Police Officers Reveal Who They Wish They Could Let Go Free... But Couldn't

Cops are bound by the law, but sometimes, even they know the law can be ridiculous. Cops shared their stories of instances where they would have rather let someone go, but couldn't.

ezunc asked, Police officers of Reddit, was there a time you wanted to let someone off the hook but couldn't, and if so, what happened?

Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.

Punishing poor kids is really cruel.

An old roommate was a police officer and once she had a shopkeeper detain a shoplifter.

When she got there it was a young kid, 11 or 12, stealing a carton of eggs and a couple boxes of cereal.

He looked totally malnourished and unwashed. She eventually got it out of him that he didn't have food at home.

She called social services, of course, but she asked the shopkeeper to just let the kid go so he could deal with CPS without this added stress or a spot on an otherwise clean record.

The shopkeeper insisted. Wouldn't let up. She didn't know what happened to the kid after that but didn't think it could be anything good.

Sounds like Sarge was on a power trip.

Found a couple homeless teenagers in a park after dark (which is illegal in my area). They had bicycles and a trailer with them. One of them lied about his name because he had a warrant and I arrested him when I figured out who he was. The second was chill the whole time. Didn't lie and wasn't a problem. I was going to cut him loose.

My Sergeant shows up and notices that the park has some graffiti on the tables and accuses the chill kid of doing it. The graffiti wasn't wet. The kid said he didn't do it but he still had art materials in his bag. Some markers and a sketchbook. The Sergeant made me take the markers and book as "evidence." The kid says, "Dude!! That is my only art outlet and the only thing that makes me happy right now!" The sergeant didn't care. I had to follow orders. Sometimes the job just sucks.

This sucks, for everyone involved.

I got a call once to a Burger King and it was an anonymous tip that someone there had a warrant. Ran the info given by the caller and confirmed the warrant. Arrived at the Burger King and found the guy. Talked to him and asked if he knew he had a warrant. She said he didn't think he did. Normally I'd be like "yeah sure ok dude" but this guy was super nice and literally only been at Burger King for like 5 minutes on his lunch break. The warrant wound up being l 3 or 4-year-old probation warrant but because it was still active I had to take him to jail. I felt really bad about doing it to him since he was genuinely taking steps in the right direction to turn his life around and STILL wound up going to jail.

Tragic, but there is no excuse to drive drunk. Ever.

LE here. One time I arrested a girl for DUI around 8 or 9 in the morning, she put her car into a ditch. After I placed her under arrest, I found out that the reason she decided to drive drunk was to get away from a house party where she may have been sexually assaulted/raped. Why she didn't call someone to pick her up, I don't know. Maybe she felt like had to leave right away. I processed her for DUI and released her to her mother. I encouraged the mother to take her to the hospital and file a report with the sheriff's office (happened in the county). Not sure what legally happened to her. It would have been up to the prosecutor to reduce/drop charges for the DUI.

Have you ever been so high that you... busted yourself?

My uncle is a university campus cop. Super friendly, goofy, funny guy. When I think of him I think of rambunctious card games, cliff jumping, and him pinning me down to fart on me. As such, he got the nickname, Officer Friendly.

One time he caught a student smoking a joint on campus and as per his job asked him to hand it over.

He expected the guy to hand over the joint, but the guy just started walking. My uncle followed the guy not knowing what was up. The guy kept walking to the university residence, inside, and up to his room.

He handed over two ounces of weed.

Here, an ounce or more is considered trafficking.

My uncle wasn't even planning to write this kid up, just wanted him to stop smoking obviously in the middle of campus, but at that about had to bust him for a trafficking level amount.

This blows.

Was assigned to the ship's security force while stationed on an aircraft carrier 8-9 years ago. Was on the night shift, alongside my assigned partner, conductive a usual rove through our patrol zone of the ship.

When we heard a noise coming from one of the weather decks, we went to go investigate and I found one of the guys I knew from my division, standing with his head sort of leaned back. Seeing the beam from my flashlight, he looked up suddenly with an "Oh s*" look on his face, a split second before a woman's head raised into view.

