Sometimes the cops would end
their inquisitions by writing a $112
ticket; luckier bicyclists were let off
with a stern verbal warning. In at
least one case, a ticket was handed
out for simply having an "attitude."
These tales of bicycle persecu-
tion seemed almost comically
exaggerated. Why were Tempe
police treating bicyclists like ter-
rorists? I myself had some theories,
but as of yet, no proof. Just to be
safe I bought a light for my own
bike, and started looking over my
shoulder a little more while riding
around town at night. Since my
bicycle is my only reliable means of
transportation, I knew it was only a
matter of time before I'd be forced
to experience Tempe's War on
Bikes firsthand.
My turn
The dragnet finally tightened on
me one mild Spring afternoon this
year. I was biking home down a
quiet residential street when my
sunglasses slipped out of my shirt
pocket. As I looked back at them
clattering across the asphalt, I
noticed that a police cruiser was
pulling up alongside me, blocking
my turn and forcing me to ride my
bike through some low-hanging
tree branches.
When I emerged, a female police
officer with jagged brown hair was
glaring at me from her open car
window. "You dropped your glass-
es," she said.
"I know," I replied, motioning
toward her cruiser, which was pen-
ning me in. "I'm trying to turn
around to get them."
Then the cop said: "Please step
off of your bicycle and sit down on
the curb."
"Huh?" I asked. What did this
have to do with sunglasses?
Suddenly the cruiser's passen-
ger-side door flung open and the
black-clad female officer of the law
was advancing towards me, finger-
ing her truncheon. I could not even
guess at what the problem was. I
began scouring my brain for any
illegal act that I might have com-
mitted in the past 24 hours. Did I
just break some obscure law against
dropping eyewear? Did I forget to
put on pants this morning? Did I
rob a Circle-K in my sleep last
night?
"Please step off of your bicycle
and sit down on the
curb," she repeated in
that time-honored cop
monotone that's just
uptight enough to suggest
both a complete apathy
for my well-being and
hints of possible violence.
It worked; I found myself
complying with her
demands. I started to feel
the first pangs of humiliation that
usually accompany a typical
encounter with the pigs.
Another cop jumped out of the
driver side of the cruiser -- a fresh-
faced young Teutonic fellow with a
blond receding hairline. He was
obviously the "good" cop.
"Do you have a headlight for
your bicycle?" the first, meaner cop
asked.
Her stern tone demanded that I
take this question seriously; but
still, I had to pause for a moment to
keep from chuckling. We were
standing in the street in broad day-
light. Did I just hear her right? I
looked around, just to make extra
sure I wasn't hallucinating. Sure
enough, the sky was blue, the
streetlights were all off, and no one
had turned on their houselights. In
fact, the cops themselves weren't
even using their car headlights. To
be fair, some low clouds were par-
tially ablaze with the colors of an
approaching sunset. But still, in a
word, it was day.
"It's not even dark yet!" I man-
aged to sputter, my head suddenly
reeling with confusion.
"That doesn't matter," the cop
lied. "You're required to have a
headlight on your bicycle at all
times." This, of course, was just not
the truth -- at least if we were talk-
ing about the law, and not this one
woman's own maverick brand of
vigilante bicycle-safety justice. Not
to be a stickler for details, but ARS
28-817A only states that "a bicycle
that is used at nighttime shall have a
lamp on the front." And the last
time I checked, "nighttime" was
the time during our earth's rotation
when you can't see the sun's direct
light.
But the sad fact was that when a
pissed-off bully wearing a pistol, a
taser gun, a big stick and a badge is
making the rules, little quirks like
legality and reality no longer
apply. It was beginning to dawn on
me that this didn't have much to do
with a missing bike light in the first
place. I could feel a little sweat
start to break out along my hair-
line.
After giving me some time to let
the respect for her authority sink
in, the cop asked for some identifi-
cation, which I duly procured.
Since my ID was out of state, she
asked me for my current address. I
told her. And here's where things
started to get really shady.
Immediately after I recited my
street address, she asked:
"Have you ever smoked marijua-
na?"
Now, I know this might sound
surreal, or even too cliché to be the
truth -- but I swear it happened
exactly like that, and with those
exact words. She didn't ask me if I
was high on weed at the moment,
or sold it, or had any on my person.
She simply asked for my home
address, and then asked if I had
ever smoked pot. As in, ever in my
entire life.
