Cops Shared Examples Of How They Tell Genuinely Suspicious People From Awkward Buffoons So Take Notes To Keep Calm
There are clearly perceivable differences in the behavior of someone who has just robbed a bank and is being questioned by the police and someone who is nervous as hell and is being questioned by the police for the same crime (one they didn’t commit). Both will appear pretty ‘off’, but police officers and law enforcement officials are trained to wade through the bullshit and identify the behavioral characteristics displayed by someone who is genuinely guilty versus someone who is self-conscious and nervous over being questioned. Below are a ton of stories from cops (and suspects) sharing their experience in trying to tell discern between someone who is just ‘jumpy’ and someone who is actually guilty (via AskReddit):
Once you start interacting with someone you can very quickly tell if something is up. Yeah people are sometimes nervous around cops but it’s a very different nervous then “oh shit I have a kilo of coke in the back”
There are also other indicators present when criminal activity is involved. It all adds up to grounds for arrest.
The only time I’ve had a false positive is a kid who was so nervous he lied about his name and gave his brothers info instead. He wasn’t drunk, wasn’t trafficking, wasn’t committing any offense other than driving with a broken headlight. The only reason he was detained so long is cause he lied to us about his identity and of course we’re thinking “what’s he trying to hide?”. Turns out nothing… We spent 45 min finding a whole lot of nothing.
A few years ago, I was on vacation in Key West. My hotel was non-smoking and I had a primo view from my second floor balcony, so I was out there smoking a bowl.
I was leaned against the handrail with my elbows propped up on it, my hands in the unmistakable configuration. I had just pulled in a fucking huge hit and was holding it when I looked (up from my pipe/down to the ground) and saw a cop walking close enough that there’s zero chance he didn’t smell my weed.
I fucking froze. I stared right at his face for what seemed like 6 minutes but was likely less than 30 seconds.
He actually didn’t even slow down. He looked right up at me and said “I’m not here for you. Enjoy your vacation and stay safe.”
Thanks, good guy Key West cop.
Police officer here.
Lots of people are nervous around police, that’s perfectly normal. We can typically gauge a “I’m nervous around police or talking to police” person from a “I’m nervous I just committed a crime”
I will say that teenagers will run from the police for even the most minor things. I think movies and TV plays a big factor in it. We can approach some teens smoking cigarettes, weed or drinking, none of which we consider a big deal, simply to tell them that we got a neighbourhood complaint and want them to stop said nuisance. Sometimes we just approach them to ask if they saw the real criminal go by. I honestly don’t care if you have a weed grinder in your pocket and a roach you’re saving for later. Just don’t run.
Another thing, just because someone looks suspicious doesn’t mean they are up to no good. So if there is no crime, you can’t be arrested. A good police officer will calmly approach people and talk to them normally, suspicious or otherwise. As long as you keep your hands out of your pockets you’ll be okay. (Big officer safety concern)
Edit for context: I’m a police officer in a busy city, not a sleepy town with bored police. We have enough real crime to deal with that we don’t just break up parties and give teenagers tickets for frivolous things. We were all kids once.
Edit for clarity: I consider running from police one of the stupidest risks you can take with your life and well being. I’m not going to lie, if I have a legitimate offence and a suspect, and that suspect runs away, I enjoy chasing them down and arresting them. But if the police dog gets involved, it gets really ugly. Why risk your life and limb for something minor? I personally think it’s better to chance it out or walk away casually than run from the police.
I was waiting to cross an intersection on foot when a cop car pulled up to the light about 6 feet from me. The K9 in the back stuck its head out of the window and started barking at me. I froze and thought, “oh shit…do I have weed on me??” I haven’t smoked weed in over 15 years.
We look at more than just the way you act. Everybody is nervous when the get stopped by the cops. I’ve been a cop for 9 years and my stomach still drops when I see a patrol car coming up behind me.
We look at the whole picture. What is the context for our interaction? Am I responding to a report of a crime, do you match a suspect description, am I running traffic enforcement, or am I just walking through the park trying to be friendly?
After the context comes the content. Are you being truthful? Is your story plausible, or are you obviously lying through your teeth. People lie to me everyday for a variety of reasons and I have become very good at cutting through the bullshit.
Then comes history. If I stop a suspected burglar with a backpack and he has a history of burglary and he has no reason to be in the area, his nervousness is more likely because I caught him red handed. If I stop a soccer mom for speeding with no history, her nervousness is probably just being worried she’s going to get a ticket.
But at the end of the day people who are nervous because they got caught act differently than people who are just nervous. The body language is different. They just give off a different vibe.
