Keep the crooks posted. The knock and talk and the walk and talk-criminality cloaked in the guise of innocence. The art of pursuing wolves in sheep’s clothing. What is the consensual encounter? “What’s going on dude?” “What’s shaken?” “Ain’t nothin’ shaken but the leaves in the trees and they ain’t shaken’ cuz’ there ain’t no breeze.” Ah, the consensual encounter…….
Laconically and simply put, the consensual encounter is making verbal contact with a subject and starting any course of conversing. The consensual encounter is a legal approach to gain the attention of a subject and initiate verbal contact. It does not require reasonable suspicion, and it surely is not a detention. Hence, we must be cognizant of not escalating a consensual encounter to an illegal detention.
The subject must feel free to leave at any time.
First off, you may be asking just who the heck am I? I’m a true patriot with approximately 13 years in military and civilian law enforcement. I am the third peace officer in my family line, policing the lands of Southern California. My father, a retired police sergeant, raised me well. He raised me hunting, fishing, playing baseball, and taking me on ride along’s at work. He always told me “Son, hunting bad guys is just like hunting big game.” It wasn’t until I got into the police business that I was able to grin, chuckle and understand it.
In today’s politically charged environment, you may not think of police work like hunting but how else are criminals caught? Since the dawn of age, criminals avoided the peace keepers and those protecting others chased…or hunted. To do that, you must be in good shape mentally and physically and be able to stalk, criminally profile, have unwavering patience and make some good use of your police binoculars…just like hunting! An exemplification is deer hunting; many hunters want to pursue a deer with Leupold cross hairs on a buck with massive thick antlers and a wide spread rack, hence—profiling. I, as a Cop, want to pursue subjects hiding dope in their socks, guns packed in their waistbands, tainted with warrants, and plaguing the city with crime and mischief. Call me bizarre, but that’s who I am. I love hunting the worst criminals that percolate and saturate our lands with egregious and eyebrow raising calamity to put them behind bars.
I love keeping the peace. I love our country.
Let’s snap in and align our sights back to the hunting theory. Merriam Webster defines ”hunt as the following: 2. a :to pursue with intent to capture //hunted the escapees b : to search out: SEEK. Lets take a gander at some examples of “hunt” by Cambridge Dictionary: “They are still hunting for the missing child.”. “Police are hunting the terrorists who planted the bomb,” They have spent months house–/job-hunting.” Police are on the hunt (=searching) for the kidnappers.”
Okay, in apropos to the above definitions and examples, I think we can logically entertain the thought that the word hunt/hunting is used in many contexts and means to “search”. With that said, lets move forth with how hunting and the art of the consensual encounter continue to go hand in hand.
How do we criminally profile? What is it? Let’s start with criminology, which is the study of crime as a social phenomenon of criminals. Criminal profiling is the process of identifying behavioral tendencies, personality traits, geographic location, and demographic or biographic descriptors of an offender based on the particulars of a crime. When you start any hunting trip…we do it by first and foremost, knowing the terrain, the culture, and atmosphere and criminological patterns of the very community we patrol. Over time, like big game hunting, you begin to identify common routes taken by criminals, certain streets, sidewalks, holes in fences and types of transportation that they often utilize-such as bicycles and rental cars. You also begin to understand what a career criminal looks like, and what a suspicious person looks like.
Furthermore, you begin to be in tuned with how they talk, how they communicate, and even how they walk and maneuver their bodies. Just like deer have their mannerisms when they’re scared, when they’re inquisitive, when they’re relaxed-so do criminals. Deer for example need water of course, you’ll subsequently find them slithering through the brush and sneaking down a hill to wet their palates. Criminals need to fill their cars with gas; I often in the late night will sit blacked out in a nearby parking lot over watching a gas station glassing the area. I call these types of establishments, my “hot spots”. Often times, the only people out late at night are crooks and the cops…much like predators in the wilderness. Criminals need gas, they need cigarettes, the restroom and so forth, and these types of places remain open and active in the deep night and often engirdle criminal elements.
The majority of my arrests have been made by self-initiating the consensual encounter and inculcating this endeavor in all of my shift work. I did it so often that I could have a conversation with predominately anybody on the street. I am mesmerized by the art of the consensual encounter and lucubrate my time on night shifts to better myself at incorporating such art and putting crooks in jail.
The best way to approach a consensual encounter is to be very calm. Do not be a cop that appears or sounds aggressive and militant; like deer hunting, you will only scare them away. While that may sound like common sense, we have all seen that particular cop that rolls up to back you acting hard and damages your potential caper and arrest, totally poisoning the waters. Instead, drop the sunglasses, be gregarious, be highly sociable with some diplomacy and laugh…surely don’t drop your antenna though.
Be friendly, ask their name, tell them about yourself and get a sense of who you are talking to. Humor and personality can go a long way and an experienced police officer will pick up pretty quickly whether this consensual stop may or may not be something else.
As the conversation continues and you build rapport, it may lead to asking consent to search or checking for warrants.
The old adage-if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and acts like a duck, it’s probably a duck…so why not stop and see if he has any crackers? It could be a good arrest! Don’t suffocate your talents and stagnate in mediocrity by just handling the radio.
Be proactive and start with the consensual encounters.
The consensual encounter is a phenomenal asset for many reasons. You are able to build relationships with subjects and suspects on the street, cultivate informants, make strong arrests and solidify intelligence in the field for your own patrol work as well as to deliver crucial information to detectives. Also, if you are thinking of testing for that coveted special assignment or promotion, this can show your proactivity, motivation, and self-initiative. It will also be demonstrable to the stripes and brass of your strong understanding of not just the meat and potatoes of lawful stops and arrests and articulable crime reports, but the recondite principles of criminal law and the penal code.