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Interacting with Law Enforcement: What Brits in America Should Know

We all feel familiar with American police for watching them in movies and television shows. All of them seem to wear dark blue uniforms, sunglasses and feel some attraction for the Dunkin’ Donuts. Maybe all these are stereotypes, the important thing about American police is that most of them are quite approachable.

If you’re British you probably have different names for cops: Bobbies, the bill, the filth, plod. In the U.S. only the expression “cops” refers to them.

Brits  might not know that there are several different kinds of police in the U.S. There are: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). And almost everywhere you look, there are state, county and municipal police officers.

The types of police differ from state to state, all  include Highway Patrol officers and County Sheriffs, and most cities also have their own police departments (think NYPD or LAPD)

You must know not all police cars look like police cars. In Texas for example you can find a number of different police cars in the streets.

Furthermore, there are a few important things to know should you ever be stopped by a police officer.

1.When flashing lights are illuminating your car just right behind you, yes, they are looking for you. You must stop the car and wait there. Don’t get out of the car, this might make the officer nervous and things can get out of control. Stay in the car with your hands where the police officer can see them, preferably in the steering wheel , if you have doubts about this visit The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) outlines and read about what else you should know on their web site.

2.“If you are over 18, carry your immigration documents with you at all times … Do not lie about your citizenship status or provide fake documents.”.

Remember no matter if you have to drive to blocks away your home, you must have your driving license, ID or documents with you.

There are many tips on what to and what not to do when the police stop you, the main thing is to cooperate, talking without being disrespectful and let the situation flowing properly

TIP:  These days if you are being followed by what looks like an unmarked police car, you should drive (slowly) and never stop by the side of an unlit road. Real cops will understand this reaction; fake cops are hoping you’ll be their next victim. On the whole though, the more respect you show the police, the more likely it is to be reciprocated.

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This post is also available in: Spanish

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