policeEarlier in the week, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti announced a plan to place 7,000 body cameras on LAPD officers by this summer, making the LAPD the largest national law enforcement agency in the country to be fitted with body cameras in the wake of several tragedies across the nation in recent weeks involving excessive police force on ordinary citizens in New York and Ferguson, Missouri.

“Body cameras won’t solve every problem in policing. But having video of police officers’ interactions with the public will help hold officers’ accountable for misconduct, quickly exonerate officers who are wrongly accused, and help the public understand the powers we give police and how they use them,” said Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California.

Excessive force and police brutality has been a major concern for citizens, especially in southern California. Here are some tips on avoiding trouble with over-militarized police:

If you are stopped for questioning:

  • DO give your name and the information on your drivers’ license. If you don’t, you may be arrested, even though the arrest may be illegal.
  • DO remember you have the right to remain silent. You cannot be arrested or detained for refusing to answer questions. But it can look suspicious to the police.
  • DO IMMEDIATELY move your dogs into a bathroom with the door closed or similar small room if you see police coming to your home or yard – police officers can shoot dogs if they feel threatened by them.
  • DO show an ID if you are getting a ticket so that you can be released.
  • DO ask the police to see a search warrant if they want to search you or your home.
  • DO make sure the officer knows you do not agree to be searched (they might search you anyway, but make your opposition known. You can say “I do not consent to a search.”).
  • DO ask if you are free to leave. If they say ‘yes,’ leave; if they say ‘no,’ DO ask to know why.

DON’T…

  • DON’T get mad, yell, become angry, or visibly show that you are upset by screaming, crying, or acting hysterically.  It could lead to your arrest – you MUST remember to stay calm.
  • DON’T refuse to follow the officer’s instructions. Refusing to follow instructions authorizes the officer to use higher levels of force, including tasers.
  • DON’T refuse to give your name, you could be arrested.
  • DON’T run away or physically resist, as you could be tasered or physically detained.
  • DON’T lie. If you don’t want to say anything, say that you would like to remain silent until you speak to a lawyer.
  • DON’T bring up your citizenship or immigration status
  • DON’T refuse a blood, urine, or breath test unless you want your license suspended
  • DON’T attempt to bribe the police.
  • DON’T have any objects hanging from your rearview mirror. It is illegal in California and could give the police a reason to pull you over.

This guide is meant to offer some basic “DO’s and DON’Ts” when interacting with police officers in California.  If you run into problems with police officers, it is important to get legal advice, especially if you are charged with a crime.