“I want to remain silent.”
Those are the only five words Rabya Khan is certain you should say in any run-in with law enforcement, even if entirely innocent. Khan is a staff attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago, a Muslim civil rights and advocacy group. She was invited to speak at a “Know Your Rights” workshop on racial profiling presented by Omega Delta Phi and the Muslim-cultural Students Association Thursday night.
“Issues with law enforcement are a part of both Northwestern and Evanston’s recent history,” said Peter Podlipni, SESP sophomore and Omega Delta Phi member. “One of my brothers had an incident with law enforcement recently and so we really wanted to bring awareness to these issues on campus.”
When the fraternity approached McSA, a member of the cultural association immediately recommended Khan to speak. The groups also invited Devin Viland, site coordinator, and Emlyn Ricketts, Street Law Service Learning Coordinator for First Defense Legal Aid in Chicago. FDLA provides 24-hour legal counseling to individuals in custody at Chicago police stations.
“We’re coming from a background of immigrant communities and we’re not really well informed in terms of the rights that we have and what we’re supposed to do in certain situations,” said Yousuf Ahmad, Weinberg senior and McSA co-president. Ahmad said it was imperative to host an information session where students could openly interact with legal professionals.
Here are some of the tips presented at the workshop:
- If approached by an officer, ask to see their badge. This is not to examine its authenticity, but to ensure you have his/her name in case your rights are violated. Detectives do not always wear name plates.
- If asked, you are required to give a law enforcement official four pieces of information: name, phone number, date of birth and address. Anything further is not obligatory.
- Always act polite and professional, even if it is not returned by the law enforcement officer.
- Do not try to explain your story if you are detained or arrested. “That can only make things worse,” said Ricketts. Wait to consult a lawyer.
- Despite logic, simply remaining silent is not enough to accept your Miranda rights. You must proclaim it by saying, “I want to remain silent.”
- Officers are allowed to use trickery during interrogation, and often do. Do not fall for it.
- Keep in mind that once you give consent for law enforcement to enter your home, they do not need a warrant to search anything. Officers can argue that “consent” is opening your door wide enough or making a hand gesture that is mistaken as an invitation. If you do not want an officer to enter your house, make it clear: Close the door and stand in front of it to talk.
- If you are pulled over, keep your hands on the wheel and advise the officer of when you are reaching for your license/registration.
- Be wary of your activity on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. “Every time you post something, it’s like you are standing in front of a police station and screaming it,” said Ricketts. Every like, follow and comment (even deleted ones) can falsely incriminate you.
- Your rights are equal even if you do not have U.S. citizenship. The same rules apply if you are an immigrant or an undocumented individual.
If you believe your rights have been violated by a Chicago police officer, write everything down afterwards, then call 311 and report the incident to the Independent Police Review Authority.