If You’re a Cop You Have to Tell Me


An inability to reliably sleep has made me very familiar with late-night television. Most of it is junk, but I’ve kinda gotten into the true crime genre. I like reading mysteries but when you’re trying to fall asleep you don’t want to ward off the urge for slumber by noting that the chapter you are reading only has seven more pages. I end up fending off sleeping to find a good bookmark point. I can fall asleep mid-“Forensic Files” and not think twice about it. Insomnia’s best friend is a good book. I’ll take the idiot box.

I’ve recently developed an affinity for a show called “Homicide Hunter.” It streams on Discovery ID and there are a lot of episodes so it’s an easy and, at this point reflexive, effort to tune in in the wee hours. The host or star is a fellow from Colorado Springs named Lt. Joe Kenda. He’s pleasant to listen to, kind of what I would imagine Jay Nordlinger to be like if he was jaundiced by spending his days dealing with crime scenes, dead bodies, and people who make all manner of horrid decisions.

Watching these shows, I am continually struck by something. The police, in mufti, show up at people’s doors, identify themselves by showing a badge, and then are allowed entry into the home. I don’t know about you, but I’ve no idea what my local police department’s, or any of the surrounding department’s actually, badges look like.

If someone comes to my door wearing a relatively inexpensive suit, claims to be a detective, and flashes a badge, am I within my rights to say hold on until I verify that you are what you say you are? I wouldn’t know a Birmingham or FBI badge from a Homewood badge from a novelty toy that came in a box of Captain Crunch in the late eighties.

I don’t know what a warrant looks like either. In the absence of a patrol car parked on the curb, I wouldn’t want to let a stranger into my house without knowing that they are who they say they are.

Obviously a Manafort style raid lets you know that the cops are here, but do I have to answer personal questions from a plainclothes guy at my doorstep because he possesses unfamiliar credentials?

In my mind, I should be able to say “Fine. I don’t doubt that you are who you say you are but I feel like I should be able to make a phone call confirming your identity before I start providing you with information.”

If there are any police officers that read the site I’d like to know your thoughts and your probable reactions.

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There are 7 comments.

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  1. Hoyacon Member

    I’m pretty sure that, if you look up “deadpan” in the right dictionary, there’ll be a picture of Joe Kenda.

    • #1
  2. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    I’m pretty sure that, if you look up “deadpan” in the right dictionary, there’ll be a picture of Joe Kenda.

    Oh my.

    • #2
  3. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt

    Police officer’s also carry a photo ID card, similar to a military ID card, or a drivers license.

    • #3
  4. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt

    Warrants are a court order for an arrest. The most common warrant is for “Failure To Appear” for example, Traffic Court. In large cities it is not likely that an officer is going to your front door to serve an FTA warrant for a traffic violation. The next time you’re stopped by an officer is when the arrest will be made.

    Warrants for a felony arrest, especially for a violent felon are the “No-Knock” type of warrant, the front door comes off the hinges type of entry. This type of entry was certainly abused in the Roger Stone case. I would have to believe that the FBI was familiar with Roger Stone’s history of non-violence, and his arrest could have been made in his driveway, a coffee shop, or in the parking lot of a shopping mall.

    As a warrant is a court order, police officer’s don’t write the warrant, the officer has no choice about making an arrest if he/she has contact with the subject of a warrant. The officer in this case will usually contact the dispatcher to affirm that the warrant is still active.

    • #4
  5. Ralphie Inactive

    Joe Kendra is on a podcast where he explains his entrance into detective work, memorable cases, etc. and he is great. I think it is called Detective. If you find it, you’ll enjoy listening to him explain motives and if you are dead with your feet crossed, you probably died standing up, if I remember correctly.

    • #5
  6. Skyler Coolidge

    You should almost never let a police officer into your home unless they are a family member looking to sleep for the night.  There are exceptions to that rule, but if you are thinking that your situation is one of those exceptions, you should be having a serious conversation with a lawyer.  (For instance, in Texas if Child Protective Services comes to investigate about your kid, you can keep them out of the home, but often that makes the problem worse because civil law is much different than criminal law.  There’s a knife edge you need to walk between cooperating and not cooperating.)

    You don’t need to know what a warrant looks like.  The warrant means they don’t need your permission to come in and search.  They will do it regardless, whether you see the warrant or know of the warrant, or agree that a warrant is valid.

    If a police officer comes to your home (or your car) and asks your permission to search it, you should say no.  You have nothing to gain by saying yes.  If they have a warrant, they will not ask you, they will inform you.  Do not stop them, do not ask to inspect the warrant, do not try to argue about the warrant.  

    The thing is, you have no power over the police when they are acting as police and out and about in the course of their work.  You only have power in a court of law.  If you consent to a search, then anything they claim to have found is admissable evidence.  If a warrant is required, then at least your lawyer can argue about whether the warrant was properly issued and executed, or whether they had probable cause to search.  If you grant permission to search, you have nothing.

    You don’t need to know what a badge looks like.  If you suspect a badge is fake, you can call 911 or ask someone else to call 911.  If it’s the police they will know they sent someone there.  This is why impersonating a police office is such a serious crime.  The victim is in a very dangerous position.

    I once had a federal investigator show me his badge, and I misread the lettering and thought he was FBI.  Halfway through the interview (it was for a security clearance) I mentioned I was surprised the FBI was doing the interview.  He was a bit offended to be called an FBI agent.  How odd.    I didn’t know if his badge was real or not.  In general, look at the quality of the badge.  It should be heavy and look like it was expensive to make.  Otherwise, you’ll always just be guessing because the county badge and the city badge, and the state badge and the Texas Ranger badge will all look different depending on what county and city and Ranger station you’re living near.  

    • #6
  7. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens

    Basically,  the police will abuse the citizen as required by the politics of the moment. 

    • #7
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