Everyday in this country, Police officers and other law enforcement agents interview witnesses/suspects about crimes. One of the most common questions and situations that I face is whether we should talk to the police. To begin with, a person, under the Constitution has an absolute right not to be forced to speak to anyone and the right not to incriminate themselves. In the real world this works much differently. Lets face it, the vast majority of people are intimidated by police officers and people in positions of authority. They carry guns, and have the authority of the state behind them. It is no surprise that everyday people of all backgrounds voluntarily give statements to the police and often get themselves into trouble that they could have avoided.
What most of these people want to do is explain their side of the events. The problem with this is that it is the wrong forum to do so. The police officer's job is to make arrests, not give you a fair hearing. Additionally, you are at a huge disadvantage when speaking with the police because they do not have to tell you what they know and can legally lie to you about evidence that they have. In the very funny movie My Cousin Vinny, the suspects believe they are making statements about a stolen can of tuna, while the Sheriff is asking questions about a murder. While an exaggerated example, this movie shows how misunderstandings can lead to big trouble. Also, you have no idea what other people have said about you and what you have been accused of.
This all leads to the best advice that I could give to anyone who is approached by the police as a suspect. Politely tell the officers that you appreciate their jobs, but you would like to speak to a lawyer before you answer any questions. If there ever comes a time to tell your side of the story, we can tell it to an impartial party like the judge or a jury. Don't give up your rights, they have been fought for by a lot of people.