The Captain had a standing rule of no sexual activity onboard the ship, which I never agreed with, so any time I caught people getting frisky, I would just tell them to finish up and not get caught again.

That night wasn't going to be an exception, however, the person I was partnered up with that night was a guy I never really liked, that also had a major hardon for the rules. So, it was either take them both down and get their statements or have my partner rat me out for letting them slide on disobeying a standing order.

They both ended up getting sent to the Captain for non judicial punishment, resulting in the both of them being put on restriction, along with him getting busted down two pay grades (he had put on Petty Officer Second Class recently, but was not yet given the actual pay grade: we call this frocking) and since he was married; the Captain made him call his wife to tell her why he was getting busted down.

I didn't know he was married, and finding that out alleviated the negative feeling I had about having to take him in for it. I did find it kind of s*ty that the woman, while she also went on restriction, got to keep her rank.

What is this, amateur hour?

I had pulled a man over for speeding, nothing major just about 9 over. He was super cool, very apologetic, just a nice guy in general. However, as I was writing his warning, I spotted a small baggy laying on the passenger side floorboard with what appeared to be cocaine in it. Can't let that one go. Sorry man, wish you could've hidden it a little better.

EDIT: I didn't mention this fact, I had a body cam on, pretty critical to the story.

A downside to body cameras - you're less likely to catch a break.

Body cameras have changed how we operate, big time. I LOVE them and record far more than policy dictates but they do diminish our ability to make decisions based on circumstances. For instance, a couple weeks ago I handled a simple shoplifter. He was homeless and genuinely seemed like a decent guy stealing things he needed to survive. However, the entire encounter was on body camera. How can I justify not taking one shoplifter to jail, then turning around and taking the next? How do I know their personal circumstances?

Make no mistake that attorneys are requesting our body camera footage for everything we do. The fear of finding discrepancies in how we handle situations is real. There are less "breaks" given now and if you give one, it better be consistent to everyone who violates the same law.

In the end, I still prefer to record everything and will take that loss of discretion in getting sued.

Edit - thank you all for the kind words and excellent discussion! Also for the gold! I just started my 12-hour shift so I'm having trouble keeping up with comments. Trying to do so between calls!

A positive outcome to an otherwise very sad story.

This thread is already so old and I know this is going to get buried but I have to share this story anyways. Years ago I took a law enforcement class and was told this story by the officer it took place too.

Around 2 in the morning or whatever, right before this Officer was supposed to get off of his shift he pulls this lady over, obvious DUI. OBVIOUS. He grabs her license and stuff and she literally lives like a block over. It's late, he doesn't really want to deal with the paperwork and says "Look, I will just give you a ticket if you can get someone to take you and your car home." Lady was not having it, she said she had no one, there was no one who could take her.

He continued asking, pleading almost. Feeling almost bad for this poor woman who he described as an emotional wreck but she didn't budge. She said she was divorced, knew none of her neighbors and her 18-year-old son had literally DIED the night before and that's why she was drinking herself into oblivion.

The officer was stumped. He had no idea what to do, he couldn't book this lady. He told her one moment and started heading back to his car, he looked behind him to see her pull something from her bag. He ran back to her as she SLIT HER THROAT with a little knife she had in her bag.

He said luckily it wasn't a bad cut and he was able to stop the bleeding while he waited for the ambulance to arrive. Apparently, that lady called him a few weeks later and had apologized, and said she could never repay him for saving her life that night.???????

Run from the cops, you'll have a bad time.

I'm not a police officer, but I was an Urban Park Ranger in NYC for 5 years. Most of our job was environmental education but we did some law enforcement, mostly at the end of the fiscal year when the parks department would hand out overtime to run out the budget.

So anyways we were kicking kids out of the park at night. They were getting drunk and acting up so we were trying to end the problems before they got bigger. So there was this goofy kid that we saw hide something in a planting. I got out of the truck to approach him and he took off. I chased him, caught him, and handcuffed him. We put him in the back of the truck while my partner looked for what we thought was a bag of weed.

