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7 Bullshit Police Myths Everyone Believes (Thanks to Movies)

#3.
Tracing a Call Takes a Long Time

As Seen On:

Every show in existence which featured a phone tap.

Typical Scenario:

"Keep him on the phone!"

Clint Eastwood IS a Secret Service agent sworn to protect the President. John Malkovich IS a crazed assassin who has called Eastwood to taunt him. Technicians scramble around the room to set up a trace to pinpoint the bad guy's location. Through a series of hand gestures they implore Clint to keep the him on the line. After all, it takes a full minute to do a trace!

Dammit! He hung up three seconds before we could triangulate his position! He knows our weaknesses!

Why it's Bullshit:

Have you ever tried prank calling 911? If so then go fuck yourself, but you probably also got a visit from a local patrolman telling you to cut that shit out. This is thanks to the Enhanced 911 system, which automatically pairs every incoming call with a physical address, in case a child or a dog dials for help or you're too busy getting stabbed to death to actually speak into the phone.


"Help! Someone invent a telephone!"

You might be saying, "But criminals use cell phones, you idiots!" Well prepare to get paranoid, because today the FBI can track down and remotely turn on any cell phone, and even use it as a microphone to spy on people. They could be listening in as we speak.


The government knows what you talk about with your boyfriend and they think it's totally hot.

#2.
Criminals Must Be Read Their Miranda Rights or They Will Go Free

As Seen On:

Every show that has involved a person being arrested.

Typical Scenario:

After months of grueling investigation and forensic work, the police finally get enough evidence to put the drug kingpin behind bars. The scene is the same every time: They bend his ass over the hood of the car and say, "You have the right to remain silent." That phrase is like the cops' end zone dance. They got you.


Touchdown, dirtbag.

And oh, by the way, if they ever forget to say the magic words at the time of arrest, that means you get to walk, right?

Why it's Bullshit:

Actually the odds are, some of you reading this have been arrested. And the odds are the cops didn't read you your rights, at any point. You may also notice the cops on Steven Seagal: Lawman, are never heard doing it, though you probably assumed that was because Officer Seagal enforces the law his way.


Pictured: Justice.

Not so. The "reading your rights" thing (aka the Miranda Warning) is NOT done to everybody who gets arrested. It's instead a warning for people who are about to be interrogated. That doesn't include you if you were arrested for, say, driving drunk and then peeing on the hood of the police car. They pretty much know what they need to know.

OK, but if they do question you and forget to read you the Miranda Warning, you get to walk, right? When they say guys got off on "a technicality," that's what they're talking about, isn't it?

Actually, no. All that means is the prosecution will not be able to use anything you said in court, which usually is just a bunch of drunken swearing anyway.

#1.
Everyone Gets One Free Phone Call

As Seen On:

Law and Order, Hackers, The Matrix, every cop show ever

Typical Scenario:

Early in The Matrix, Agent Smith brings in Neo to interrogate him, throwing in his face all of the evidence they have of his various hackings. Neo, unfazed, demands to have "his phone call." Singular. Not, "I want to use the phone" or "I want a lawyer," but "I want my phone call."

You see this in movie after movie, where the character gets hauled in and has to decide who to contact with their one call. Presumably if the person they're calling isn't home, they're just stuck in the prison system until somebody notices they're missing.

Why it's Bullshit:

The "one phone call" rule is purely a Hollywood invention. Now that goes both ways; some jails have pay phones and you can call whoever you want as long as the person on the other end is willing to pay for it, but they don't have to let you use the phone at all.

Phone calls in prisons, jails or other detainment facilities are a privilege, which can be taken away whenever the cops feel like you weren't behaving yourself (that's why the privileges exist, so they have something to take away if you're being a dick and something to promise you to keep you in line).


Y'know, if the regular beatings weren't enough.

Now, you do have the right to an attorney, and if there's something you have to contact the outside world for (such as, somebody to deliver medicine to your poor sick mother) he'd be the one to talk to if the cops aren't letting you use the phone.

If you arrive at the jail with a cell phone, they are going to take that away for obvious reasons: So you can't use it to detonate a bomb implanted in one of your henchmen.

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