I got pulled over for speeding and the cops asked to search my car out of the blue. I politely refused and had to wait over 45 min for a K9 unit to show up and obsess over my car before they would let me leave.
After, I asked “why did I get singled out” I was told my eyes where “red” . I wear contacts, it was a dry cold day after a 12 hr shift. Fuck me right?
The first cop was visibly furious that I did not have drugs on me. He glared at me so hard. If you are in law enforcement, please don’t be like that guy.
I was very cooperative and polite during all of it btw.
A similar incident happened to me forever ago. Getting home from a crew regatta in H.S., still wearing my fucking spandex rowing unitard (same as wrestling), and I get pulled over by three cops who rip my car to shreds trying to find something incriminating. Going through the glove compartment, trunk, everything. They said I was pulled over because of a busted tail light, I found out shortly thereafter that my tail lights were working and it was all bullshit. The three young cops were livid they didn’t find anything and tried to scare me with all this doomsday lecturing even though I was doing nothign wrong to begin with. It was total bullshit, and I was livid at the time but have since decided it was probably some sort of hazing initiation for the rookie cop or the cops had a bet like in Super Troopers…Still leaves a bad taste in my mouth though.
Whenever I have a cop next to me while driving I start picking my nose. The way I see it, the cop sees me picking my nose and thinks I have nothing to hide. Just a guy acting casually, ya know?
My mother is incredibly annoying for doing this at customs.
As a child we also used to go to France on holiday every year and on the way through customs at the port she would get all panicky and start acting really weirdly, blurting out non-sequiturs and sweating, generally resulting in us having our car singled out for a full search as possible drug smugglers.
I was once detained and had my car searched for an hour at the Canadian border when I was 19 because I was going over to grab lunch and buy booze. Didn’t know where I was going because I’d never been to Canada before. They thought I was suspicious as hell for not having a restaurant in mind (or destination), which I guess makes sense, but when I asked them for a restaurant recommendation after being cleared of any wrongdoing they sent me to some shit ass fast food joint. Thus proving all Canadians are not nice.
Cop for 21 years. Retired just about 1.5 years. This question is difficult to answer since there are so many factors involved. Examples might be clothing, location, time of day, number of people around, actions observed prior to the subject noticing you – and actions after. The list is pretty long.
An easy one is laughter. Generally, if someone is giggling like a school kid and surrounded by others, they are typically just nervous but aren’t worried about your presence. It’s when you see someone joking around and they suddenly freeze up when they notice you, those would be the people I’m interested in.
Sweat is another good indicator of truly suspicious behavior. You would be surprised how much people sweat when they are trying to hide something. This goes along with trembling. Although I’ve stopped 16 year olds who are just flat out scared they did something horrible and shake like they are having withdrawals, I’ve also stopped kids who were trembling because they actually are hiding something. This goes back to considering all the other factors I brought up in the beginning.
Eye contact is another indicator, but can be tricky. Someone who is incredibly worried about your presence may stare at you the whole time, watching your every move, either looking for a chance to get away or watching to see if your next move is towards him/her. On the other hand, no eye-contact at all, especially during a traffic stop or a street contact, is a pretty good indicator you are petrified of being caught.
There is no tell-tale sign, but there are many indicators. The more experience you have, the more you can spot trouble. And one huge factor is your ‘gut-instinct’. More times than not, if you feel it, you are probably right. I’ll probably get wreckt for being the only cop answering this but I just thought I would chip in.
Suspicious people focus on how they are guilty. If they’re holding, they keep putting their hands in their pocket. If they’ve got a concealed gun. They’ll keep touching the clothing over it. If they’re driving and they’ve had too much to drink, they’ll put their hands over their mouth to smell their own breath.
“Do you know why I stopped you?”
“I didn’t do anything wrong.”
Nervous people make bad jokes.
“Do you know why I stopped you?”
“I know it’s not because I’m a child molestor, because you can’t see the kids in the trunk ha ha….I mean…that was a joke. Sorry.”
As not a cop, I have a story. My uncle hammered into me, act like you belong. So being in rural Ga, I had been driving since I was 12. You know back roads and such. But my uncle had me go and get him a coke one night and threw me the keys. So I get out from store get in the car, I am 12 and look 10. I get out on the road and coming up the road is a police car. And he flashes his head lights. I panic, but realize my headlights are off. So I turn them on, as he passes me, I look him straight in the eye and wave. He waves back. Then with my stomach in my feet I watch the read view mirror, without turning my head, just kind of glancing. He never turned around and I took the 2 liter coke to my uncle.
So there are many more of these little tidbits of advice and stories of guilty people acting strange and strange people acting guilty. If you want to keep reading these you can head on over to the AskReddit thread by clicking HERE.