Know Your Civil Rights: What to Do When Approached by Police

Police fill a valuable role in our society and most police officers do their jobs to the best of their abilities. However, sometimes police officers act in violation of a person’s civil rights and due process. It is important to know ahead of time what conduct on the part of police officers is prohibited.

Know What is Discrimination and What is Not

Not every police stop or apprehension is a violation of civil rights if it involves a person of color. There are legitimate arrests and stops if someone is engaged in breaking the law or if there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed. This civil rights union explains that  a police officer cannot apprehend or stop someone solely on the basis of color, that would be racial profiling. If you believe that your civil rights have been violated, you can either file a complaint with the police department, city government, or you can file a lawsuit against the police department.

Understand “Due Process” of Law

There are times when police officers could be in violation of due process. This civil right lawyer explains that an example of a due process violation is when the police arbitrarily stop, detain, or demand information from a citizen when no crime is being committed, and with no apparent evidence that a crime may be committed. In these situations, if a citizen is stopped by police but not detained or arrested for a crime, they are not required to answer officer questions and are lawfully free to leave an interrogation. Know your rights but don’t put yourself in danger of bodily harm.

Be Cooperative but Firm

Not cooperating with the police could put you in danger, both physically and in terms of additional punishment. You can point out to the police officer that they are violating your due process and your civil rights, and you can be firm about it. This rights advocate explains that at the end of the day, you still must obey the police officer, even if they are wrong, you are still able to raise the issue later in a complaint or lawsuit. Do not give a police officer any additional reason to be overly harsh.

Your actions if you have been stopped by the police are critical both at the time of apprehension as well as afterward. It is best to remain calm and then take the appropriate action afterwards if necessary.

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