Reasonable Suspicion: Lessons Learned Recommendations from Civil Rights Litigation

Establish reasonable suspicion to justify an investigatory stop or detention

  • Failure to stop or answer questions or attempts to walk away or end the conversation are not sufficient

Baltimore, MD           Ferguson, MO

Refrain from conducting investigatory stops or detentions if they lack reasonable suspicion that a person has committed or is going to commit a crime.

Baltimore, MD           Cleveland, OH           East Haven, CT           Ferguson, MO           Los Angeles County, CA
Newark, NJ                New Orleans, LA      Seattle, WA                  Yonkers, NY

Document reasonable suspicion clearly 

  • Be specific and articulable using individualized, descriptive language

Baltimore, MD           Cleveland, OH           East Haven, CT           Ferguson, MO           Los Angeles, CA
Los Angeles County, CA                              Newark, NJ                  New Jersey               New Orleans, LA           
Puerto Rico                Seattle, WA               Yonkers, NY

Stop or detain vehicles only where probable cause exists

  • When the driver has committed a traffic violation
  • When there is reasonable suspicion based on specific facts that the vehicle or an occupant has been or is going to be engaged in the commission of a crime
  • Use specific language to justify the basis for the stop

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. When additional information was needed, subject-matter experts from the Department of Justice provided input. 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.

Do you have resources to share with the field? Are you an agency that is doing this work as well?

Do you have resources to share with the field? Are you an agency that is doing this work as well?