When Stopped by a Police Officer

Police officers must continually engage citizens during the course of their duties. Law enforcement officers are trained how to do so safely, efficiently, and effectively. A problem can occur, however, when citizens do not know how to react and respond when approached or engaged by a police officer.

Police Officer Duties
Police officers work off information provide by citizens and their own observations. There are a variety of reasons an officer would want to question you.
  • Checking out a complaint phoned into 911 by someone in your neighborhood.
  • A crime has just occurred in the area you are in or live in.
  • You could be a possible witness.
  • You might fit the description of the suspect.
  • Another citizen pointed you out as a witness or a suspect.
  • Officers' observations may lead them to think you need assistance or are acting suspicious.
  • A routine traffic stop.
If you are not sure why you are being stopped, ask politely at the appropriate time. Keep in mind that some investigations are time sensitive and the officer might not have time to explain things to you.

Tips for when you are stopped by a police officer
  • Respectful forthright responses usually resolve the situation faster.
  • Avoid sudden unexplained movements.
  • Keep your hands visible at all times. Do not put them in your pockets.
  • If in a vehicle, pull over safely out of the flow of traffic.
  • At night, turn on your interior light in the vehicle.
  • Do not get out unless told to do so.
  • Place your hands on the steering wheel.
  • Remain calm and ask permission for whatever movements you're going to make before moving.
  • Do not argue. Guilt or innocence can only be determined in court.
Following these few tips can lead to proper communication with an officer and less likelihood of problems that could be easily avoided. Always remember that police officers prepare for the worst to happen and initially treat all situations as if the worst was about to happen. This helps keep both officers and citizens safe.