This question is not specific to any particular movie or a TV show. Although it came to my mind when I was recently watching a particular episode of Sneaky Pete. It's a great show by the way.

The girl asks a cop (who was a corrupt one) whether he was a cop. He was definitely reluctant while answering it but indeed answered "Yes". Details of the scene aren't important here.

In many movies and TV shows I have observed similar dialogues. Most common ones are where a prostitute is being inquired/questioned by someone and she asks the questioner "Are you a cop?" and quite often the questioner answers with the truth (yes or no).

How close is this to reality in US? Does the cop always have to answer with a yes?

P.S. People who might feel like downvoting/closing this one I request you to go through the tag realism first.

  • 5
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is related to law. Not related to movies at all.
    – Panther
    May 6, 2017 at 10:23
  • Does most of us obliged to tell truth in general
    – Panther
    May 6, 2017 at 10:24
  • If the cop is going to arrest the person or testify in court, lying may prove to be a problem. They are not allowed to entrap you, either. However, undercover cops do not admit to being police officers.
    – WRX
    May 6, 2017 at 15:30

2 Answers 2


No, police don't have to tell you they're a cop if you ask.

According to snopes:

Police don’t have to reveal their status, even when asked flat out. There’s nothing in the law to prohibit law enforcement officers from lying in the course of performing their duties. Were this not so, there’d be no sting operations that involve [police] telling wanted criminals they’d just won trips to Bermudas to get them to come on in, or undercover operations where cops pretend to be suppliers to drug buyers. Police couldn’t do their jobs were they restricted to telling the truth all of the time, and a moment’s thought about it should lay this belief to rest.

Snopes goes on to discuss that the origins of the myth involve prostitutes attempting to avoid arrest by claiming entrapment:

It has long been accepted hooker lore that a working girl could render herself arrestproof by asking a prospective john if he were a policeman before anyone’s clothes came off. This belief in protection rested on the notion that even if the client did turn out to be a cop, his not being truthful about it would get the arrest thrown on the grounds of entrapment.

I'm not going to get into what actually constitutes entrapment here, because it can be varied and nuanced, but lawcomic did a series on it that explains it in simple to understand terms with good examples.


Do cops in US always have to answer “Yes” when asked “Are you a cop?”

No. In real life, as far as I understand the laws in general, they do not, but there may be different regulations in different States and municipalities. Also, maybe this is obvious, undercover police officers do not have to identify themselves. In general, an on duty police officer will announce their presence when initiating enforcement, knocking on a door, at a traffic stop, etc. but as far as I know, there is no law which requires a police officer to answer "yes" to "are you a cop?"

"Cop" is not always considered a term of respect either, so the tone of the question may also influence the answer, but it also depends upon the circumstances. That said, an officer of the courts while not in uniform (on duty or off) is not required by law to confirm their status as law enforcement nor provide name and badge number merely because their status is solicited.

See a similar question in law.SE: https://law.stackexchange.com/q/5563 gnasher makes a good comment about someone who has identified themselves as a police officer and someone who is being asked if they are. Having identified theirselves as police, and given the situation is calm, it is generally acceptable to request confirmation of legal status.

  • 3
    It should also be noted that the police are allowed to lie to a suspect after arrest so there is zero reason why they should not be allowed to lie to one before.
    – Paulie_D
    May 6, 2017 at 13:08
  • 1
  • @Paulie_D yep, they aren't boy and girl scouts after all ;)
    – MmmHmm
    May 6, 2017 at 13:13

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