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What to do if you are stopped by the UMass Dartmouth Police

During the course of their duties, police officers may need to stop citizens for various reasons. From time to time, it becomes necessary for a police officer to stop people in the community to make an inquiry such as:

  • What is your name?
  • What is your address?
  • Do you have any identification?

Usually this occurs in areas of high crime, soon after a crime has been committed or in an area at an odd hour of the day/night. Sometimes a very routine encounter may cause a person to feel intimidated or to respond in a manner which gives rise to conflict or suspicion. The most frequent stop or encounter that occurs between police officers and citizens is the traffic stop.

If an officer stops you, your forthright responses will usually quickly resolve the situation. If the officer hasn't told you why you have been stopped, you may inquire.

Generally, police officers will:

  • Provide their names upon request
  • If in plain clothes, identify themselves when taking action
  • Inform a person about the reason for being stopped or questioned
  • Only use the amount of force necessary to effect the arrest of a suspect; excessive force is not tolerated by the department

Traffic stops

The most frequent stop or encounter that occurs between the police and citizens is the traffic stop. This type of stop is also the most dangerous kind of stop for a police officer. Usually, police officers will stop a vehicle if they have reason to believe that some offense has occurred. You may feel anxious, irritated at the delay, or concerned about a possible citation. However, officers are concerned about possible threats to their personal safety while performing their duties.

The following recommended procedures will ensure that the traffic stop can be completed quickly and safely:

  • When signaled by an officer, safely pull over to a place out of traffic flow.
  • Sit calmly, with your hands visible on the steering wheel. If you have passengers, ask them to sit quietly with their hands visible. (Avoid sudden movements or ducking in the seat--these actions can unnecessarily alarm the officer.)
  • If it is night, turn on your inside light when you pull the car over. For safety reasons, the officer will want to visually scan the car's interior before proceeding.
  • DO NOT get out of your car unless the officer asks you to step out. If you are asked to do so, comply in a calm manner.
  • A sure way to put an officer at ease is to communicate your actions in advance by telling the officer what you will be doing before you move.
  • If requested, you must give the officer your driver's license and vehicle registration. Tell the officer where it is before reaching for it--especially if it is tucked away in the glove box or some other unusual place.

If you are issued a citation, the citation, as well as your right to appeal it, will be explained to you. You may be asked to sign the citation. Signing is not an admission of guilt, but an acknowledgment that you have received the citation. While you may wish to clarify the circumstances of the citation, keep in mind that your guilt or innocence can only be determined in court. Arguments or protests about the situation cannot and will not be resolved at the scene.


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