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2100 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 981-5900, TDD: (510) 981-5799, police@ci.berkeley.ca.us

 

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Police-Citizen Contacts

This page is designed to answer questions concerning police-citizen contacts. 

Q. Why did the Police stop me?

Q. Do I have to give my name?

Q. Can the Officer search me?

Q. What do you mean by Officer Safety?

Q. What are Officer Safety procedures?

Q. How long can an Officer detain me?

Q. What are some of the things that make police suspicious?

Q. So what should I do if I am stopped by police?

Q. What if it’s my friend they’ve stopped?

Q. Do the police have to give me information?

Q. Is there a way to find out what has happened?


Q. Why did the Police stop me?

A. There are many reasons the police may stop you. Remember at this point the police officer believes s/he has probable cause (a reason) to stop and ask you questions. This is not the time to argue with the officer. Sometimes, whether or not you are arrested may depend on your actions while speaking with police.

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Q. Do I have to give my name?

A. If you’re driving a vehicle, you are required by law to provide your drivers license, vehicle registration card and proof of insurance when requested by an officer. In other situations you may not be required to identify yourself, but it may make the officer more suspicious of you and warrant a longer detention for further investigation.

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Q. Can the Officer search me?

A. Search & seizure laws are ever changing and specific search questions are difficult to answer in a pamphlet. In general, under certain conditions, police can pat search you for weapons; in some circumstances officers can search your car for evidence and in many other situations, have cause to search your home or other property without a warrant.

If the police have a search warrant, they are required to provide a receipt for any property seized during the search. Remember, a search warrant is an order from a Judge, which allows the officer to search you, your possessions or your home and authorizes the seizure of property listed in the warrant.

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Q. What do you mean by Officer Safety?

A. There is a certain amount of danger that inherently goes with the job, but police officers do not have to expose themselves to unnecessary risks. Over the years, the law enforcement profession has developed procedures that are intended to avoid unnecessary risk for both the officer and the public.

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Q. What are Officer Safety procedures?

A. Some police tactics are very simple, like asking you to turn on your dome light when you are stopped for a traffic violation. Other tactics are more involved, like pat searching people for weapons. This is done based on a number of circumstances, which include time of day, the person being detained, the crime being investigated or that the location is known for violent incidents.

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Q. How long can an Officer detain me?

A. This is another question that addresses several laws and constitutional issues. In general, the police may detain you for a reasonable time to conduct their investigation or issue a ticket. Reasonable time is different in each situation and depending on the reason could last from ten minutes to an hour or more.

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Q. What are some of the things that make police suspicious?

A. Both actions and circumstances can make the police suspicious. For example: You are in an area that a crime has just been reported; you are seen running in an area that a crime has just been committed; you are somewhere the police officer thinks people have no reason to be during that time of day or night; someone has pointed you out as a party to a crime; you are involved with people the police are investigating for a crime; you are acting in a way the officer feels is suspicious and you act more suspiciously when the officer sees you’ve noticed them; the officer believes you possess stolen property; the officer stops you on a street or in your car and you refuse to answer simple questions, give false information, evasive answers or contradicting information.

As you can see there are many things that could make an officer suspicious.

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Q. So what should I do?

A. When stopped by police, either in your car or not, you have certain constitutional rights. The officer is trained to respect those rights and is bound by law to do so. When you are stopped or detained, remain calm and cooperate to the extent possible. Remember, if you do not cooperate during the detention it may make you look more suspicious to the police.

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Q. What if it’s my friend they’ve stopped?

A. You have the right to observe and take names and badge numbers of the officers involved. You do not have the right to interfere with the police and could be arrested for doing so. If you are observing a police action, maintain a reasonable and safe distance until the incident is over. Then ask for the names of the officers involved. A good person to contact would be the supervisor at the scene.

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Q. Do the police have to give me information?

A. The Berkeley Police are required by Police Department regulations to provide their name and badge number when requested, unless it compromises their safety. By law, officers may not be allowed to disclose information about certain crimes or to persons who have been arrested .

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Q. Is there a way to find out what has happened?

A. After the incident has ended, you can ask the officer at the scene what happened. If everyone has left the scene call the police department and speak with a supervisor.

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