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.


  1. Rules have consequences. There are consequences if rules are obeyed and there are consequences if rules are not obeyed. We need to attempt to anticipate what the outcomes would be for either of those possibilities.

    Some interesting research was done on the effect of Mapp v Ohio (exclusionary rule) and Gideon v Wainwright (right to counsel at trial). Adhering to these decisions increased crime in those states that did not already adhere to some state equivalent to those decisions.

    Effects of Criminal Procedure on Crime Rates: Mapping Out the Consequences of the Exclusionary Rule. Rubin & Watkins, 1999.

    I find the purpose of those decisions appropriate and believe that we choose a threat from our fellow citizens than to accept an even greater threat from our government.

    We need to assess the possible outcomes from adhering to PERF’s guidelines. There may be significant first, second, and third order effects that arise from adhering to those rules. Without assessing the possible outcomes we go blindly into the future waiting for someone to look at our history and judge our actions.


    1. Right on here, Mark. I have tended to take the practitioner’s position and not that of the academic; that is, I tend to act when I believe action is warranted. In the situation police find themselves today I strongly believe that top police leaders need to craft a way forward while being committed to continuous improvement. That is how I operated during my decades as a police chief and it worked for me. Having said this, you are absolutely right about watching for other “effects” and be ready to adjust systems. Maybe because of my street experience and having taught police defensive tactics for many years and being a teacher of Asian martial arts, I am having trouble understanding the mental set that we see too often resulting in the death of a citizen armed only with blunt or sharp weapons. Isn’t that why we carried batons for so many years? When training drives policy and doesn’t take into consideration public expectations, we get into trouble!


      1. I am looking forward to working with you discussing more of this at the 2nd Annual 21st Century Policing Conference at the Univ of Wisc – Platteville this fall (Sept 16).


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