Ask a Cop

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Illustration by Sean Hennefer

Dear Cop,

One time I saw two cops trying to arrest each other. They were both saying "you’re under arrest." "No you’re under arrest." "Nu uh, you’re under arrest." And so on. so I guess my question is, would it come down to whoever said it first, or maybe it’s whichever cop has more friends he can call for back up? Maybe they have to put the cuffs on each other and sit there on the curb and wait for another cop take them in? Who does the judge side with if they’re both cops?

Just wondering,
Love Tom Tucker. 
 
Tom, my love,


I’ve never heard of that, ever. There are millions of stories of cops getting arrested, obviously by other cops, but, in your scenario, somehow I’m sure alcohol was involved.


Cops can arrest anyone for a felony offense, even other cops, if they have probable cause that the person (or cop) committed the offense. Misdemeanors (lesser crimes) are a different matter. Cops can only arrest people, or other cops, for misdemeanors (such as petty theft, assault, DUI, trespassing, etc.) if the misdemeanor crime was committed in their presence.


Let’s use reckless driving as an example. You can’t call the cops and say your neighbor cop was driving recklessly—“ARREST HIM!” The cop would need to see the neighbor cop driving recklessly in order to arrest him. However, if you, Tom, were willing to arrest your neighbor cop, provide evidence and testify in court, the cop could facilitate by providing you the paperwork. Yes, for those of you in the know, that’s why sometimes you, as the citizen complainant, have to sign the ticket: You’re actually making the arrest. Go to a party and get your drunk, obnoxious ass kicked and want the cops to clean up for you? You will have to make a witness statement complaint and indicate that you will press charges, because it was a misdemeanor not committed in the cop’s presence. There are a few exceptions, but there’s not enough space to get into that here.


In terms of your scenario, neither cop could arrest the other. They might try, but it ain’t gonna happen. Any cops that showed up due to the disturbance might arrest the two for being idiots in their presence. Most likely, they’d just call the doofuses’ wives to come pick them up. A district attorney or city prosecutor wouldn’t even consider filing the case, let alone letting it go to a judge.


I can promise you that if your scenario were to play out as indicated, those two cops would most likely not be cops any longer.


 
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