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0857 Being Arrested by the Police

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 857: Being Arrested by the Police.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 857. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development, in beautiful Los Angeles, California, home of ESL Podcast.

This episode, like all of our episodes has a Learning Guide. You can get one by going to our website at ESLPod.com.

This episode is a story about someone, well, getting into trouble and being taken by the police. Let’s get started.

[start of story]

I was walking down the street minding my own business one evening when I was stopped by a police officer. After asking me a couple of questions about where I’d been, he told me to put my hands behind my back. He was going to arrest me! He handcuffed me and gave me the Miranda warning. When I asked him why he was arresting me, he said that he had probable cause to believe that I was the suspect they had been looking for in a robbery that took place on the next street.

I couldn’t believe it! I was completely innocent, but the officer didn’t want to hear it. He put me in the back of a police car and drove me to the police station. I was placed in a jail cell and, after a few hours, I was taken to a room and interrogated.

A police officer asked me question after question, and after four hours of questioning, I was finally released! I found out later that it was a case of mistaken identity. I looked very much like the suspect they were looking for and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I could sue the police department for false arrest, but I decided not to. I’d rather put the entire thing behind me and hope that I’m never that unlucky again!

[end of story]

Our story begins by me telling about how I was walking down the street, minding my own business. The expression “to mind (mind) your own business” means that you’re paying attention to your own affairs, your own concerns, and you’re not becoming involved with any other situation – you’re not interacting or talking to other people. You’re not trying to cause problems. We often use this expression when someone perhaps is getting involved in something they shouldn’t be. We might say, “Mind you own business!” Someone asked you questions about your ex-girlfriend and wants to know why the two of you stopped dating. You might say, “Mind your own business.”

Well, that’s what I was trying to do. I was trying not to get involved in anything as I was walking down the street. However, I was stopped by a police officer. A “police officer” is a person whose job it is to protect and defend people and the things people own, what we call “property,” and make sure everyone is obeying the law. A more informal term for a police officer is a “cop” (cop).

“After asking me a question about where I’ve been,” I say, “he” – the police officer – “told me to put my hands behind my back” – put my hands or put my arms behind my back. The reason was that the officer was going to arrest me. “To arrest” (arrest) means for a police officer to take someone back to a police station and keep them there, often, for a very long time if they think the person has committed a crime, has done something against the law.

The officer “handcuffed me.” “To handcuff (handcuff)” is to put these two circles of metal around your wrist that are connected so that you can’t move your arms very easily. The noun is “handcuffs,” and the verb is “to handcuff.” “To handcuff” is to put handcuffs on someone’s wrist – on their arms. The “Miranda warning” is something that is only done here in the United States, at least, it’s only called the Miranda warning here. The Miranda warning is a statement that police officers have to make to people when they’re being arrested, telling them that they have certain legal rights. They don’t have to talk to the police. “You have a right to remain silent,” we say. You don’t have to say anything if you’re being arrested, at least, that’s the law. That doesn’t always happen of course. The Miranda warning is called the Miranda warning based on an old Supreme Court ruling – a decision made by our highest court many years ago, back in the 1960’s, I believe.

I continue the story by saying, “When I asked him why he was arresting me, he said that he had probable cause to believe that I was the suspect they had been looking for.” “Probable (probable)” is related to the word “probably” and it means that it seems likely that something will happen, or it seems likely that something is true. “Cause” (cause) is the reason for something, why something happened. So, “probable cause” means we have a good reason – something that is likely to be true – to believe that you are involved in this crime. At least that’s how the phrase is used here in the story.

We talk about police having probable cause. We mean they have a good enough reason to arrest someone. Well, the officer thought he had probable cause that I was the suspect. A “suspect” (suspect) is a person who you think has done something wrong. You’re not sure. It hasn’t been proven, but you have good reason to think this person committed the crime – did something against the law. In this case, the crime was a “robbery” (robbery). A “robbery” is when you steal or take something, especially money or some other object without someone’s permission. That would be robbery.

I then say, “I couldn’t believe it. I was completely innocent.” “To be innocent (innocent)” is the opposite of “guilty,” when you have not done anything wrong. I say that “I was completely innocent but the officer” – the police officer – “didn’t want to hear it.” He didn’t want to listen to me. “He put me in the back of a police car and drove to the police station.” The “police station” is the building where the police officers work. Big cities like Los Angeles have several police stations located in different parts of the city.

