General Question

JackAdams's avatar

What is the procedure to use, when a private citizen places a sworn peace officer under "citizen's arrest"?

Asked by JackAdams (6492points) August 20th, 2008

If a citizen sees another citizen doing an illegal act, s/he can place that person under “citizen’s arrest.” But suppose the person committing the unlawful act is a sworn peace officer. How would you go about arresting him or her? This question is prompted by a real-life incident where the off-duty cop was driving drunk.

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56 Answers

gooch's avatar

Wow thats a great question. If you call the news media first then the cops they will have to do something about it. If you dont get media help it will more than likly end up in the off duty officer being brought home by the on duty officer.

PS Welcome to Fluther

JackAdams's avatar

@gooch: Thanks for the welcome.

Poser's avatar

I’ve wondered the same thing when I see cops flying down the road at twenty or thirty mph over the speed limit with no lights or sirens going. I’ve always wanted to follow them at the same speed and see if I get pulled over.

jca's avatar

if i were committing a crime and someone told me “stop, citizen’s arrest” i’d tell them “get the f out of here.”

buster's avatar

Use a taser first ask questions later.

scamp's avatar

I feel the same as Poser about this. I’m following this question to see what you find out.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@poser and scamp Cops sometimes drive fast because they’re on the way to some sort of domestic disturbance. If they go in all blazing and lights on, the people who are having the disturbance will see them coming and flee, and nothing will get accomplished.

Don’t follow them, you’ll probably just get in trouble =)

Poser's avatar

@Random—While that may be true, there is an inherent danger to driving so fast with no warning at all. Isn’t that why we have speed limits and lights/sirens on emergency vehicles to begin with? Further, I doubt “perps” will hear them coming all the way out on the freeway. Can’t hear flashing lights anyway.

Another pet peeve—ever see a cop turn on his lights/sirens to go through a red light, then immediately turn them off once they’re through?

lefteh's avatar

Citizen’s arrest laws vary from state to state. Many states place a large amount of authority in its citizens; some do not. North Carolina does not even allow citizen arrests, while Kentucky allows its citizens to use deadly force in the process.

That being said, every state except North Carolina allows citizen’s arrest in the presence of a felony. Some states also allow it if the felony was not actually witnessed. Some even allow it for misdemeanors.

Now, on to your question. How would one place an on-duty police officer under citizen’s arrest? The answer is simple: one does not. Citizen’s arrest is designed to aid the police force in capturing a criminal. It is not designed to be used against them. As far as being off-duty, my conclusion is this: the law gets murkier, but you still don’t want to be doing it. A police officer is a sworn officer of the state even when off-duty. As I said before, citizen’s arrest is designed to assist these sworn officers. Furthermore, citizen arrests are not protected like arrests by sworn officers are. You could answer to civil or criminal lawsuits. If you know that the person is a police officer, you don’t want to put your hands on him or her.

@Poser: That should not be a pet peeve of yours. That is how they ensure that they do not kill you. It is not mandated that police officers use their sirens and lights while responding to an emergency. It is a matter of judgment. As RandomMrDan brought up, there are many situations where the police will decide against using their lights by reason of a covert approach. There are also times where they simply do not feel that it is necessary to have their sirens and lights on; the noise and visual effect causes a mass disturbance on the street, and sometimes it is simply not worth that risk. When they are responding with their sirens and lights off and come across a stop sign or red light, however, you can bet your first-born that they will flip that switch.

Poser's avatar

@lefteh—Perhaps, but I’m talking about using their position as police officers to do what would otherwise be breaking the law—i.e. running red lights when not responding to calls.

marinelife's avatar

@Poser Police officers receive special driver’s training. You do not have the information they have about where they are going and what procedures they are following. You are making judgments with insufficient data and assumptions.

A citizen’s arrest is something that should be done as a last resort. Especially in this day and age of nutcases and handguns, it would not usually make sense.

