After Miranda

Unknown-1I remember that as brand new detective in 1966, our captain told us about the new rules — the USSC decision in Miranda v. Arizona. The old-timers in our unit said, “Well, that’s it, no sense talking to those guys we’ve got up in jail.”

But my partner and I, also a newly minted detective, knew something those guys didn’t. It’s lonely up in jail and we knew that if we treated arrested persons fairly and respectfully, they may talk with us.

So we asked our seniors, “Do you guys mind if we go up and try?” “No,” they replied, “go ahead but it won’t do you any good.” After roll call we went up to the jail and solved a bunch of cases.

So when new rules come out (and I’m thinking specifically now about rules regarding the use of deadly force), do we give up or make it work? Sure, when the Miranda decision came out it seemed to be the end of interrogation, even talking to suspects in jail. But as we know today, 50 years after Miranda you can still tell suspects their rights and many will still choose to talk. It wasn’t the end of questioning, it was the beginning of acting decently toward others.

Can the same thinking prevail today? Can police adjust to new rules that make the preservation of life the core of the police role? Can police work to de-escalate tense situations and be effective without resorting to use of deadly force when confronting persons without firearms but who may have a sharp or edged weapon?

The overwhelming majority of our police are smart and well-trained. The shift toward the “30 Guidelines on Police Use of Force” will be much easier than we think.

I am confident that adopting these guidelines will go a long way to restoring trust in our nation’s police.