The audacity and randomness of
the question set my head
spinning. Of course, the
only appropriate response
to such a non-sequitur is
just "none of your busi-
ness." But the fact that
question is licensed by
the state to handcuff me,
taser me, pepper-spray
me, throw me in jail, beat
me with a large stick, and/or shoot
me to death with a large-caliber
handgun -- it all begged me to use
extra caution when considering my
answer. Not only did I have to keep
my manners; I also had to make
absolutely sure that I didn't
incriminate myself in a felony just
by answering the question.
Technically, either a "yes" or a
"no" answer could mean jail time.
Answering "yes" would be confess-
ing to the use of an illegal drug: a
crime. And for the 80 million
Americans who have smoked weed
in their lifetimes*, answering "no"
would be lying to an officer of the
law: also a crime.
The essential thing to under-
stand here is that if the cops suspect
someone of being guilty of any
crime, they not only can take them
----------------------------------------------
* According to the National Organization for
the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
<www.norml.org>
-----------------------------------------------
to jail -- they're legally required to do
so. So the cop's trick question was
engineered to maximize the possi-
bility of getting me into the back
of her squad car, hands cuffed, tak-
ing a little trip to a cell downtown.
In my situation, it's obvious that
the only correct answer was no
answer at all.
Luckily, I did have a legal right
to keep silent. We all know,
whether from going to law school
or just watching prime-time TV,
that the Fifth Amendment of the
US Constitution explicitly protects
a citizen's right to remain silent in
order to avoid self-incrimination --
what gangsters and CEOs call
"pleading the 5th." The law
rrequest, and show them
some form of ID, but
that's it -- until you're
allowed to talk to a
lawyer, anyway.

The Magic Words
But it's not enough to just clam up.
In order to invoke your 5th-
Amendment right to remain silent,
you have to say so explicitly to the
cops. And this is where the Magic
Words come in.
Here are the two most important
sentences you could ever know
when you're being detained by
police:
I'm going to remain silent. I would
like to see a lawyer.
And that counts double if you're
nonwhite, your dad's not rich, or
you've ever broken the law. After
you've provided your name,
address, and ID card, saying these
two sentences and only these two
sentences is the only way to ensure
that your 5th-Amendment rights
might be respected by cops -- at
least the law-abiding ones.
As we'll soon see, this is a lot
harder than it might sound. A sur-
prising number of people either
don't know the proper way to
invoke their rights, or are tricked
into forfeiting them by the cops
themselves.
It's no secret that cops are well-
trained and experienced in manip-
ulating people into supplying
incriminating information -- and
they consider it their job to pry this
information out of you.
Furthermore, contrary to popular
belief, it is perfectly legal for cops
to lie to you. They can lie to you
about evidence; they can try to
scare you into talking; they can
ridicule you; they can misinform
you about your rights; they can
make up lies about what your
friends and family have told them;
they can create false documents
and try to get you to sign them;
they can even pretend that they're
not cops! They can (and will) do all
sorts of shady stuff -- however, if
you simply say the Magic Words
and remain silent, it's illegal for
them to question you further with-
out a lawyer present.
And it's okay to ask for a lawyer
even if you don't already have one.
The state must provide you with
one, free of charge, before they can
expect you to do any more talking.
But remember, if you say that
you're going to remain silent, you
do need to remain completely silent
afterwards in order for the Magic
Words to work. If you slip up and
say something, anything, after
you've spoken the Magic Words,
you've waived your 5th-
Amendment rights, and they can
start pressing you for answers
again. In that case, you have to say
the Magic Words again in order to
reapply them. The legal system is
weird and fucked like that, but
rules is rules.
But maybe you think this all
sounds too simple to be true.
Maybe you're afraid that, 5th
Amendment or not, the cops will
come down harder on you for clam-
ming up and refusing to cooperate.
Maybe you believe it when they tell
you "if you've done nothing
wrong, you've got nothing to
hide!" Maybe you worry that
they'll take your silence as an
admission of guilt. Maybe you
think your odds are better trying
to fast-talk, sweet-talk, flirt, or
bullshit your way out of it. Maybe
you even believe that you can trust
the police to be fair and honest
with you.
