As a 26 year veteran of the Chicago Police Department, few people know as well as I do just how complicated and often destructive the relationship between Black folks and the police can be. Though our frustration at many of the officers in our community and the harsh realities of the "injustice system" may be warranted, it is also worth noting just how many of us enter our interactions with the police in a hostile or disrespectful manner before an officer has even opened his or her mouth. Now, you have a system that is designed to keep us incarcerated and cops who may be harboring biases against us because of our race (including some of the Black ones), let alone the many Black people who have been killed by law enforcement…wouldn't it be wiser to keep a cool head when dealing with the police? The EBONY Police Survival Guide is designed to help you and your loved ones to make wise choices when encountering law enforcement officers.
-As soon as you have established that officers are at your residence, turn off loud music/TVs and ask any intoxicated/loud persons to retreat to a room in the back of your home. The last thing you need is Cousin Pookie’s “F- the police” speech when you’ve got a cop at your door because your neighbor complained about your loud music.
-When an officer(s) arrive at your home, step outside and close your door. If possible, bring a trusted family member/roommate/houseguest with you. By closing your door, you have made it clear that you are not inviting the police inside. If they step in, they will be searching for any evidence of illegal activity and only need to cite ‘reasonable suspicion’ to justify this.
-Politely ask why the officers are there. By assuming you know why and offering information related to your assumption, you may incriminate yourself unwittingly.
-You do not have to grant police permission to enter your home unless they have a warrant signed by a judge—ask to see it. However, there are circumstances in which they can enter without your blessing: an illegal item in sight from outside the home, the smell of drugs, someone screaming for help inside, if they have chased someone into your residence, etc.
-NEVER allow officers to search your home without a search warrant or proof that someone is in danger. You also do not have to answer any questions if you are not being arrested. If you do not feel comfortable being questioned at your home, request that you are interviewed at another location—if you consent to being interviewed at all. Be mindful that the code of silence in our community as it relates to non-cooperation and indifference to serious crime incidents in our neighborhoods has not served us well. Everyone wants the police to "do their job" but this will necessitate details of crimes that only victims/witnesses can provide.
-If you are not under arrest, but are being investigated for a crime, you should contact a lawyer before speaking with the police.
David Lemieux is a retired Chicago Police Detective, a former member of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and an activist.