“I was placed in a jail cell.” A “jail (jail) cell (cell)” is a small room in a jail or a prison where one or two, maybe a few more prisoners are kept – where they are put so that they don’t leave. “After a few hours, I was taken to a room and interrogated.” The verb “to interrogate” (interrogate) means to ask a lot of questions, often in a very, what we might call “aggressive” way, maybe even an angry way. The verb is used whenever the police are asking questions, not because they always ask in an aggressive, angry way, but because they want to find out what the truth is.

So, the verb doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative one, in the sense that you’re angry when you’re asking the question. But it’s only used, typically, when we’re talking about the police or maybe a member of the military interrogating a prisoner, something like that. “A police officer asked me question after question,” I say, “and after four hours of questioning, I was finally released.” “To release” (release) means to let someone go from the place where you were holding that person. Normally, we talk about being released from prison. But a student might also be released from school, just kind of like a prison, I guess, sometimes.

“I found out later that it was a case of mistaken identity.” “Mistaken” comes from the word “mistake,” which means an error, something that went wrong. “Identity” refers to who a person is. So, “mistaken identity” would be being wrong about who you think a person is. Someone came up to me and thought I was Brad Pitt and wanted my autograph, I said, “Well, okay.” It really was a case of mistaken identity.

“I looked very much like the suspect they were looking for,” I continue, “and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” That’s an old expression – “to be in a wrong place at the wrong time.” It means you were somewhere where you were innocent, you weren’t doing anything wrong but just by luck, you were in a bad situation or you were at a place at the wrong time, at a time when something bad happened. “I could sue the police for false arrest but I decided not to.” “To sue” means to go to a judge, go to a court and ask for money. It’s possible if a police officer arrests you and did something wrong in that process. You could sue the police department for false arrest. “False arrest” is a situation where you are taken by the police but they didn’t do it properly. They should not have arrested you. “False,” of course, is, in this case, sort of wrong or mistaken. “I’d rather put the entire thing behind me,” I say. “To put something behind you” means to forget about it, to act as though it never happened. That’s usually a good idea for bad relationships, just put them behind you, forget about them – “move on,” we would say.

Now let’s listen to the dialog this time at a normal speed.

[start of story]

I was walking down the street minding my own business one evening when I was stopped by a police officer. After asking me a couple of questions about where I’d been, he told me to put my hands behind my back. He was going to arrest me! He handcuffed me and gave me the Miranda warning. When I asked him why he was arresting me, he said that he had probable cause to believe that I was the suspect they had been looking for in a robbery that took place on the next street.

I couldn’t believe it! I was completely innocent, but the officer didn’t want to hear it. He put me in the back of a police car and drove me to the police station. I was placed in a jail cell and, after a few hours, I was taken to a room and interrogated.

A police officer asked me question after question, and after four hours of questioning, I was finally released! I found out later that it was a case of mistaken identity. I looked very much like the suspect they were looking for and I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I could sue the police department for false arrest, but I decided not to. I’d rather put the entire thing behind me and hope that I’m never that unlucky again!

[end of story]

There’s no mistaking the identity of our scriptwriter. It’s the one, the only, Dr. Lucy Tse. Thank you, Lucy. From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan, thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again, right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to mind (one’s) own business – to pay attention to one’s own affairs, not becoming involved in the situation or interacting with other people, not trying to get attention from others

* The actress was trying to mind her own business, having a picnic at the park, when all of a sudden she was surrounding by journalists and photographers.

police officer – a person whose job is to protect and defend people and property and make sure everyone is obeying the law

* Have you ever been stopped by a police officer for speeding?

to arrest – to take someone into custody; for a police officer to take someone to a police station because that person is believed to have broken the law

* Have the police arrested any suspects in the bank robbery?

to handcuff – to put two connected circles of metal around a person’s wrists behind his or her back, so that the hands cannot be moved until a key is used to open the metal circles

* When Marshall was handcuffed, it left red marks on his wrists.