In the case of a police officer off duty that you observe doing something illegal, why not in this age of cell phones, simply call the police and make a report? That’s what they are for.

scamp's avatar

Special driving training or not, it is illegal for them to go over the speed limit when not on an emergency just as it is for us. If the lights aren’t on, they are breaking the law. My brother in law is a cop.

Poser's avatar

I could take special driver’s training. It’d still be illegal (and dangerous) for me to run red lights or speed.

charliecompany34's avatar

you can simply call the local sheriff’s department or police department and report the officer with name, date and time of occurrence. you won’t be making the arrest, but you would be perfectly in order to notify his/her professional review board or internal affairs division. these police standards entities would follow up with an investigation and he/she would be dealt with from that angle. he/she could lose pay, days or even the job.

lefteh's avatar

Poser: How could you possibly know they were not responding?

scamp's avatar

Their lights aren’t just to look cool in parades. They are supposed to use them if the are going to exceed the speed limit and or/ run a light. It’s a warning system to avoid accidents and warn the innocent to get out of the way.

JackAdams's avatar

The laws of our country apply to everyone, I believe, except for sworn peace officers who are on duty and performing their jobs properly.

Buy the incident I mentioned was regarding an off-duty officer, who was supposedly going to drive drunk.

One misconception about cops, is that they are somehow above the law. They’re not. They have to obey the same laws that all of us must obey, unless they are performing their official duties.

You read all of the time aboout officers being fired and arrested, for doing “Rodney King-type” things.

Randy's avatar

Maybe it is just a perk of the job. Nothing in life is equal.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@poser You are making way too many assumptions of cops, and assume they are abusing their power as police…you are probably one of those…“I don’t like cops until I need a cop to help me out kind of person” I take it?

JackAdams's avatar

I once witnessed, in Houston, Texas, a cop speed through a busy intersection with lights and sirens going full blast, pull into a gas station, then quickly jump out of his squad car, to run into the Men’s Room.

I shudder to think what he would have done, had that restroom been “occupied.”

I do hope he made it in time…

Poser's avatar

@lefteh—Because he turned on his lights when the stoplight turned red, and turned them off once he was through the intersection. I’ve seen this many times.

@Random—Reread your post and see if you can spot the irony. I have the utmost respect for the difficult job that police officers have. But I have no respect for people who take advantage of the trust placed in them. Cops should hold themselves to a higher standard of behavior. If they don’t, society should. (Same goes for politicians and service members, btw).

JackAdams's avatar

Lights & Sirens (a “Code 3” response) is ideally supposed to be used, only so long as a life or death emergency actually exists.

It certainly isn’t supposed to be used to get through a red light at an intersection, nor to “make it” to a public restroom.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@poser you’re simply exaggerating. To see it happen once, or twice is one thing, but to say many times…come on? And then to assume each time they aren’t even on their way to something important is just ignorant.

Fact: you have NO idea what they are doing, and where they are going, unless you actually followed them to where they were headed. Not to mention anyone who claimed to see a cop speeding ( you probably didn’t have a radar gun, you didn’t pace them, and you don’t have aerial view with radar). Cops just don’t fly around as fast as they can for shit’s n giggles.

I can assume that a percentage of cops can and do abuse their powers. You can say the same about any job and what perks they may get with a job. But to just point a blind finger at every cop you see doing something like speeding, or going through an intersection and claim they are simply abusing their powers is ridiculous.

Poser's avatar

@random—Actually, two cops zoomed around me last night on the freeway, no lights or sirens. I pulled out behind the second one and I did pace them for a while. They were going about 60 in a construction zone where the speed limit was 45. Maybe they were responding to a call, but the point is that speed limits, sirens and flashing lights aren’t arbitrary things. They all are supposed to serve a purpose. I understand that sometimes cops have to get somewhere in a hurry, and the danger that comes with exceeding the speed limit is a necessary risk. That’s why their cars are equipped with lights and sirens—it’s an attempt to mitigate that risk.

