probable cause, gossip

What Probable Cause has to do with Gossip

When I was in law enforcement, one of the hardest concepts to explain to the public was PC.

PC is an affectionate term used in cop-ville that means Probable Cause.

It can be confusing, even for cops, what PC is and how to apply it.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines Probable Cause as…

Facts and evidence that lead many to believe that the accused actually committed the crime…

Bottom line is, PC is the burden of proof, not a hunch, that an officer needs to make an arrest.

But, to convict someone at trial, I must prove the suspect’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher burden of proof than PC—the proof I can arrest for.

“That’s bull$%*^!” you exclaim.

And…you might be right.

Simply put, PC are facts that I, as a cop, can articulate at the time of arrest, that #1—there is a crime; #2—that the suspect is connected to that crime, and #3—there’s enough evidence, whether it’s testimony from eyewitnesses, or hard evidence—like you’re the one standing with a ball bat, glass all over your happy-self, and the window you’re standing next to is broken—


I slap cuffs on you and you get to ride in the back of a police car.

But that doesn’t mean you’re guilty.

That just means I have enough proof to take you in to be booked and charged with a crime.

Now, what happens if…

Your friend calls you, insists that you meet him wherever, but doesn’t say anything about the broken window he just busted.

You arrive, he hugs you (thus, now you have glass all over yourself), hands you the bat and says, “Gotta go, cya.” and runs away.

Seconds later, I show up.

You have to admit, this looks bad.

In your possession is incriminating evidence.

There’s an actual crime not more than a few feet away.

You tell me your story.

I say, “Hm, sounds interesting.”

Now, I have a decision to make.

Do I take for granted what see or do I conduct an investigation to find out the truth?

Do I look around the neighborhood for your friend, so-and-so?

Do I have another cop go over to so-and-so’s house to talk to them? Which, we’re likely to find so-and-so’s story not too credible, and who can’t notice the blood oozing from his knuckles after he smashed the window?


If I do a proper investigation and take a little bit of time to discover the truth, then I will make a proper judgment call with PC on the correct suspect. Thus avoiding a stinky situation called, a false arrest.

Everyone is probably nodding heads right now. But, this isn’t about cops or how they do their jobs.

It’s about you and me on an everyday basis.


Gossip is so insidious, malicious, and damaging.

No proof, no investigation into what is heard, and yet judgment is handed out behind someone’s back. There’s not even a text, email, or God forbid, a phone call to the accused to find out what is what.

That someone, is condemned without any PC at all, no less the burden of proof to actually convict someone, which is beyond a reasonable doubt.

“Well, where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” says those who love to gossip. Hey, I’ve said it too. As far as I know, the fire could be coming from the neighbor’s house. How would I know unless I cared enough to find out?

And yet, when I give myself to the gossip mill, I can feel hurt, slighted, demeaned, and betrayed, all at the same time.

Hurts and wounds, all because my filters allowed me to see something that someone else painted about another person that involves my life, and yet, without proper investigation, I have condemned a potentially innocent person, and I carry a weight that isn’t even real.

Gossip doesn’t warrant one minute of our time, but I can tell you; I can get caught up with it as quickly as anyone else at the thought of so-and-so, doing such-and-such, without any burden of proof whatsoever.

That creates drama, anxiety, fear, and doubt. All of which wastes emotional energy that we all have a very limited supply of.

If I do hear potentially incriminating evidence, I need to call you to find out what’s up. But, one thing I MUST NOT let myself do, and that is repeat that information unless I have PC.

AND…so what if there is PC, then what? Usually, it’s none of my business, and need to keep my mouth shut anyway.

How about this…if there is PC and it bothers me, perhaps I can reach out to you and help in some way.

How different would that be and how many hurts and wounds could be healed doing that instead of repeating slander?

And here’s something that is liberating…realize that what others say of you behind your back is none of your business.

As you make adjustments in life to become better…people will talk.

As you change directions…people will talk.

As you walk a path that doesn’t fit into the box others want you to live in…people will talk.

Seriously, it’s okay. Let them do so.

Like training yourself not to gossip, train yourself not to fire back at those who gossip about you…this also liberating.

Never worry yourself about what others say of you who don’t have the courage to sincerely ask you about your path and truly want to know how you are doing.

I want to be drama free.

I don’t have the energy to chase down empty clouds and play with stories in my mind that enslave me with fear, worry, or bitterness, because I don’t have PC.

And, without PC, I’m free.

I want to live free.

Photo by Alexas Fotos

Posted by Christian Martin Jr.