What things do cops not want me to know?

The fact that if a cop stops you and questions or detains you, you have the option of asking, “Am I free to go?” and if the response is “NO” the police need a good reason for continuing to refuse to let you leave.

The same applies to a request of, “Do you mind if I take a look around in your vehicle?” (especially, “Can I look in the trunk?”).  You can say no and then a search warrant or definite probable cause is needed to continue with the search activity. Police sometimes rely on the mere intimidation factor that if you say ‘No” to law enforcement they will suspect you have something to hide…otherwise, why would you object?

We also would prefer if not that many people were aware that if you are under arrest and answer questions you are an idiot.  GET AN ATTORNEY.  We are not your buddies and little that we ask you is in your best interest.

Roger Curtiss, Retired Detective


It’s situational. Usually, it’s easy for us to follow the rules. We know when we need a warrant and when we don’t. We know when we can arrest someone and when we can’t. Those things are relatively easy, especially for experienced officers. And often we will even give you advice on how to get yourself out of trouble.

There are other things about which we are less forthcoming.
Sometimes we don’t want you to know we don’t have all the answers. There are a lot of laws out there, and we know the basic ones for the most part – the ones we deal with all the time. But sometimes someone does something that looks illegal, but we’re not quite sure. So we gotta check, and sometimes we’re wrong.

We don’t want you to know we really do not like to get warrants. That does not mean wewon’t do it. But it’s a pain in the ass, especially in large metropolitan areas. At least it was where I worked. We had a list of “standby” judges who it seemed we could never get ahold of.

We don’t want you to know we get scared too. Like trying to crawl up in between parked cars on an armed guy in a group of people, and making sure no one sees you until you are ready. Or stopping a carload when you know one of the passengers just tried to hold up a grocery store. Yes, we try to get our ducks in line before we make the stop, but sometimes we don’t have that many ducks. Sometimes it’s just you and another guy, sometimes it’s just you. You don’t have the luxury of backing down.

We don’t want you to know every single one of our departmental policies, because it’s very rare that we do. Unless we’re studying for the sergeant’s’ exam.

We don’t want you to know we are quite often bothered by what we see on the street. We take those things home with us. Sometimes we have families that help us deal with those things, sometimes we don’t want them to know either.

We don’t necessarily want you to know we do not always trust the people we are working with, the ones wearing the same uniform we are wearing. Not that they are criminals, rather, some are cowards, some are lazy, some are liars. Many times we try to get rid of them. Sometimes we can, sometimes we cannot.

We don’t want you to know we are usually understaffed, or we often work below recommended manpower levels.

Sometimes we don’t want you to know what we think of you. If you are the guy who calls the police because your neighbor’s 4 year old stepped on your grass, it’s you. If you are the guy we catch in a romantic situation with someone else’s wife, it’s you. If you beat up your wife and get arrested, then talk her out of testifying just to save your own ass, it’s you. If you tell me you will have me fired if I write you that ticket, it’s you.

But most of the time, we want you to know what you should know. We’d like you to know what our days can be like, what decisions we’ve had to make and why we made them. Overall, it makes our jobs easier.

Rick Bruno, Former Police Commander, Illinois. Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice