Welcome to all incoming students, and welcome back to all of our returning students. Classes resume on Tuesday, January 21.

Stopped by an Officer

The Department of Public Safety is providing this tip to help you better understand what to expect from Public Safety Officers if you are stopped and /or questioned.

While there are no specific guidelines for citizens in handling contacts with Law Enforcement, the following advice is beneficial. Some of the goals of the Department of Public Safety are to improve Public Safety-community relations and to have contacts and interviews resolved without unnecessary conflict or injury to either the officer or the citizen. This information will hopefully help to minimize your stress and anxiety during your contact with the officer and at the same time give you some insight into the concerns and procedures of the officers.

In ALL Encounters with Public Safety

Avoid making sudden movements (for your wallet, into your coat, pants pocket, toward your waist band, etc.) until you have informed the officer of your intention to do so and the officer has said it is permissible.

Do not carry weapons (real or otherwise) or even joke about having a weapon on your person.

Do not touch the officer or violate his or her "personal safety zone" (6-8 feet).

Remain calm and avoid being argumentative. (If you are uncooperative and refuse to answer reasonable questions, the officer is likely to become more suspicious and the encounter will probably will last much longer than necessary.)

Comply first, then you may seek an explanation from the officer or the officer's supervisor later.

If you are stopped in your vehicle

If you are stopped on the street

Don't Be Offended

Most citizens already realize that law enforcement is a difficult and dangerous profession. Hundreds of law enforcement officers are killed each year, and thousands more are injured or assaulted. For these reasons, officers tend to be extremely cautious. They place a great deal of emphasis on officer safety and survival. Certain safety practices are instilled in our officers from the first day of their careers. Although the procedures maximize safety for the officer, they may seem standoffish, impolite or offensive to citizens who may not consider such precautions necessary with "them". Even though you have no intention of doing the officer harm, he or she will probably maintain a defensive posture until the officer feels that there is no risk of confrontation or injury. As far as officers are concerned, there is no such thing as a "routine" traffic stop. Every stop has the potential for danger.

Summary

There are times when citizens who have contact with public safety come away with feelings of frustration and dissatisfaction. The St Mary's College of Maryland Department of Public Safety does not condone officer misconduct of any type. In our experience, we have learned that those negative feelings are often the result of not knowing the reason(s) an officer has made certain requests or acted in a certain manner. Unfortunately, demands on a patrol officer do not always permit time for explanations at the time you are stopped.  Hopefully, the information presented here will give you an understanding of Public Safety procedures and let you know what to expect from an officer if you are stopped