Making Arrests: Lessons Learned Recommendations from Civil Rights Litigation

Strive for professional, courteous, fair, unbiased, lawful, and productive contacts with the community

Make arrests under very narrow, specific circumstances, such as when officers believe a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a criminal or citable offense

Prohibit officers from doing the following when determining whether to make an arrest:

  • Relying on information known to be false
  • Using an individual’s race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability as a factor in determining probable cause
    • Unless the information is a part of a credible description of a specific suspect in an investigation 
  • Using an individual’s geographic location (e.g. presence in a high crime area, proximity to the scene) without any other facts as a basis for an arrest
  • Using evidence discovered after the arrest was initiated as a basis for arrest
  • Using canned or conclusory language without supporting detail in reports

Have an arrest review policy in place

  • Seek permission from a supervisor before making an arrest.  
  • If the circumstances of the arrest make it impracticable to do so, notify a supervisor as soon as possible afterward

Review the circumstances of the encounter if a search or arrest results in the recovery of contraband evidence

  • Supervisors will memorialize the review in writing, including an assessment of the circumstances under which the search was conducted, evidence was recovered, and/or probable cause for the arrest

Record arrests on body-worn cameras and/or vehicle video equipment, when applicable

The information provided above has come directly from the consent decree language, which can be accessed by clicking on each corresponding city’s consent decree. This information is intended to guide departments on decisions and actions to improve their Constitutional policing practices. Additional resources and information may be needed to implement these recommendations successfully. For assistance in implementing recommendations, contact the Knowledge Lab team.