Paterson Police Department – Police Encounter Questions

Police Experience Questions (FAQ)

Every day officers in the Paterson Police Department (PPD) and members of the community interact with each other during their daily lives.  The mission of the Paterson Police Department is to protect life, maintain order, impartially enforce the law, and reduce fear while partnering with the community to improve the quality of life for all.  The PPD strives for every interaction between officers and community members to be safe.  We have put together a list of topics that we hope will help explain the rights and expectations of community members and police during their interactions with each other.  While we hope this information is helpful, it should not be taken for legal advice and you are always free to consult a lawyer with questions.

1. Are the police allowed to stop me?

Yes,  when a police officer reasonably suspects that a person has committed, is committing, or is about to commit a crime the police are permitted to stop you and ask you questions.  The police may be investigating a crime, a citizen complaint in the neighborhood, a call reporting a suspicious person, the report of a crime or the report of some other suspicious activity.

2. When interacting with a police officer, can I ask for an officer’s name and identification number?

Yes, you may ask for this information.  You may also request a Police Contact Card or business card from any Paterson Police Department officer or supervisor.  If an officer is unable to provide one, they must provide all relevant identifying information such as name and badge number.

3. Can I request that a supervisor come to the scene when I am interacting with an officer?

Yes.  Any person can ask for a supervisor to come to the scene.  Due to the number of officers on duty and their assignments, a supervisor may not be immediately available.  You should follow the instructions of the officer present at the scene and follow up with their supervisor with any concerns.  You can ask for and they must provide you with their supervisor’s name so you can follow up.

4. Am I allowed to film a police interaction?

Yes, you are allowed to film a police interaction as long the filming does not interfere with a police operation. AG Directive 2021-11 It is strongly advised that you remain a safe distance away from any emergency police activity.

5. Will there be a police recording of my interactions with police?

Every Paterson police officer has been issued a body worn camera (BWC) to wear during their police duties.  Most police interactions with the public will be captured on the BWC, however there are situations where officers may not be required to wear a BWC or a BWC may not record an event based on user or mechanical error. AG Directive 2022-01

6. Can I request records of my interactions with police?

Yes.  You can submit a request for records here or here.  Requests will be reviewed to determine what if any records can go out, and if any information needs to be redacted (for instance, a social security number, or medical information, or the name of a juvenile).

7. How do I file a complaint about an officer?

You can learn more about filing an internal affairs complaint with Paterson Police Department’s Office of Professional Standards here.

8. How do I submit a commendation or let the Police Department know I think an officer did a good job?

We are always happy to hear about positive experiences with our officers.  You can submit a commendation or positive feedback here.

9. What happens when a police officer approaches me out in public?

The police officer might ask you very simple questions such as asking for your name, where you live, and whether you have any identification.  A police officer should only ask for your ID or your name when they are conducting an investigation or issuing you a summons.  When speaking with an officer:

  • Stay calm
  • Don’t argue with the police officer—the street is not the place for a dispute, you can file a complaint later
  • Don’t touch a police officer
  • Don’t run from a police officer
  • Keep your hands where officers can see them
  • Don’t resist or fight with a police officer even if you believe you are innocent
  • Don’t interfere with a police operation
10. What can I ask the police if I am stopped by an officer on the street?
  • You can ask the police officer if you are free to leave. If you are free to leave and choose to leave, you should walk away calmly.
  • You can ask the police officer if you are under arrest. If you are, you have a right to know why.
11. Can the police search me if I am stopped on the street?
  • Police may “pat down” or “frisk” your outer clothing if they suspect you are carrying a concealed weapon.
  • Police may not search you, your pockets, or your bags, unless they have probable cause to believe they will find evidence of a crime or you are under arrest.
12. When can a police officer stop my car?

A police officer can pull you over for a motor vehicle offense or if they have probable cause to believe you committed a crime.

13. What should I do when an officer pulls me over?
  • As soon as you hear or see the officer’s signal to pull over, pull over in a safe place.
  • Turn down your music.
  • If you are stopped at night, turn on your interior lights to increase the visibility inside your car so the officer will be less concerned about what they can or cannot see.
  • Roll down your driver’s side window. Roll down any other windows that are tinted to increase visibility inside the car.
  • Comply with the officer’s instructions.
  • Provide your driver’s license, registration and insurance card upon request to the officer. A driver must provide these credentials.
  • Tell the officer if you need to reach for documents.
  • Keep your hands visible, preferably on the steering wheel.
14. Do I have to answer any questions after giving the officer the necessary credentials during a motor vehicle stop?

No.  Drivers and passengers do not have to answer any additional questions once proper documentation has been provided to the police officer.  However, drivers and occupants of the vehicle are still required to follow the officer’s instructions.

15. Can I ask the officer why they stopped me?

Yes.  Usually when an officer approaches a vehicle, they will immediately request your driving credentials. You should provide them with this information first and then you are free to ask about why you were stopped if the officer has not already told you.

16. Is the officer allowed to instruct me to get out of the car I am driving?

Yes.  Officers may ask drivers to exit the vehicle for any reason. They may ask passengers to get out of the vehicle in certain circumstances. If drivers or passengers do not follow instructions to exit, police may use reasonable force to remove them from the vehicle.

File a Complaint

Please use the forms below to file a complaint with the Paterson Police Department.

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