JackAdams's avatar

There are some localities where it is forbidden for emergency response teams to exceed the posted speed limits, even if they are on a “Code 3,” response, due to successful lawsuits against certain governmental agencies for accidents that resulted, due to “excessive speed.”

I believe, if I am not mistaken, that Baltimore MD has just such a policy, and that it can only be circumvented, if the vehicle being pursued is moving in excess of the posted speed limits.

Perhaps someone in Baltimore can correct me, if I am in error.

lefteh's avatar

@Poser:

Because he turned on his lights when the stoplight turned red, and turned them off once he was through the intersection. I’ve seen this many times.

As I said earlier:
There are also times where they simply do not feel that it is necessary to have their sirens and lights on; the noise and visual effect causes a mass disturbance on the street, and sometimes it is simply not worth that risk. When they are responding with their sirens and lights off and come across a stop sign or red light, however, you can bet your first-born that they will flip that switch.

That is very common. They are most likely responding to a call without lights or siren, because they did not feel that it was necessary for the entire trip. However, when they have to run a red light, they’re definitely going to engage their warning signals.

RandomMrdan's avatar

@poser I know some construction zones at night don’t enforce the lower speed limit. And I know most people speed through those zones at night anyways because no one is out there working.

They don’t have to use their lights if they don’t need to, as mentioned earlier in this discussion, it can cause traffic problems when they turn on those lights and sirens…it isn’t always a necessity just to let everyone know they are responding somewhere. Just know that cops can and do respond to things every day, and they will exceed the speed limit if they need to.

By the way speeding at night with next to no traffic has a lot less risk than speeding during the day while traffic is higher. So as far as mitigating the risk by using lights at night…it probably has little to no effect. If there is a lot of traffic they probably would have used the lights to get people to move out of there way.

Randy's avatar

Maybe the ones who don’t use their lights and sirens just don’t like the blue or the noise. I know when I see the lights and hear the siren, I scream “oh F***! Not again! My license really is gonna get suspended!”.

Poser's avatar

If the call is not urgent enough to warrant speeding to get there, it isn’t urgent enough to risk the danger of running red lights, even with flashing lights and sirens.

If it is urgent enough to speed and run red lights, then flashing lights and sirens should be used to mitigate the risk involved with breaking the law.

If a cop can break the law without attempting to mitigate his risk, why must I then obey the speed limit? I mean, if it’s safe enough for them to do it without lights and sirens, then obviously speed limits aren’t really necessary, right?

In my small hometown, an officer was “responding” to a call, speeding along a dark road at night without flashing lights or sirens. He smashed into someone backing out of their driveway. That is the point of the lights and sirens on their cars. To warn the public when there is an emergency that requires a quick response. That’s why they’re called emergency vehicles.

lefteh's avatar

If the call is not urgent enough to warrant speeding to get there, it isn’t urgent enough to risk the danger of running red lights, even with flashing lights and sirens.
If it is urgent enough to speed and run red lights, then flashing lights and sirens should be used to mitigate the risk involved with breaking the law.

I’m sorry, but remind me where you went to police academy?
Not every cop is a donut-eating out-to-get-you power-abusing asshole. They know what they’re doing, and they have sworn their lives to protect you.

JackAdams's avatar

Not every cop is law-abiding and “decent,” either.

Otherwise, there wouldn’t be so many of them fired, every year.

They are just as flawed and imperfect, as the rest of society.

August 23, 2008, 9:46 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

What is your point?
Because they are not all perfect officers, we should not give a sworn peace officer the benefit of the doubt when running a red light with his lights and siren on?

RandomMrdan's avatar

I can and do break the speed limit…it’s a law to go the speed limit, but there are limitations…I treat it like a guideline. I always go 5 over the speed limit personally.

