What Should I Do If I'm Being Stopped by a Police Officer
Students often make a difficult situation even worse by responding inappropriately when confronted by a law enforcement officer. We want to help you understand what to do when stopped by the police in an effort to help them reduce potential problems. At some point in your FMU career, you may be stopped and questioned by a police officer, either on campus or off. This could happen for a variety of reasons:
- the person may have committed a traffic violation
- the person or the vehicle may fit the description of a crime suspect
- the person might appear to be in trouble or need some type of assistance
- the person may have witnessed a crime or may be in an area of risk due to a crime or emergency
- Another citizen may have made a complaint against you and the officer is trying to determine if the complaint has merit
- The officer may be stopping you for Campus access control reasons
It is natural for students and others to feel confused, anxious, or even a bit angry if they are confronted by police. Law enforcement officers may be anxious as well, as they never know when a “routine” matter can get out of hand or create a risky situation, particularly after dark. The best advice for students in this situation is to cooperate fully with police. Law enforcement officials suggest the following things for people to try to remember when stopped by police:
- if driving and you see the overhead red and blue lights and/or hear the siren, stay calm and pull over to the side of the road
- remain in the vehicle unless asked to exit by the officer
- avoid sudden movements and keep hands visible
- encourage any passengers to remain calm and cooperative
- avoid being argumentative or confrontational— if you want to fight a ticket, do it in court
- be honest in your responses
- remember that many departments have one-person patrol cars, so it is not out of the ordinary to have two or more police cars on a site at a time
- In all cases, if an officer asks you to identify yourself, you are not required by law to do so. However your cooperation will speed the process of the encounter.
If you are a student, you are required by FMU policy to carry at all times and present your FMU Identification Card to any University Official upon request. University officials include FMU police officers. You can locate the policy in the Student Handbook under FMU (ID) Card Services.
If the officer is investigating a crime or complaint, they may also ask reasonable questions to help them determine whether a crime has occurred or a complaint is valid. We encourage you to do your best to answer the questions the officer poses. Refusal to answer questions may prevent an officer from clearing you of suspicion and can lead to your arrest.
Ordinarily, a police officer may not detain you for more than a reasonable length of time. There are exceptions however, which would occur under very unusual circumstances such as public disorders or other large-scale emergencies.
If an officer asks to take you somewhere else, you may ask if you are being placed under arrest. If you are not under arrest, the officer should explain why he or she feels you need to be moved. You may refuse to go, but this may lead to an arrest or an additional charge based on the specific circumstances. If you are placed under arrest the officer must tell you with what crime you are charged.
If during any encounter with a FMU Police Officer, you feel the officer has acted unprofessionally or treated you rudely, you may file a complaint at the Campus Police Office Monday through Friday during normal business hours. Please ask to speak to Chief Austin or Captain Glenn.
On the other hand, if you have observed an officer act in an exceptionally professional and admirable manner and you would like that officer to receive public and professional recognition, please contact Chief Austin or Captain Glenn in person or by phone. We appreciate positive as well as negative feedback.
If you wish to write us, please do so at:
Francis Marion University Police
PO Box 100547
Florence, SC 29501 - 0547
Note: The contents of this page are intended to provide useful information to the general public. It should not be construed as legal advice or counsel. Given the circumstances of the situation, you may wish to consult an attorney who may advise you of your specific legal rights and options.