Police Encounters – What to do?
Huntsville Police want to make sure our citizens know how to interact with a police officer and make any experience with officers less stressful and safer for everyone involved.
Innocent individuals might be offended because an officer has stopped them. Although a delay can be inconvenient, the officer usually has good reason. Remember to always stay calm and communicate your actions before making any movement.
Please take a moment to review some of the common reasons for routine stops and tips for handling the encounter.
COMMON REASONS FOR TRAFFIC STOPS
- The vehicle you are driving may have an equipment violation.
- The vehicle you are driving may match the description of a vehicle used in a criminal act.
- You have committed a traffic violation.
- You may be acting in a manner that the officer considers suspicious.
What to do if you’re being stopped by an officer:
- Safely pull over to a place out of the flow of traffic as soon as possible.
- If there is no safe place to stop, signal your intention to pull over and do so as soon as possible.
- Turn on your interior light to reduce the officer’s concerns about possible threats within your vehicle.
- Roll down your window as the officer comes to the car. If the window is broken, do not make a move to open the door.
- Stay in your vehicle, unless an officer instructs you to exit.
- Everyone in the vehicle should keep their hands visible. Do not reach for anything. This helps increase an officer’s confidence and sense of safety.
- If requested, provide the officer your driver’s license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance. Inform the officer where you keep these items and confirm you intend to reach for those items. Once the officer confirms he or she knows your intent, then you can safely retrieve the items. Immediately place your hands back on the steering wheel once you have handed your information to the officer.
- Relax and remain calm.
- Once you are free to leave, check for traffic before pulling back onto the road.
When an officer can search your vehicle:
- You have given the officer consent.
- The officer has probable cause to believe there is evidence of a crime in your vehicle.
- The officer reasonably believes a wingspan search is necessary for their protection (hidden weapons).
- Your vehicle is being inventoried before impound due to an arrest.
COMMON REASONS FOR PEDESTRIAN STOPS
- Walking in the vicinity of a recent crime.
- Similar or identical clothing as that of someone suspected of a crime or similar physical description of a suspect.
- Officers may think you need assistance.
- Someone might have called the police complaining you were acting in a suspicious manner.
- You may be acting in a manner deemed suspicious by a civilian or an officer.
- An officer might want to warn you about a potentially dangerous situation.
What to do if you’re stopped by an officer:
- Do not run.
- Take your hands out of your pockets and keep them out in their view.
- If you have a concealed carry weapon permit and are carrying a firearm, inform the officer immediately. Do not reach for it, wait for instructions from the officer.
- Follow all officer instructions.
- If the officer plans a pat-down, inform him or her of any weapons or sharp and don’t reach for them.
- Be completely honest and answer the officer’s questions to the best of your ability.
- Don’t get in the way if an officer is taking someone you are with into custody because you could be arrested for interfering.
- Do not lie to an officer about your identity, as that is also a crime.
WHO TO CONTACT: COMPLIMENTS/COMPLAINTS
If you would like to thank an officer for his or her assistance, or if you feel an officer has exceeded his or her authority, you may request to speak to a supervisor by calling 256-722-7100. Each officer is required to provide a name and employee number. Formal complaints can also be filed with Internal Affairs.