Unfortunately, these assump-
tions are almost always
wrong. It's surprising, the
amount of nonsense we've
been taught to believe
about cops and the
American legal system in
general. It's true that sometimes
cops can get pretty nasty when try-
ing to trick you out of your right to
remain silent; but no matter how
bad things seem to be getting, con-
fessing to crimes or answering
incriminating questions are always
guaranteed to make your situation
worse. When they say "anything
you say can and will be used against
you," they do mean anything. For
example, if you tell the cops that,
by throwing a cream pie at some-
one's face, you "never meant any
harm," they can (and will) inter-
pret this statement as your admis-
sion that you knowingly (yet unin-
tentionally) committed a harmful
act -- and this gives them a reason
to charge you with a crime! In all
the confusion and tension that
comes with any police interaction,
it's almost impossible to anticipate
and avoid every possible incrimi-
nating statement you might make --
it's so much easier to stick to the
simple, easy-to-remember Magic
Words.
All of this applies even when you
know you are completely innocent.
Remember: "good" cops aren't
honest, and they're certainly not
required to obey the same laws that
they're being paid to enforce.
Whether you're Charles Manson or
Charles Schulz, the cops consider
everyone a potential suspect --
because that's their job. One way or
another, you'll have to learn that
the truth about cops is somewhat
sketchier than fiction. By sticking
to the Magic Words and remaining
silent, you can minimize the
chances that you'll have to learn
the hard way that cops aren't to be
trusted, even by those of us who
have done nothing "wrong." But
maybe I can illustrate this better by
finishing my story...
Meanwhile, back at the
detainment
So there I was, stopped by the cops
on the side of the road, scrambling
for a safe answer to a question
about whether I've ever smoked
marijuana since birth.
I wish I could report that I was
able to take my own advice
that day. I wish that I was
able to say the Magic
Words right off the bat --
"I'm going to remain silent;
I'd like to see a lawyer" --
and then simply shut the
hell up. I wish I could say
that I was cool and collected
like that.
But the strange thing is,
at that moment, keeping
silent suddenly seemed
like the hardest thing in
the world to do. For
starters, the bizarre,
heavy-handed way that
these cops had detained
me -- it really was still light out --
had confused and frustrated me to
a point where I could no longer
think straight. The question about
marijuana was just too ridiculous to
be taken seriously -- but it still had
me feeling pressured to supply an
answer. And so, before I could stop
myself, I found myself blurting
out, "Have I ever smoked marijua-
na? You know what, NO!"
Oops! I wasn't legally required
to give that information. Whether
it was true or not, it could conceiv-
ably end up putting me in jail. But
the cop had gotten me so upset that
I had to go and run my mouth off --
which, now that I think about it,
was exactly what she was hoping for.
Her arrogance and nonsensical
questions were nothing but tactics
to throw me off balance and fool
me into giving up the information
she wanted.
Already feeling stupid for being
tricked into answering such a
ridiculous question, I quickly con-
tinued, "...But first of all, I'm not
required to give you that informa-
tion. And second, for you to ask me
that is just fucking rude."
Again, oops! Mouthing off to a
cop is never, ever a good idea -- no
matter what your ego is telling you.
Less-lucky people get tasered,
beaten and shot dead for just that
kind of thing.
"Alright sir," the cop responded.
"We ask you that because you are
living in a Known Drug Zone. You
have a lot of drug-related crime in
your area."
And then she continued, in a
more probing, suspicious tone,
"...And it seems a little odd that
someone who lives in this area is
claiming to have never smoked
marijuana before... Not even in
high school...?"
Obviously, this was my cue to
buckle under pressure and "fess
up" about any past illegal drug use.
Luckily, even I wasn't stupid
enough to to fall for something
that blatant. "Yeah, well, I'm not
answering any more questions," I
muttered.
"I wasn't asking you a question,"
she replied. "I was just saying that
it seems a little unusual..." She was
talking to me as if she and everyone
else down at the precinct already
knew the sad truth about my drug
habit, and were all just waiting for
me to give up the charade and
admit it -- yes, it's true, I am a big
fat dirty marijuana-smoker! Why lie
anymore? We all know the telltale
signs -- the bloodshot eyes, the sal-
low complexion, the propensity for
shirking bicycle-safety statutes! I
mean, come on -- who ever heard of
someone living in a Known Drug
Zone and not toking hella chron? I
mean, why else would a person live
in such a neighborhood -- cheap
rent?!