Miranda warning – a statement that police officers must make to people when they are arrested, letting them know of their rights

* Kristy has seen so many police shows on TV that she can recite the Miranda warning.

probable cause – reasonable grounds; justification for doing something, especially for arresting someone or for searching through a home or office

* The court stated that there was probable cause for searching the computer files.

suspect – a person who may have performed a crime; a person who is thought to have broken the law, although it has not yet been proved

* At this point, the police is still investigating and everyone is still a suspect.

robbery – the crime of taking something without permission, especially money or valuable goods

* Do they know who was responsible for the bank robbery?

innocent – not guilty; not having broken the law; not having done what one was accused of

* This man has been in jail for 17 years, but he still says he is innocent.

police station – the building where police officers work, often connected to a jail

* Blake wanted to become a police officer so he could catch criminals, not sit at a desk in the police station, filling out paperwork all day.

jail cell – a small room in a jail or prison, designed to hold one or a few criminals at a time

* The jail cell was small and had only a bed, a small table, and a toilet.

to interrogate – to ask someone many questions in an aggressive, demanding and possibly angry way

* The reporters were interrogating the senator, trying to understand why she had changed her vote.

to release – to let someone go; to allow someone to move freely after he or she has been arrested or held in custody

* All the suspects were released as soon as the actual murderer confessed.

mistaken identity – the situation when someone is confused with another person, especially when that person was believed to have broken the law; when someone is mistakenly thought to be someone else

* Ulysses was so excited, because he thought he saw his favorite rock star, but it turned out that it was a case of mistaken identity.

false arrest – a situation where someone is arrested and held in custody without legal justification and/or without legal permission

* If the police officers don’t follow the proper procedures before arresting a suspect, the department might be accused of false arrest.

to put (something) behind (oneself) – to act as if one has forgotten about something and try to live one’s life normally, without continuing to be affected by the past event

* Kazushi is trying to put his divorce behind him and start dating again.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why was he arrested?
a) Because the police thought he was someone else.
b) Because he committed a crime.
c) Because he was walking in an illegal area.

2. What is he going to do?
a) He’s going to try to forget that this ever happened.
b) He’s going to file a complaint with the police department.
c) He’s going to avoid that part of town.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to arrest

The verb “to arrest,” in this podcast, means to take someone into custody, or for a police officer to take someone to a police station because that person is believed to have broken the law: “Why do all the job applications ask us to say if we’ve ever been arrested?” The verb “to arrest” also means to slow something down or to make something happen more slowly than it normally would: “These drugs can’t cure the disease, but they will arrest its spread to other people.” If something is “arresting” it is very beautiful or interesting and makes one stop and pay attention: “They like going to the mountains for the peace and quiet, as well as the arresting scenery.” Finally, the phrase “cardiac arrest” means a heart attack or when one’s heart stops working: “Uncle Jim died of cardiac arrest.”

to release

In this podcast, the verb “to release” means to let someone go, or to allow someone to move freely after he or she has been arrested or held in custody: “Which nonprofit organizations can help criminals find a job and housing after they have been released from prison?” The verb “to release” can also mean to make information, a report, or a new product available to the public: “When will the bank release its quarterly earnings report?” Or, “We plan to release the new version of our software by the end of the year.” Finally, the phrase “to release (someone) from (something)” means to make arrangements so that someone does not have to do the thing that he or she would normally do: “Her boss agreed to release her from work a little early so that she could see her son’s soccer game.”

Culture Note
Types of Police Officers

The types of police officers are different depending on the “jurisdiction” (the area where a government or agency has power), “as do” (and so do) their “duties” (responsibilities; the things people are expected to do in their job). Most people are familiar with “uniformed” (wearing standard clothing) “patrol officers” who interact with the public in a certain area, “investigating” (researching) crimes, responding to calls, and monitoring and controlling traffic. But many other types of police officers are working hard “behind the scenes” (in unseen ways).

A “sheriff” or “deputy” is the lead police officer in a department, especially in a “rural” (in the countryside; not in a city) area. Sheriffs and deputies perform many of the same duties as uniformed patrol officers, but they may also have duties in the “court” (where legal decisions are made) and they may “carry out” (implement) “search orders” (official, legal permission to search a home or other building).

A “detective” is a “plainclothes” (not wearing a uniform) police officer who is responsible for investigating crimes. “Cases” (specific crimes) are assigned to them and they work with other experts to interview “witnesses” (people who have seen a crime), interrogate suspects, and collect “evidence” (items that help to prove something did or did not happen).

Finally, a “fish and game warden” is a type of police officer who works in wilderness areas to make sure that laws are followed. They focus on the “enforcement” (making sure that laws are followed) of laws that protect plants, animals, and natural areas. For example, they might “detain” (hold; arrest) people who fish or “hunt” (kill animals) illegally.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - a