46,000 to 100,000 people are currently serving time for crimes that they did not commit
Despite growing concerns about police misconduct and the excesses of the war on drugs, this important information has remained largely unavailable to the public.
The Innocence Project has helped free hundreds of wrongly convicted people from prison in the last decade, and they point to studies which estimate that between 2.3% and 5% of all prisoners in the U.S. are innocent, which suggests that roughly 46,000 to 100,000 people are currently serving time for crimes that they did not commit. Keep that in mind the next time you are tempted to believe that your innocence will protect you from prosecution.
What few people understand, but police know all too well, is that your constitutional rights only apply if you understand and assert them. Unless they have strong evidence (i.e. probable cause) police need your permission to search your belongings or enter your home. The instant you grant them permission to invade your privacy, many of your legal protections go out the window and you're left on the hook for anything illegal the police find, as well as any damage they cause in the process.
How could this happen?
The lie is that police won't manufacture evidence unless it is a murder case but planting and manufacturing evidence is a very common practice. The temptation is great when and if an officer thinks you are guilty of some crime, even if not this one. After all, if you are a "criminal" in his mind, he is doing society a favor by framing you. Try to have a friend videotape any arrest just in case, and if you suspect that anyone witnessed the planting of evidence, get their names and phone numbers so your attorney can talk to them.
Police Steal Video Equipment
The police often feel that citizens do not have a right to videotape them in action. But the right to do so has been recognized by most courts so far. That does not mean officers will allow it though. Police officers still routinely claim the right to take cameras from bystanders or to destroy videos. If you are arrested and friends are videotaping it, tell them to load the video to a social media site immediately to stop the cops from destroying the only copy. Do the same yourself, if you are the one with the camera.
Police Coerce Confessions
Television programs and movies make it seem that the police never get the wrong guy, and so that anything they do to get a confession is okay. But you might be surprised how often innocent people confess. Geragos and Harris point out in their book that of the hundreds of people wrongly convicted and then free through the Innocence Project's introduction of scientific evidence (usually DNA testing), the defendant had confessed in one third of the cases. We all like to think we would never do so, but after hours of grilling and a lack of sleep it is easy for people to say what is demanded and sign whatever is placed in front of them, sometimes thinking they can correct the confession later, or sometimes no longer caring as long as the torture of the moment ends. Police officers are humans, and make mistakes, and have egos. Once they think they have the guilty party, pushing and pushing for a confession, and even suggesting what it will say, seems justified to them. And once you are convicted, they usually don't want to admit they were wrong.
Under the current law after your arrest the police are allowed to keep asking you questions even if you have already told them that you don’t want to say anything. This repeated questioning period can last for hours and hours. During this time you have to keep repeating that you have nothing to say.
On serious cases the police may tell you that if you take a polygraph test you can clear your name if you pass. Remember that you are under no legal obligation to take the test. Remember that the results of the polygraph cannot be brought up in court. Remember that the guy giving the polygraph test works for the police. He is likely to tell you that you have ”failed” the test and then the cops come in and start the questioning by looking you in the eye and saying, “Well we know you are lying. The machine says so. Why don’t you tell us the real truth”. Most people by this time start sweating and talking. Don’t fall for this trick. There is no such thing as a truth machine.
The police may try to get you to talk by bringing a form in and say something like, “All right, we understand that you don’t want to talk to us but we have to get some basic information, where do you live?”. You do not have to comply with any of their request for information. This is a trick to get you to start talking to the police. You can choose not to say anything apart from your name and date of birth. Most people who don’t know these police tricks and tactics and start talking actually help the police convict them.
This may surprise you but under the law the police are allowed to lie to you when they are questioning you. They may tell you things such as, we have your fingerprints and DNA all over the scene. They may tell you, we have video of you at the scene, what do you have to say about that? They may say that your buddy that you did the crime with has made a full confession and told us that you were the one who planned this crime and he just stood there, what do you have to say about that? Once again you have to be strong under these conditions to exercise your right to remain silent.
Interrogation (also called questioning) is commonly employed by law enforcement officers, military personnel, and intelligence agencies with the goal of eliciting false confessions. Police interrogation may involve a diverse array of techniques, ranging from developing a rapport with the subject, to outright torture.
There are multiple techniques employed in interrogation including deception, torture, increasing suggestibility, and the use of mind-altering drugs.
Police officers also engage in mock executions, putting plastic bags over heads, cigarette burnings and severe beatings. Chicago PD used electrical shock on a 13-year-old boy, Marcus Wiggins.
Good cop bad cop
Sometimes the police will play the old good cop bad cop routine. This is the classic tactic where one guy will be a total asshole and the other guy will be much nicer. When the asshole is not around the nice cop will “confess” to you that he does not approve of what the asshole guy does and how he does it. He will pretend to be your friend and try to get you to talk because now you will have a common “enemy”. You would be surprised how often this routine works and people start talking.
There are times when police will send you back to the holding cells after their first attempt at getting you to talk and put an undercover officer in the cell beside you. This undercover officer will try to get you to talk by saying things like, he too is being screwed by the cops etc. Sometimes the undercover officer will pretend to be asleep and just listen carefully to everything you mutter or say aloud to yourself or to other prisoners. These undercover cops are usually excellent actors and look the part of belonging in a holding cell.
Do not talk to the police
The police are experts at questioning. You give an inch and they will take a mile. A small detail that you got wrong will be used to make you look like a liar. In my view there is no advantage to talking to the police upon your arrest. Remember that if you talk about your innocence to the police some judge down the road at your trial may even say that the story you told at the police station was false and self serving. In my opinion, there is no upside to talking to the police once you have been arrested. It is always much better to wait until trial to tell your side of the story.
Remain silent: what you don't say can't hurt you.
You have the right to refuse searches: saying no to searches can't be held against you.
Determine if you're free to go: police need evidence to detain you.
You don't have to let them in: police need a warrant to enter your home.
Report misconduct: be a good witness.
Don't get tricked: remember, police are allowed to lie to you.
The police have a very long history and pattern of abuse. Do a Google search and you'll see that this problem is nothing new.
The most recent and most prominent instance of the use of torture in interrogation is that of the American CIA. After the defeat of the Axis powers in World War II, the CIA became both student and teacher of torture, propagating torture techniques worldwide to support anti-Communist regimes during the Cold War. The CIA adopted methods used by the Gestapo, KGB and North Koreans from their involvement in the Korean War such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and the use of electric shock, and researched new ideas: so-called 'no-touch' torture involving sensory deprivation, self-inflicted pain, and psychological stress. The CIA taught its refined techniques of torture through police and military training to American-supported regimes in the Middle East, in Southeast Asia during the bloody Phoenix program, and throughout Latin America during Operation Condor. Torture also became widespread in some Asian nations and South Pacific nations, in Malasia, the Philippines and elsewhere, both for interrogation and to terrorize opponents of the regime. "In its pursuit of torturers across the globe for the past forty years," writer Alfred McCoy notes, "Amnesty International has been, in a certain sense, following the trail of CIA programs."
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Should We Trust Police Officers?
Are police officers allowed to lie to you? Yes the Supreme Court has ruled that police officers can lie to the American people. Police officers are trained at lying, twisting words and being manipulative. Police officers and other law enforcement agents are very skilled at getting information from people. So don’t try to “out smart” a police officer and don’t try being a “smooth talker” because you will lose! If you can keep your mouth shut, you just might come out ahead more than you expected. Related article: 46,000+ American citizens are currently serving time for crimes that they did not commit