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Saturday, December 8, 2007

Some Advice

Picture: Seattle Police making a JAYWALKING arrest

I'd like to offer some advice for people who find themselves forced into an interaction with the police in Seattle based on my own personal experience as an innocent person who was accused of a crime and abused in custody, based on other anecdotal stories, and based on some of the usual suggestions given by legal experts as well.

If you are a legal expert or have experienced abuse and disagree or would like to add to these, please let me know.

Interacting with SPD Officers:
  1. Know your rights - Remember that the kind of information you are obligated to give to police officers is very limited, otherwise you are under no requirement to divulge any information without consulting with your attorney first... However
  2. Politely and quickly comply with all legal orders - Do what the officer tells you so long as it is a legal command. This is why it is important to know rule 1, understand your rights.... However...
  3. If you feel threatened - Comply with any command! Unfortunately, some members of the SPD don't really care about your rights (see article about SPD officers arresting people for legally taking pictures) and they will assault you if you attempt to utilize your rights. (see article about man beaten for asking an officer a question). So, the best advice I know of is to follow all commands except those that would implicate you with a criminal offense or a command that would be illegal for you to follow. (i.e. if a cop told you to commit a crime).
  4. Do not fight back - Even if you are being illegally attacked, you should not resist, even accidental contact will be claimed as assault on an officer and that's a charge nobody can win against. Unfortunately, what will likely happen is that even if you do not resist the police will claim that you did, but your only hope is that there is a camera watching somewhere, so your best bet is still to never resist or struggle.
  5. Document everything - When you are being falsely arrested or being abused by the police, do whatever you can to de-escalate the situation, comply with all commands and stay quiet as much as possible. Be patient, do not argue, but try to remember everything you can, document it as soon as you can, and then let the lawyers argue it out later.
  6. ASK A LAWYER FIRST! - If you feel you have been abused or your rights have been violated, do not file a complaint with the OPA without talking to a CIVIL lawyer first. If they won't help, talk to the press, and if they won't help, then file a complaint. The OPA is toothless and often ignored, so consider it your last resort.
  7. If you witness abuse - Report it to both the OPA and the media. The statement of officers means more to the OPA than eyewitness accounts, but the media does value eyewitness statements so this is why you must report abuse to both, this way the police can't deny that there were reports of abuse when the media calls to get their statement of events. Most importantly, do not intervene and do not draw attention to yourself! If the officers are abusing someone they are already acting irrationally, they may attack you too if you draw attention to yourself, and once they decide to hurt you, there's nothing you can do to stop them.
  8. Recording Abuse - If you do witness abuse, try to record it with a camera or on video. However, be discrete! If the police witness you taking pictures they will take your camera and destroy the evidence, they may even arrest you for it. There have been many media reports of this kind of illegal activity on the part of the police, you may have the right to record them, but remember that they don't care about your rights. Take the recording to the media first, make copies, and then tell the OPA about it afterwards.

If you are arrested:
  1. Be quiet! - The best advice is to say as little as humanly possible. You are obligated to give your name and confirm your identity, but otherwise, don't talk at all. Do not argue your case to the officer, once an officer arrests you that officer is certain that you did something wrong, even if you didn't. Save it for the court because arguing your case to the police will, at best, get your words twisted and used against you, at worst you will get abused.
  2. Stay Aware! - Make mental notes of everything you can, especially officer names and badge numbers if you can read them.
  3. Do what you are told - Except where it would implicate you with a crime, do whatever you are instructed and do it quick.
  4. Contact a lawyer ASAP! - As soon as you are allowed, contact a lawyer or tell the person you call to contact a lawyer.
If you are confined in the King County Jail:
  1. Again, do what you are told - So long as it's a legal command that will not implicate you with a crime, do whatever you are told, do it quick, and don't argue. The guards are not on your side, they will look for any excuse to punish you, and the punishment will be painful. You have no rights there, to everyone you are now a criminal, so nobody cares if you are beaten or killed in there. So best advice is to do whatever you can to keep a low profile, keep to yourself, and keep quiet.
  2. Don't tell the guards anything - If you witness a fight or illegal activity, don't run to the guards, that will get you hurt. The guards, even if they listen, will not protect you from retribution later, so keep to yourself.
  3. Don't tell other prisoners anything! - It is best to keep to yourself as much as possible, if you do interact keep to to small talk. But whatever you do, do not talk about your case or what happened at all. Some prisoners will try to get better treatment or plea deals by twisting your words and offering to testify against you. If asked about why you're in, keep it simple and only state your charges, if you say anything at all.
  4. Get a bunk if you can - The holding tanks are almost always overcrowded, people will have to sleep on the floor. If you can, take a bunk as quick as you can. Don't be polite and let someone in before you. If you do end up on the floor, do not let your sheets, blankets, or anything else touch the floor. Those cells flood often, and you don't want that kind of water on your things because you aren't allowed to change them out for any reason.
  5. Use Kites! - You are not to talk or ask the guards anything directly, if you have a question or need something, use the forms called KITES to ask for it.
  6. Get up early for triage! - If you are hurt, make sure you fill out a medical kite before they call for triage nurse, you cannot go without a kite and they call for it very early in the morning... and they don't tell you about this either.
  7. If you are abused or denied treatment - Tell your lawyer immediately, tell your family, your friends, get the word out to as many people as you can. The guards will not sympathize and any grievance you file can simply be ripped up by a guard and never see the light of day since the forms have to go through guards to make it anywhere, even if they did count. So your best bet is the lawyer and everyone reporting the abuse to the press or others.
To be Continued....

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