For the record, had he not run from me we probably would have just sent him home, but we were out there to do a job and we needed to show results.

So I'm in the truck with this jerk-off and he starts losing it, telling me there's nothing to find and he didn't hide anything. Meanwhile, my partner can't find anything. I can see that this kid wasn't one of the cool kids (because I was never one of the cool kids) and he's been acting like an idiot to fit in. But I have to do my job here. So I start trying to calm him down, asking him a bunch of dumb questions, which he fumbles through.

Finally, I ask him "is my Sergeant at least looking under the right tree?"

"No, it's the other tree"

"So what's he looking for?"

There's a blank stare on his face...."f_ck"

So I tell my partner to check under the other tree. He finds...

A single bottle of Twisted Tea.

I uncuffed the kid. "Get the fuck out of my truck and go home, you f_cking jerk-off"

When mental illness is treated as a crime...

Obligatory, not a cop comment (I'm sorry), but I am a criminal defense attorney. And I have to be vague about this, because of privilege.

I had a client who charged with public intox, but this person was not drunk, just off their meds and manic. I watched all the body cam footage. Five cops responded, and all but one wanted to book my client in on more serious charges. The one who didn't straight up said "I am not comfortable taking this person to jail. They need to go to the hospital." A supervisor was called in and overruled him, telling all the cops there to book client in on 3 serious charges, one of which was a felony.

The one cop recognized the situation for what it was, and literally took my client out of another cop's car, and booked them into jail like he was told, but booked them in on public intox because he knew it was the most minor offense he possibly could. And his report made it very clear what he thought about the whole thing, which made my end and dealing with the DA wayyyy easier. I respect the hell out of him.

No good deed goes unpunished.

Guy was brought into the station by the German police in handcuffs. I was told to fill out the paperwork and advise the guy of his rights. He'd been busted for DUI.

It was New Year's Eve and his neighborhood was having a party. He witnessed a female at the party being harassed and verbally abused by her husband. He tried to intervene but the husband wouldn't back off. All the MPs were tied up. He tried calling a cab and no one was available. And everyone at the party was blitzed. So despite having had a few drinks, he took it upon himself to just drive the woman back to her home, on the other side of the neighborhood.

In that very short distance, he got pulled over by the Polizei and arrested. Essentially it was all just a good deed gone wrong.

I had to read him his rights, but I also strongly hinted that he waive them and write a statement about the events. He ended up not getting into too much trouble military-wise but still had the DUI on his record. I definitely felt bad for the guy

Edit: That's what I get for writing this then going to bed.

Sometimes getting arrested is actually good for you.

Same thing as a few of the above. We were getting tons of calls about an individual that had run into a bunch of cars, drove up on the sidewalk etc. It wasn't just one call, and there were multiple accidents caused by this guy.

Well, it turns out he was a Gunny Sgt in the Marine Corps, having just gotten back from combat.

I knew he was struggling and could see the pain in his eyes. All I wanted to do was let him go, and drive him somewhere. The problem is, he had been in multiple accidents, ran over property and everyone in the world was calling.

It was not possible for me to let him go.

Unfortunately, a few weeks later, I checked in on his info and found he had just done the same thing..... again. M

EDIT TO CLARIFY Some people assume I just wanted to "let him go" in the sense that nothing happen to him. That's ridiculous. I myself have been through several Critical Incidents on this job that have about destroyed me. They have changed my life and my families forever.

As I understand some of the trauma he was probably feeling, it would have been so much better had I been able NOT TO ARREST HIM, and take him to a facility to get help with his trauma.

The taboo problem that I'm working to change in Military and Law Enforcement is the following. We don't know how to ask for help because the public and the media make it taboo to ask for help when we go through these traumatic experiences.

Reminder: The TSA cares about weapons and bombs, not weed. Best not push your luck, though.