Safe to say, by now it was obvious
that the fuzz was pushing some
kind of agenda here. Stopping me
had nothing to do with a missing
bike light, and it definitely didn't
have anything to do with dropping
a pair of sunglasses. They were just
looking for a convenient
way to detain and arrest
me. The bike-light shtick
was just an icebreaker, a
justification for running
my ID and grilling me at
random. Legally, without
the bike-light infraction, I would
have been free to just walk away
from all this noise.
All this was pretty terrifying;
fortunately, it was also so insulting
that I was able to gather the resent-
ment to ask them for their names
and badge numbers -- if for no
other reason than to change the
subject.
To my surprise, the female cop
seemed to comply. "Sure," she said.
"Do you have a pen?"
"Yep," I answered, and started
to reach for my pocket -- and then
I realized that that might not be
such a great idea. It didn't work out
so well for Amadou Diallo, anyway.
So I asked first, just in case. "Do
you mind if I get it out of my pock-
et?"
"Yes, I mind!" the first cop
barked, suddenly on edge.
"Yes, she does mind!" the other
one echoed.
"Then how am I supposed to
write?" I asked.
"Do you have any weapons,
drugs, or other hazardous items on
your person?"
"Uh... I've got a penknife," I
answered, already soaking in
defeat.
"Well then," the first cop said
smugly, as if she had somehow
known all along, "that's why you
can't get your pen out."
So why were they so willing to
comply with my request in the first
place? Why did they only "mind"
after I asked? What would have
happened if I'd just gone for the
pen without asking first? Also,
notice that she asked if I'd had any
drugs in my pockets -- if I had, and
wasn't thinking, they could have
tricked me into a confession there.
"We'll write them down for you
as soon as we run your identifica-
tion," the woman cop promised.
Their radio cracked. After
responding to it, the woman cop
turned to me with a smirk. "If you
like, you can talk to my supervi-
sor," she said, with an almost
imperceptible bit of taunting in her
voice. "He's on his way right now."
Somehow, this news didn't com-
fort me. "No thanks -- just want to
write the badge numbers down."
A few moments of miserable
silence passed, as we all waited for
the report to come back on my out-
of-state ID. A few people wan-
dered over and watched from across
the street, wondering what the big
deal was. The lull was punctuated
with insinuative statements and
questions about my home life, my
time in Arizona, my occupation,
my personal history. I'm proud to
report that by this point I was able
to stick to my rights, and respond-
ed only by saying "I'm not answer-
ing any more questions" -- not a
perfect score, but close enough to
the Magic Words to protect me. To
my utter amazement, the tactic
seemed to work. They weren't
making things worse for me; they
weren't forcing me to answer their
questions; they weren't assuming
that my silence was evidence of my
guilt. It was all pretty weird.
However, the inquisition wasn't
over yet. The female cop kept
grilling me, pulling out a whole
arsenal of dirty tricks to get me to
incriminate myself, or rat out my
friends and neighbors. At one
point, she actually floated a sug-
gestion that my willingness to
answer her questions just
might make the differ-
ence between a warning
and a $100 ticket:
"It just seems
strange to me that, if
what you say is true --
that you've never, not once, not
even once in high school tried
smoking pot -- that you would be
so reluctant to cooperate, and
refuse to answer some simple, basic
questions... Especially when it
could be making the difference
between a... well, a verbal warning
and a hundred-dollar ticket..."
I almost couldn't believe what I
was hearing. She was actually
threatening me with a ticket for not
talking! Tsk, tsk -- what would the
framers of the Bill of Rights have
thought?
I couldn't help but ask: "Did you
just threaten to give me a ticket for
not talking?"
"No," she barked back, her eye-
brows raised in mock surprise. "I
did not ask you a question, and did
not imply that."
"...Because it sounded like you
just insinuated that you'd ticket me
if i didn't talk," I said.
"No, I did not say that."
"It sounded that way to me."
"No it didn't."
"Okay..."
"Uh huh."
As the conversation trailed off
again, another cruiser pulled up.
Suddenly the cop's smug-o-meter
was back to 100. "Here's my super-
visor right now," she smiled.
"Would you like to speak with
him?"
Hell no. "No thanks."
"Okay then."
As she walked over to go chat
with her supervisor, her "good
cop" partner approached my spot
on the curb, clipboard in hand. He
wanted to start up a friendly chat.
"So do you live with anyone?" he
asked.
