INTERACTING WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT: Information Sharing to Protect Everyone
Every law enforcement officer takes an oath of office swearing to uphold the law and serve the population they are charged with protecting. Sometimes protecting and serving citizens involves enforcing laws, such as traffic laws, that are designed to keep all citizens safe. Sometimes this involves interviewing witnesses, suspects, victims and other parties involved in an incident. Other times this involves issuing citations to violators or arresting suspects.
For those unfamiliar with law enforcement training, court procedures, or the law these events can be confusing or in some cases even frightening. Officers of the Carrboro Police Department are aware that not everyone is as familiar as they are with the workings of the Criminal Justice system. It is equally as important that citizens interacting with law enforcement officers in an official capacity understand the unique and sometimes dangerous situations officers are presented with.
GENERAL TIPS FOR INTERACTING WITH LAW ENFORCEMENT
Regardless of why you are speaking with a law enforcement officer, the tips listed below will help ensure that the interaction is polite, courteous and professional.
The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have done to you.
As a general rule, it's always best to be polite and courteous to others as you conduct your daily business. While officers will always be expected to stay polite and professional, this simple step will help ensure that interactions with law enforcement officials remain cordial. Everyone likes to be treated with respect and dignity; a police officer is no different. In return, you should expect polite and courteous officers who may be firm but fair. While it is not illegal to be rude or discourteous, doing so will both complicate the situation and could potentially lengthen the time of any detention (such as a traffic stop, contact with a reported suspicious person, etc.).
Do not interfere with law enforcement while they are carrying out official duties.
If you observe a law enforcement officer with a motor vehicle stopped or a pair of officers interviewing a subject on a sidewalk in front of a business, those officers are actively carrying out official duties. Unless you have an emergency situation, have just witnessed a crime or have additional information on the incident that has resulted in 911 being called, those officers should not be interrupted until those official duties have been concluded. Asking the officers involved questions about what has just transpired slows down their investigation, lengthens the detention of any subject they are out with and distracts them from providing quality service to victims and witnesses of crimes.
If you wish to photograph or film law enforcement officers conducting their business in a public place, you are certainly allowed to. You must, however, take care not to interfere with an active investigation or official duties. If you wish to film, you must do so from a safe spot, at an appropriate distance from the incident and you should not expect an officer to spend any time responding to questions or comments. If an officer tells you that you are too close to them, then you are too close.
Do not lie or give false information to a law enforcement officer.
It is a crime in the state of North Carolina to give false information to a law enforcement officer (G.S. 14-225 - False reports to law enforcement agency or officers). It is also a crime in the state of North Carolina for a person to willfully resist an officer attempting to discharge a duty of their office (G.S. 14-223 - Resist/Delay/Obstruct a public officer).
The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects you from self-incrimination; it does NOT give you the right to lie or deceive law enforcement officers. Regardless of the initial reason for the stop, giving false information to an officer is sure to complicate the situation.
Arguments are for the court room, not for the field.
It is very important to remember that the correct venue for arguing about a criminal charge, for example, is not on the side of the road with the officer issuing a citation. The correct place to argue this citation is in a court room on your court date. You may not agree with the charges against you but you may also not resist a lawful order from an officer. If, for example, an officer informs you that you have a warrant for your arrest, you MUST follow the directions of that officer. If the officer informs you that you are under arrest for a particular crime, you MUST follow the directions of that officer.
It is important to remember that the officers you meet more than likely do not know you, do not know your motivations or your intentions. Compliance with lawful orders is key in these situations.
If you feel you were not treated fairly, you may file a complaint.
The Carrboro Police Department strives to provide professional, courteous service to residents of and visitors to the Town of Carrboro. If you feel that you were treated unfairly during an interaction with a Carrboro Police Officer, you may file a complaint.
Full information on the complaint process is available.
If you wish to file a complaint online you may do so using the above link. You may also request to speak to the officer's immediate supervisor while on scene or at a later time. Alternatively, you may come to the Carrboro Police Department and fill out a complaint form. It is important to lodge a complaint as soon as is practicable to ensure a thorough investigation. The more time that passes between an incident and a complaint, the harder it is to properly investigate the complaint.
If you wish to file a complaint, you will need the following information:
- Your name, date of birth, address and phone number.
- The date, time and location of the incident.
- The officer's name; if you do not know the name of the officer, a description of the officer will suffice in most cases.
- Specific actions by the officer that lead you to file this complaint.
If you request it, officers are required to give their name, the name of their immediate supervisor and a phone number to reach that supervisor at. Carrboro Police Officers DO NOT have badge numbers. Carrboro Police vehicle numbers change depending on that officer's assignment, vehicle repair schedules and other factors.