Conducting Stops & Detentions: Lessons Learned Findings from Civil Rights Litigation

Conducting Stops & Detentions

Utilize voluntary contacts

  • To build relationships and allow the community to ask questions

Baltimore, MD           Ferguson, MO           Newark, NJ           Seattle, WA

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

Baltimore, MD           Ferguson, MO           New Orleans, LA           Newark, NJ

Train officers on the value of community-oriented policing

  • Provide skills and techniques to effectively engage with community members

Baltimore, MD           Newark, NJ           Seattle, WA

When conducting investigatory stops

  • Officers introduce themselves by name, rank, and agency
  • Inform the subject of the reason for the stop or detention as soon as possible
  • Inform the subject that they do not have the right to leave but that they do not need to answer questions
  • Alert the subject if they are being recorded
  • Ensure that the detention is no longer than necessary

Alamance County, NC           Cleveland, OH           Ferguson, MO           Los Angeles County, CA

Avoid the following when determining whether to initiate an investigatory stop or detention: 

  • Relying on information known to be false or incorrect 
  • Using an individual’s demographic characteristics as a factor (race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, sexual orientation, etc.)
  • Using an individual’s geographic location without any other reasonable articulable facts for investigatory stops
  • Basing stops on an individual’s response to the police presence
  • Using information or evidence discovered after the stop was initiated

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                Yonkers, NY

Refrain from restricting an individual’s freedom during an investigatory stop or detention in any of the following ways (unless there is a basis for justifying the action): 

  • Taking away a person’s identification
  • Ordering a motorist to exit the vehicle
  • Placing a pedestrian against a wall
  • Directing a person to stand or remain standing not of their choosing
  • Directing a person to lie on the ground
  • Applying handcuffs
  • Placing someone in a police vehicle
  • Frisking
  • Unholstering or pointing a weapon

Baltimore, MD           Ferguson, MO  

Refrain from transporting subjects of an investigatory stop or detention if there is a lack of probable cause for an arrest

  • This includes transporting for fingerprinting, questioning, or other investigatory purposes

Baltimore, MD           Detroit, MI           Ferguson, MO

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.

Conducting Stops & Detentions Resources

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