"Yes." Damn! I know, I know --
again, I should have just kept my
mouth shut. But at the time, I
was still so flustered from my
previous conversation, and still
so preoccupied wondering
whether I was going to jail or not,
that I couldn't remember what was
required information and what was
just self-incrimination. Of course,
if I had just stuck to the Magic
Words, I wouldn't have had to
worry about making things worse
than they already had to be. It's a
little embarrassing to realize how
easily I gave that up. I mean, the
good cop/bad cop routine is liter-
ally the oldest trick in the cop
book!
What's strange, I found, is that
it's actually sort of hard to not reply
to someone when they're asking
you a question -- especially when
that someone is a scary, belliger-
ent, two-faced armed thug. Most of
us have been trained our whole lives
to politely submit to the demands
of powerful people -- sometimes we
have to really get ourselves into a
bad situation before we're able to
protect our own necks. And it actu-
ally takes a little practice and self-
discipline to keep your mouth shut
when the pigs are grilling you for
answers.
"And how many roommates do
you have?" the "good cop" contin-
ued. He was so much friendlier and
more relaxed than the other cop. It
was almost a pleasure to talk with
him, after the verbal abuse I'd been
dealt earlier. And the information
he wanted was probably just stan-
dard paperwork -- certainly noth-
ing to worry about!
"Two," I found myself answer-
ing.
"And how long have you known
them?" It was like he was just curi-
ous, on a personal level. Like he
just
want-
ed to make some simple conversa-
tion to pass the time.
"Eh -- a while," I said, a little
suspicious.
"And what are their names?" he
asked, propping his clipboard on
his belt. Yep -- just filling out a sim-
ple, boring questionnaire.
I had to get to the point where I
was actually telling this cop the
first names of my own roommates
(sorry roommates) before I was
able to snap out of my trance and
realize -- the fucking cops had
tricked me again! With a trick so
old it was even a cliché on TV! And
here I had thought that I was so
smart.
"And where are they from?" he
continued.
"I'm not going to answer any
more questions," I said, finally. I
marveled again at how hard it was
to stick to such a simple, important
script. You know, like most folks, I
generally don't like being rude to
people. It's unpleasant and awk-
ward to ignore someone while
they're asking you questions. But
frankly, if being polite is going to
get us or our friends in trouble with
the law, we should all be ready to
make exceptions.
"Huh. Okay," he said, a little
defensively. It was like I'd hurt his
feelings or something. "It's just, I
have to tell you, it does seem a lit-
tle strange that you don't seem to
know very much about people that
you live with..."
I wasn't falling for that one
again. "I, am, not, answering, any-
thing."
The cop forced himself to light-
en up, like he was just a pal that'd
been ribbing me a little too hard.
"Oh, I wasn't asking you a ques-
tion; I was just saying it seemed
a little strange, is all. And won-
dering..."
Wondering what, you lying, bru-
talizing, evidence-planting, dope-
running, immigrant-murdering
pig? "Sorry, I'm not answering
anything."
Eventually, he gave up.
After what felt like a good three
or four decades of forced silence
later, my ID "cleared" and the cops
told me that I was free to go. With
these words, all their interest in me
dropped; they were climbing back
into their cruisers without so much
as a see-ya-around. In fact, in all
the rush I forgot that they were
sneaking away without giving me
the names and badge numbers they
had promised me.
I managed to flag them down
just as they were pulling away.
Again, the two cops sprang out of
their squad car with their hands
clutching their precious weapons.
"Uh, could I get those badge
numbers?"
They stood there and let me
inspect their badges. The woman's
was 333. Her partner's was 258.
For some bizarre reason, I didn't
even think to get their names --
maybe I just felt like I had already
pressed my luck far enough. Before
they left, the cops informed me
that "if " I was going home, I
should walk my bike -- "next
time," they said, they would give
me that ticket after all.
I decided to heed their advice,
and spent an extra ten
minutes making my way
home on foot. Sure
enough, the same cop car
cruised by me again when
I got about a half-block
away from my house.
Maybe they were check-
ing to see if I'd lied about
where I lived; maybe they
were just hoping they'd
be able to catch me rid-
ing my bike and arrest me
after all. Either way it was pretty
creepy, and I was happy to disap-
point them.
I still can't figure out why they
had been so intent on stopping me,
and so eager to talk about drugs.
Maybe it was just paranoia, but I
had to wonder -- how long had they
been following me? Had they been
watching me earlier at the park?
Did they already know where I
lived? Did they think I was a deal-
er? Could this all have anything to
do with my political affiliations?
