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FAQ, Trivia and Information on Life in America: Ask-A-Desi

This section will attempt to address some of the Frequently Asked Questions on Life in the US, Canada and North America that immigrants, visitors and others from different cultures attempt to address. If you have any additional inputs or wish  to see more topics addressed, mail us at

International residents and foreigners in the US with a valid visa have the same rights and responsibilities as American citizen. If an individual is arrested and taken into custody, the police must inform him of his rights and make certain that he understands these rights. The individual may refuse to answer any questions without legal counsel present and has every right to be represented by a lawyer, and if he cannot afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint one. The crux of this is the fact that one cannot be convicted of a crime without a proper trial. - Mohan's Book

In this section of GaramChai, we present basic trivia on Police, Law and Order in America

Sheriff and Police

Do you know the difference between a Sheriff and Police?

County-Sheriff; City-Police

On many occasions a question comes to our mind "What is the difference between the Sheriff's Office and the Police Department?" To most people, the distinction is unclear at best, and at worst the citizens have no knowledge of the office. There are many differences as well as similarities. In the state of Maryland, for example, there is an Office of the Sheriff for each county and one for Baltimore City. In many counties, the Sheriff's Office is the provider of primary law enforcement duties. In jurisdictions which have police departments, the Office of Sheriff provides services to the Courts. Sheriff Deputies are the primary officials who handle all criminal and civil matters within the unincorporated areas of a County. The city Police are the primary officials who handle all criminal and traffic matters within the city limit boundaries of their respective cities.

Sheriff's Car

Since the year 992 A.D., Sheriffs have been enforcing laws, protecting citizens and enforcing the will of King and Court. It is here the powers of the Sheriff originated in English Common Law which has been absorbed into American Common Law and subsequently into the Constitution of the states. In 1941, Walter H.Anderson, a prominent attorney of the Idaho, California and Tennessee state Bar and supreme Court of the United States Bar, wrote A Treatise On The Law Of Sheriffs which has become the foremost legal authority on the subject of Sheriffs.

Anderson states that "the Sheriff's primary obligation is to represent the sovereignty, authority, and interests of the state in his respective jurisdiction", whereas the Police department represents the interests of the local jurisdiction. Originally the Sheriff was the King' s man, representing the interests and authority of the King in his Shire, often controlled by noblemen not always sympathetic or loyal to the King. In preserving the rights of the government, he (the Sheriff) represents the sovereignty of the state and has no superior in his county.

The modern Office of Sheriff carries with it all of the common law powers, duties and responsibilities to preserve the peace, enforce the laws and arrest and commit to jail felons and other inflators of the law. The powers and duties of the Sheriff are analogous to those imposed upon police departments. The Sheriff is the principle conservator of the peace within the county. In addition the disparate duties, there is at least one other big difference between the sheriff’s department and the police : the funds available to carry out their respective missions.

Beacons on Police Cars

Chicago Police Car

Police work is serious business.

We, as residents of this country (irrespective of status),have duties and rights to know about the Police force and assist in law keeping. And here, unlike in India, Police are really to protect you and not to harass you!

This write-up is just about the logic behind colors of beacon-lights on Police vehicles here in the US.

Why do beacons on Police cars flash Blue and Red lights?

There is practical advantage of using two colors for high intensity lights on police car beacons. Blue is easier to see during daytime and red more clearly discerned at night. Blue also is chosen for its long association with police in US (e.g: blue lights in front of police stations, blue uniforms in many states) and because of its high daylight visibility. Red has long been a symbol of warning and danger and a signal to stop. No other emergency service uses blue in its beacon. Firefighters and ambulances use red. Construction and emergency transport vehicles (towing etc.) use yellow or amber. Only police beacons are two-colored. Some states/cities have experimented with all-Red beacons (e.g NY capital city Albany, where I am on a visit currently), while some cities have tried with all-Blue (e.g our Chicago police) beacons. However, the most common is Right-Blue, Left-Red beacon.

Why are the blue lights on Passenger's side and red on Driver's side?

It is so that the driver being pursued (the soon-to-be-a-ticket-recipient :-)) can better see it in his/her rear-view or side-view mirror. People are conditioned to stop for a red light. This is the most efficient way to signal the driver of a car in front of Mama's car to stop. The LA police dept (which has to handle huge traffic safety and other crimes) uses an amber light on the rear of Mama's car which is activated by an on-off switch. We are also conditioned to think of a yellow light as a caution light. In this case, cars behind the police vehicle are being cautioned by the amber lights to slow down because police activity is taking place!

Beacons on Police Cars


  • The Police in America takes readers beyond the sound-bites and statistics to present a complete and contemporary overview of what it means to be a police officer. Comprehensively revised and updated, the Fourth Edition incorporates information on police and policing as current as today's headlines. This across-the-board revision discusses the most contemporary police operational strategies and the effectiveness of these strategies; police response to gang crime, school crime, terrorism, and computer-related crime; state-of-the-art strategies that the police are using to respond to the homeless, the mentally ill, and people with HIV/AIDS; and police innovations such as community-oriented policing, problem-oriented policing, and zero tolerance policing.


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Trivia and Questions for Indians and Immigrants in America

General Trivia : Introduction //Dollars and Cents // Social Security Number // About Mail and USPS // Story of The Old Glory // Green Card– Why Not Green? // Telephone Area Codes // Convex Mirrors and Caution // Bankruptcy and Chapter 11 // Radio and TV Broadcasting // Consumerism: Trivia on Wal-Mart. // Retail Trivia // Gas Prices– What's 0.9 Cent? // Roads and Interstate Highways // Road Driving Trivia // Finance 101 // Daylight Saving Time // Trivia on Etiquette

FAQ Disclaimer: All information provided in these FAQ’s is deemed to be accurate by the author.  Due care has been exercised to ensure the veracity of this information and guidelines. However, there may be error (s) and omission (s) and all information is subject to change., and its affiliates do not assume any liability for the information provided herein. The reader is strongly recommended to confirm this information from official sources.

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