Believe it or not, not all police officers carry a gun. While all jurisdictions in the United States have the budget of firearms, this doesn’t mean that they all require police officers to get out there packing some heat. They do, however, require police officers to bring a flashlight.
Now, this makes a lot of sense because you never know when a safety officer is going to have to go through a dark area. It may be the middle of the day out, but when a call comes in, a cop might have to go through a tunnel or go to somebody’s basement. There might not be not much light there.
Also, don’t underestimate the self-defense capabilities of the typical flashlight. Please understand that Police Department-approved flashlights are very different from the kind of stuff that you pick up at your corner hardware store.
There are many variations of flashlights at the typical hardware store, but when it comes to the police, their flashlights tend to be very heavy. They’re long and cylindrical, and they can easily be used as a club.
They’re also weighed down by the many batteries that they contain. So, when you swing one of these things, you can bet that it’s going to hurt at the receiving end. This is why it’s not a surprise that a lot of cops are obligated to carry flashlights.
Besides flashlights, cops are also required to carry handcuffs. Again, just like with flashlights, you don’t know if there is going to be a situation where you see a crime take place or you would observe people running away from the scene of the crime.
Please understand that, in the United States, it is completely illegal to arrest somebody without a warrant. That’s the default rule.
If you don’t have an arrest warrant, you can’t step up to somebody who looks like he’s not doing anything and put the guy in handcuffs and haul him away. The arrest is going to get voided and you might have a lawsuit on your hands. You need an arrest warrant.
There are, however, several well-established exceptions to this. For example, if you are a cop making your rounds and you see some guys spray painting a wall and then, upon seeing you, they start running.
Well, you can chase them down and put them in handcuffs. The reason for this, of course, is two-fold. First of all, you saw the crime take place. You saw them handling spray paint cans and painting graffiti on a wall. You are a direct witness to the crime.
Second is when you are in hot pursuit. In other words, they committed the crime, they ran, and you pursued them.
It doesn’t make any sense for the law to say that you can’t arrest people. After all, you just pursued them.
And what will happen if the law says you can’t put these people on handcuffs and take them to the precinct? That’s right, they’re going to go all the way. They’re going to hide and justice will never get served.
Do you see how this works? It’s pretty practical. It’s common sense actually.
The hot pursuit justification for arrest actually acts as a catchall provision. It really does. Why? In the United States, cops have been authorized by the US Supreme Court ever since the early 60s to do what is commonly called “stop and frisk.”
When cops think that there is something criminal going on, like having a reasonable suspicion that the people they are talking to might have been engaged in criminal acts, or may be related to some criminal action, or may be packing some weapons, they are allowed by law to frisk them. So, they basically can just pat them down.
It is not an arrest. It doesn’t necessarily have to end with the police taking these people to jail. In fact, technically speaking, they are not suspects.
This is just a precautionary measure because, according to the logic of the Supreme Court, since there is a reasonable suspicion that illegal activity is afoot, the police must be given some authority to act in that situation.
They can’t just sit on their behinds waiting for people to run or people to actually commit the illegal action in front of them. What if they did the illegal act in a hidden area and are just passing through a space where the police are?
Without the stop and frisk ruling, the police are basically powerless. So, the crime would have happened, and the perpetrators got away, and chances are, enough time will have passed for the perpetrators to disappear effectively.
There are strict rules regarding “stop and frisk.” What happens is, when people are stopped, oftentimes, they panic and they run. Generally speaking, flight is an admission of guilt of something.
The police can’t obviously put their finger on what you’re guilty of, but if they ask you to stop and ask you certain questions and then try to pat you down and your number one reaction is to just turn the other way and start running, the hot pursuit exemption to the necessity for an arrest warrant kicks in. So it is, by default, in terms of practical operation, an effective catchall.
Make no mistake, a lot of people get thrown in jail in the United States because they panic.
When a cop stops you and says that “There’s something happening in the area, we’re going to frisk you. Do you consent?” If you’re innocent, it’s probably a good idea to just go along.
But if you actually did the crime or you were somehow some way engaged or involved in the crime, then you would say no. In that case, the cops can call back to the precinct and they may go through certain processes to get an answer from you.
This is where people panic and that’s why most people who are stopped should not panic. Because the moment you panic and you run, you give cops the legal cover and excuse they need to put those handcuffs on you.
This is why cops are commonly required to carry handcuffs. Because even though they may not have their gun with them, if they are in a situation where somebody commits a crime or runs, they have access to the tools they need to incapacitate that person.
Of course, this has to happen within the parameters of appropriate self-preservation. If you are a cop and you’re not packing heat and you’re trying to put handcuffs on somebody, you’re really putting your life in your own hands because this person might want to shoot you. Do you see how this works?
So, generally speaking, you have to rely on your police training to use those handcuffs properly in certain situations.