You can't help but think about
these possibilities after such a dis-
honest experience with the cops.
The good news
The good news is, I was finally able
to solve the riddle of the Tempe
bike lights, and why so many bicy-
cle riders in my neighborhood were
getting hassled by the pigs.
Obviously, it has nothing to do
with enforcing bicycle safety. The
cops have just found a convenient,
legal way to detain and interrogate
hundreds of innocent people with-
out reasonable suspicion of a crime
-- that is, except for disobeying
ARS 28-817A.
Is that brilliant or what? In the
US, it's supposed to be illegal to
detain someone just for walking
down the street without having a
reasonable suspicion that they've
been involved in a crime. But if that
person happens to be sitting on a
bike, and that bike doesn't have a
light attached to it, bingo -- now
they're committing a crime, albeit
a pretty wimpy one, and the cops
have a reason to detain and interro-
gate. And if you don't know your
rights, or are too confused or
scared to exercise them properly --
well, them's the breaks, if you're
unlucky enough to live in a Known
Drug Zone. It turns out that it's
surprisingly easy to go to jail
around here.
I'm not writing all of this
because I hate cops. I'm just hop-
ing that everyone who reads this
might have a little more of a chance
at staying free the next time they
have their own encounters with the
police. Learn your rights, and
don't make the same dumb mis-
takes I did. It doesn't matter
whether you've done anything ille-
gal; to the police, everyone is a sus-
pect -- especially, sadly, if they're
brown or live in a poor neighbor-
hood.
Remember, it's not the cops' job
to decide who's innocent. Their job
is to charge as many people as pos-
sible with crimes, and throw them
in jail until they either make bail or
go to trial. And it's perfectly legal
for them to manipulate you and lie
to you in order to get their jobs
done.
Since my detainment, I've
noticed even more people riding
with bike lights at night. Just the
other night I saw a guy riding a
creaky old mountain bike while
actually holding a flash-
light in one hand and
steering with the other. It
makes you wonder how
many people the TPD
have pulled over at ran-
dom in my neighbor-
hood, and tricked into
self-incrimination with
the same slimy tactics
they tried on me. How
many times have their lies
worked? How many peo-
ple's lives have been ruined by
felony convictions and prison time,
just because they had the bad luck
to be riding a bike too close to a
police cruiser in the wrong neigh-
borhood? And how many people
didn't know that they not only had
the right to remain silent, but also
had a very good reason to do so?
How many of the people who did
know their rights were tricked or
coerced out of them with the same
lies the cops had fed me? How
many people are sitting in a cage
right now because they opened
their big mouths just a tiny bit
wider than I did? After my latest
run-in with Tempe's Finest, I won-
der about all of this more and
more, and can only assume that the
truth is a lot worse than most of us
would like to think.
Now that the rich folks are mov-
ing into our neighborhoods in
Tempe, the block just seems to get
hotter and hotter by the day. It's
time that we all learned our rights.
Memorize the Magic Words, and
don't forget: cops lie! If you're
unlucky enough to be detained by
them, don't forget that they will do
their damnedest to trick you out of
your 5th-Amendment protections;
to them, it's just another day's work
fighting the "bad guys," the War
on Terror, the War on Drugs, or
whatever other statist nonsense
they've been brainwashed into
believing.
By the time you're detained by
the cops, the odds are definitely
stacked against your freedom -- we
all need to know how to fight for
our rights when the chips are down.
Except where noted, all of the above legal
information was cribbed from the essen-
tial text Beat the Heat: How to
Handle Encounters with Law
Enforcement by Katya Komisaruk,
Attorney at Law. While writing this
article, I was AMAZED at the simi-
larities between the police tactics covered
in this book and those used on me and
others by real-life cops. I only wish I was
handed this book sooner -- say, at birth!
Upheaval highly recommends that all
non-cops get themselves a copy of this
informative, concise, clearly written
book immediately, to learn the bizarre
and underrated art of protecting your
constitutional rights. Copies of Beat the
Heat can be ordered through either of the
following addresses:
AK Press
674-A 23rd Street
Oakland, CA 94612-1163
(510) 208-1700
<www.akpress.org>
Microcosm Publishing
5307 N. Minnesota Avenue
Portland, OR 97217
(503) 249-3826
<www.microcosmpublishing.com>

====================================
* Journal of the Phoenix Anarchist Coalition
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