Former TSA here:

Every checkpoint I ever worked did NOT want to find your pot. Pot was a ton of paperwork, and we were not authorized to arrest, detain, or get credit for finding pot. We had to call airport police, who then came and took credit for all the work we'd done finding your poorly hidden pot. All TSA cares about is blades and bombs. I had to rerun a bag 6 times to get all 13 lighters out of it, but my supervisor didn't want to know about any plant matter in ziplocks. Exception: we did stop the passenger with a syringe inside her teddy bear because it was creepy.

Sometimes a polite apology can be a saving grace.

My dad used to tell us that if he ever pulled someone over and they said "what can I say? You got me" he'd let them go (this was probably also depending on the offense, I assume) Nobody ever said it.

He'd tell stories of people who'd say "what can I say?" And he'd be waiting for the next part but it never came, so he didn't let them go because they didn't say it fully.

Edit: I've had a few people ask if this is a reference to anything. As far as I'm aware, it's not. I asked his best mate just now, who knew his obscure references. It was just his own little thing, not a reference.

Edit 2: More people have suggested Breaking Bad. Dad never watched it and he'd resigned from the job in 1999, long before the show came out

Word to the wise: don't be a jerk.

When I was an officer, I pretty much just gave tickets for serious offenses. Like doing 50 in a 25 zone or running red lights. But if someone was just an a**wipe? they got a ticket regardless of if I was originally letting them go on a warning. I never gave citations for crap offenses like jaywalking and noise violations, just warnings.

EDIT 1- about getting off with a warning? There is a lot that goes into this one. When you get pulled over, the officer is going to get a copy of your driving record. If you have previous violations? Your kind of up a creek unless you can talk your way out of it. If your record shows that you are not learning safety and the rules of the road? Then the way most people look at it is that hopefully one day you will. So they don't feel sorry for you. But, If he pulls up your record and you haven't had a ticket in a long time or never? then he doesn't want to be the one to mark you.

Believe it or not, most cops think arresting people for small amounts of weed is ridiculous.

First, some information: In Texas, any "usable" amount of marihuana under 2oz is a Class B misdemeanor. The Code of Criminal Procedure allows police to issue citations (in lieu of arrest) for both Class B and Class A amounts of marihuana if the person resides in the county of the offense. However, my DA's office is stuck in the 70s so they don't allow this.

Personally, as long as you're not driving under the influence, I don't care. So if I eyeball it and it appears to be around 3 grams or less, I'll take it and any paraphernalia you have and simply write a Class C paraphernalia ticket and cut you loose. However, one of my former supervisors has a f_cking hard-on for busting people for weed. So any time he happened to roll by during one of those stops where I found my 'paraphernalia' amount, he would make me arrest instead.

It's not breaking any laws or unethical (because in Texas it is illegal to possess), but I really hated the few times I had to do that. And now with body cameras and our policy being, they have to stay on, there's no more "stomp that out" or "throw it away."

Edit: For those wondering why I spell it "marihuana", it's because that's how our Health and Safety Code spells it (http://codes.findlaw.com/tx/health-and-safety-code/health-safety-sect-481-121.html).

When your hands are tied, but you do the right thing.

I worked 3rd shift for a City police dept, Had turned around at the city limits when I clocked a vehicle traveling 80+ mph coming towards me. I hit the lights and turned on it. Since I was leaving the city to catch him, and actually figured this was going to be a pursuit, it was policy to advise dispatch what was going on.

So grab the mic, "(badge number) Dispatch I just turned on a vehicle traveling 85 Eastbound out of the city"..... Stop the car, and it's a soldier, still in BDU's that had just got back from Iraq or Afghanistan ( i can't remember) THAT day and was headed home to see his family.

Did not want to write that ticket, told him I didn't want to write that ticket..... since I'd said that on the radio though, I had to write it. Told him to come to court, and I'd do what I could to get it dismissed. Talked to the judge, and at traffic court Judge dismissed his ticket and thanked him for his service.

Felt about 3 inches tall writing that dang ticket.

That's one way to get him out of the house...

Domestic incident.... husband and husband argue, one husband grabbed the other husband by the balls for whatever reason. Husband who did the grabbing admitted it. Husband who was assaulted wanted the other husband to leave the house for a few hours. Welp..... couldn't by law I had to make an arrest


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