Chapter 15. Police / security personnel

Sunday, July 9, 2017
Category: News

Since the beginning of civilization (or shortly thereafter), there have been police and other security forces employed to ‘keep the peace.’ Some enforce the law, others guard property. Their job is to maintain order by vigilance and intervention, ostensibly in a reactive role. Generally, you can assume that security personnel will do nothing unless they perceive a threat, or until someone calls on them to intervene. Usually, this means we can effectively ignore their presence, as long as we behave. That said, the police have been known to perceive threats that don’t exist, so if the cops show up to look around, vacate the area, or linger at your own risk.

At the top, I’ll reveal the recipe for defusing the police: be polite, cooperative, slightly amusing, and slightly cheeky. If they detain you, pretend to be helpful with a hint of brown-nosing: “I hope I’m answering your questions all right, officer. What else can I tell you?” And, ask repeatedly, “Am I under arrest?”; “Am I free to leave?

If you need a favor

If you want a police officer to bend the rules or ‘look the other way’, (i.e. when you want to do something against the law but are afraid of getting caught), find one and explain your ordeal. I know I’ve used this for driving, parking, and urinatory situations; and I can imagine other predicaments where the expressed assistance of the police would be considered convenient. Explain your quandary; don’t ask about the legality of your request; just describe the problematic. Add your reasons and intentions, and ask for advice: what should you do?

Officer, I’m trying to ______________, and ______________________ (is preventing that). Is there some way I could somehow _____________ (state your goal)? Then I could get out of here and go ________ (your next task in life).”

If the cop deems your request as reasonable and safe, they will allow you the transgression and direct you to take the liberty. Don’t make a big deal out of it, or they will change their mind. Just say thanks, and leave quickly. If Murphy’s Law strikes and another cop catches you a minute later, I give you a 50-50 chance of talking your way out of it.

Help, security lady!

If you want a police or security officer to intervene on your behalf, it helps to act distressed or frightened. Exaggerate your emotions and act excited. Remain coherent, or they might think you’re a junkie. Your intelligent excitement will evoke their sympathy and elevate their status to ‘rescue knight’. Everyone likes to feel like that sometimes. Let them feel important, especially when you need their help.

If they hassle you

While most police and security personnel truly have your well-being at heart, there are more than a few ruffians out there who will provoke you and test your self-control. Every day, someone, somewhere, gets hassled by the police. If you’re being detained/questioned, you must take the highroad: do not raise your voice, and do not allow them to provoke you. It won’t be easy to gain rapport, but you must try.  After answering, retort with a test question like “Is this really going to be a problem?” or a joke, “Have you guys been looking for me?” This may disarm them and make them apt to stand down. Tell them to have a nice day, walk away, and hope they let you leave. If they detain you further, pretend to be excessively helpful. Ask them if there’s anything you can do. Invite questions with questions, e.g. “What else do you want to know?” Keep the sarcasm at a low-to-moderate level, and you’ll stay out of handcuffs. In the worst-case scenario, call someone to bail you out.

I’m hard pressed to come up with a universal tip that applies across all cultures, so I resort to the basic survival (and success) question to ask yourself: “What’s my goal, here and now?”, and do whatever you can to achieve it: dazzle them with science, pretend to be autistic/lost/scared, run away, etc.

Embassies and foreign bureaucracy

Due to countless political issues beyond our control, we need a visa to travel to certain parts of planet Earth. Some nations are welcoming; others are less enthusiastic. One thing is universal: they all want our money. When applying for a visa, dress smart-casual and be ready to tell them about foods you’re going to try and souvenirs you’re going to buy. If they ask about your budget, tell them about $100 a day if you’re a backpacker, $200 on business. Tell them you’ll be joining a travel group (if they ask the travel agency’s name, have an answer ready). If you’re on a study or work visa, remind them of how your trip will be fruitful for both you and their country. Remember your answers, as you may need them again when you go through immigration control at your destination (link to Ch 14 Airports: Immigration control). Look relaxed, answer alertly, and keep your nose clean; you won’t have any problems with anyone in uniform.

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