by Rob Warner
People seem to have an almost reflexive urge to talk when confronted by authority. Watch any police reality show and you will see this in action. From the moment a person is stopped all they want to do is talk: excusing, apologising, lying, arguing, confessing, denying, bargaining. The only time these people pipe down is when they are being arrested; perhaps because only then do they realise how fruitless talking themselves out of trouble has been.
Want to know what the best way is of communicating with the police?
There are no ifs or buts. No special circumstances. No benefits to be had. If you find yourself on the receiving end of police questions, there is no reason to talk. NOT EVER. It doesn’t matter if they have stopped you in the street, pulled you over for speeding, knocked on your door or are interviewing you down at the station. Tell them nothing.
Don’t profess your innocence. Don’t make denials. Don’t argue with them. Don’t chat with them. Don’t complain. Don’t make excuses. Don’t talk to them on the phone. Your aim should always be to foreshorten any encounter you have with the police. The more you say, the longer they will remain. The quickest way of leaving any unwanted encounter with the police is to say as little as possible. If you must say anything then simply ask if they suspect you of having broken the law. If the answer is anything other than “yes,” then leave.
Presumption of guilt
It’s not your job to prove your innocence to the police. It is their job to prove your guilt. Being friendly and open with them will do you no favours. Do you honestly think that if you give them details and excuses they will take pity on you and let you go? All the backstory you give and protestations of innocence you make, they won’t be listening to. Instead, they will be sifting through everything you say to find something, anything, that sounds like an admission of guilt.
This isn’t me being cynical, it’s how police officers are trained. Suspicion is a tool of their trade. They hear people trying to convince them they haven’t done anything wrong every day. So why would they treat you any differently? They won’t. In fact they’ve probably heard a dozen people like you that very day, whereas you might be encountering a cop for the first time in years.
Yes, it’s frustrating to protest your innocence and get nothing but blank looks or probing questions from a cop, especially if you really are as innocent as you say you are; but what sounds like innocence to you, sounds very different to them. As far as the police are concerned, talkers are just guilty people trying to sound innocent.
Nothing to hide
You might think it’s okay to talk to the police because you have nothing to hide. But the police aren’t interested in what you have to hide. They’re only interested in what you will freely admit. And no matter how sincerely you explain away your behaviour, if the police hear just one word that sounds like an admission of wrongdoing they will act upon it. Can you honestly say you know the law well enough to be certain that you haven’t done anything illegal, no matter how rational your behaviour might seem?
You won’t be treated favourably for confessing
Don’t make the naive assumption that the police want to hear your side of the story so they can ‘eliminate you from their enquiries’. The police don’t question people to establish innocence. They are searching for evidence of guilt. They are part of the prosecution, not the defence. If the police have you in their sights, they will be looking for any excuse to justify their interest. They won’t go easy on you because you put up a passionate plea for mercy or confessed your wrongdoing on the spot. Don’t ever be fooled by the pleas for frankness police officers make in a bid to loosen tongues, because none of it is true:
“Just tell us the truth and it’ll make it a lot easier on you in the long run”. No it won’t.
“If you lie to me, then you’re going to be in even more trouble”. No you won’t.
“All I want is the truth.” No, all he wants is a conviction.
A police officer who tells you that things will be far worse for you if you don’t talk is lying, plain and simple. The police won’t be doing you any favours for confessing on the spot. Nor will the courts. Concessions for early guilty pleas begin after a suspect has been charged. Not before it. Your willingness to tell the cops everything they needed to prosecute you with won’t even be mentioned in court.
It’s not illegal to refuse to speak to the police. You can’t be charged with obstruction; perverting the course of justice; resisting arrest or any other offence the officer wants to dream up. It is your fundamental right not to talk. The police tell you as much the moment they arrest you. “You do not have to say anything.” Those are the first words of the official police caution. It’s good advice. Take it!
Talk is cheap – freedom is priceless
The urge to speak might feel overwhelming when you hear nothing but lies and false accusation being made against you, but that is precisely what the police are hoping for. That your temptation to speak will be greater than your will to resist. You don’t have to prove anything to the police. Their opinions are worthless.
Explaining yourself to the police isn’t just counter-productive, it’s providing them with evidence that in all likelihood they would never find elsewhere if you just SHUT UP! Your words are just as good as any material evidence. And no matter what your intentions are when you open your mouth, the more you say, the more likely it is you will say something wrong.
Under pressure it’s very easy to trip over your words, contradict yourself or have a lapse of memory. To err might be human, but to the police it’s a sign of criminal intent. They won’t dismiss any wrong thing you say as a mistake. They will act upon it. Just remember, what you DON’T say will always be easier to defend than what you DO say.
Under no circumstances should you ever accept a formal invitation to the station for a police interview. If you are not placed under arrest, DON’T GO! Even if you are threatened with arrest, DON’T GO! Being arrested will guarantee you rights and privileges that going freely to a police station will not.
Refusing to talk to the police doesn’t end the moment they sit you down in front of a tape recorder back at the police station. If anything, that is where your silence matters most. Even if you are arrested and interviewed under caution, don’t answer police questions. If your solicitor encourages you to “just tell the truth”, get rid of your solicitor. The police aren’t interested in truth. The only truth they care for is you admitting to something and saving them the bother of having to find the evidence for themselves.
Keep quiet. Say nothing at interview.
Don’t even bother parroting “no comment” to their questions. Just play the deaf mute until the interview is over. Then, once you have heard all the questions, and got the measure of their investigation, write out a short statement by way of defence. Then, in the unlikely event you are prosecuted, stick to that defence in court. Short written statements made at interview are the surest way of avoiding the court drawing an ‘adverse inference’ (thinking you have something to hide).
Did you know that over 75% of all police prosecutions for petty offences are brought off the back of confessions and admissions made by those stupid enough to talk to the police?
Be the safe minority.
Don’t talk to the police.