It could happen to you.
Where are you coming from?
Where are you going to?
Where do you live?
Where do you work?
Do you have an identity card?
These are very simple questions, which can be easily answered by almost everyone. But when a police officer is involved, it can cause a lot of problems both for the officer and YOU. Most of the time, there is a reason for the officer to question you – even if it may not seem so at the time.
The officer may be investigating a complaint in the neighbourhood, or following up on a radio call concerning a crime committed in the area.
For one reason or another, you may be the individual the police suspect. You may have knowledge that will help in the investigation, or the officer may think that you are experiencing some kind of trouble.
Some times the manner in which the police question you may seem as if the officer is not respecting YOUR RIGHTS. Sometimes you may overreact to the questions and create a more serious situation. We will attempt to explain your rights. What to remember, and what to expect when an officer starts asking you a lot of questions… it could save you from answering a lot more unnecessary questions.
THE POLICE IN YOUR CAR
If you are driving a vehicle, the police can ask you to stop at any time. The best thing to do in this situation is to park and follow the directions of the officer. You will probably be asked to produce your driver’s license and particulars of the vehicle. This you must do, if asked. If you are stopped at night, turn on your interior light and show the officer that nothing is wrong. It is best to do nothing, which may give reason to search further. Having your light on and keeping your hand on the steering wheel will usually put the officer’s mind at ease.
Chances are that the officer might ask you to go if you have all your papers. The officer might say that you have violated traffic rules, if your papers are not correct or ask you to come out of your car for a search, if he is on Stop and Search duty. Remember that he or she is operating within the law in all these activities. Of course, you may explain at any point in this encounter, but you should limit your comments. Be careful how to make your points. A simple traffic violation may start costing you a fortune in fines for other violations. If you think that you have not violated any traffic rules, then carry your protest to the Police Public Complaints Bureau nearest to you.
IF YOU ARE STOPPED BY THE POLICE ON THE STREET
Most of the problems you may encounter with the police can be avoided. Remember, they think they have reason (probable cause) to stop you and ask questions. At this time, you should stop, collect your thoughts and remain calm. Whether or not you are arrested, may just depend on how calm and prepared you are at this time. There are many factors that the police may take into consideration when observing you. Every situation is different and the officer may consider the following factors,
When you are running and a crime has been reported in the Area
If you are hanging around with people under police investigation
You are in an area where crime has just been reported
You are in an area which the police believe to be abandoned or unoccupied, or a blackspot.
You are acting in a manner, which appears to be suspicious
The police believe you are in possession of stolen property.
Someone else has identified you to the police.
When you use derogatory or offensive language… You may be saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
While these things are taken into consideration when questioning you, the police MUST STILL RESPECT YOUR RIGHTS NOT TO ANSWER QUESTIONS THAT SOUND ACCUSATORY
If the police have stopped you, they believe there is a reason to do so.
It is best to be calm and identity yourself
In many a situation, you can talk your way into arrest or detention as well as talk yourself out of trouble. By yelling, threatening or swearing at an officer, the BEST you can do is get yourself Arrested… and who needs that.
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This brochure was prepared by CLEEN Foundation with support from MacArthur Foundation. CLEEN Foundation promotes public safety, security and justice through empirical research, legislative advocacy, demonstration programmes and publications in partnership with government and civil society.