And like Lefteh said, he can break the law when necessary. They have sworn to protect us all. And as far as that cop running into someone backing out of a driveway. According to the law, that person who got hit was probably at fault for not yielding to oncoming traffic regardless of the speed the cop was traveling. Unless the cop had his headlights off or something crazy like that. Just like, if you rear end someone, unless under the craziest circumstances, the person who hit the rear bumper will be at fault.

And we all abide to the speed limit to a degree for the over all safety of everyone. And speed limits are necessary to keep people safe, (school zones, construction zones, residential areas, etc).

I’ve never been to a police academy, but I can almost guarantee that it isn’t absolutely necessary for a cop to use his lights and sirens for every incident he responds to.

jca's avatar

i’m sure cops have guidelines (as all civil service workers have guidelines for almost everything they do except maybe wiping their ass) about when and where lights and sirens are appropriate and when and where they’re not. if anybody knows a cop, perhaps they can ask him or her…...i am interested in the answer, so if anybody gets it can they please write it in here. (by the way, this is totally off the original question of “what is the procedure for citizen’s arrest?”)

lefteh's avatar

Here is a link explaining that it is up the individual officer’s discretion in Seattle. Same story in Wisconsin. I asked a friend of mine working at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office here in Columbus a few days ago because of this question. She told me the same thing — it is entirely up to the responding officer.

RandomMrdan's avatar

BOO YAAAAAA…..haha

Poser's avatar

I’m sure that’s a lot of comfort to the families of the victims who weren’t expecting that the car that hit them was actually a cop going well over the speed limit, using his “discretion.”

JackAdams's avatar

“Discretion” is responsible for many fatalities.

August 24, 2008, 2:11 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

Yes, and it’s responsible for significantly more saved lives.

JackAdams's avatar

MAYBE.

August 24, 2008, 2:47 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

Are you saying that you believe that police officers have killed more people while operating their motor vehicle than they have saved by using their squad car to get to the scene of a crime?

JackAdams's avatar

I am saying that, having worked WITH police officers since 1969, and having had relatives in that profession, I might know just a tiny bit more about it, than a high school student with ZERO experience (respectfully) as a sworn officer.

If any of my above words are offensive to anyone, I certainly apologize for them, as no insult was intended, and none should be inferred.

August 24, 2008, 3:37 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

This is not a pissing contest. Would you please answer my question?

JackAdams's avatar

I did.

August 24, 2008, 3:49 PM EDT

lefteh's avatar

Question: Are you saying that you believe that police officers have killed more people while operating their motor vehicle than they have saved by using their squad car to get to the scene of a crime?

Was that or was that not your intention when you said “maybe?”

JackAdams's avatar

Perhaps.

August 24, 2008, 3:52 PM EDT

JackAdams's avatar

Perhaps.

August 24, 2008, 3:54 PM EDT

RandomMrdan's avatar

Anyone who actually believe that police actually kill more people than they do good and help saves lives is just an idiot. plan and simple.

robmandu's avatar

< < couldn’t help by GA lefteh for using “squad car” in a sentence.

JackAdams's avatar

Most law enforcement officers are terrific people, and sincere about what they do.

But, as with any other profession, there are a few “bad apples,” and they need to be removed from the ranks of law enforcement, so they don’t taint the others.

I call your attention to a “DATELINE” (NBC-TV) episode of “To Catch A Predator,” where one of the guys who showed up at a “decoy” house (for sex with what he thought was a 15-year-old girl), turned out to be a sworn, off-duty law enforcement officer.

His colleagues were (rightfully) disgusted with him, as was I.

I hope he is now in prison, or at least, no longer any kind of “peace officer.”

I have nothing but contempt and hatred for those who abuse their authority over others, like that. It sickens me.

August 24, 2008, 7:35 PM EDT

RandomMrdan's avatar

@jackadams I think anyone would agree that someone who does something like that is clearly in the wrong. But we’re not talking about cops hooking up with little girls, in fact I’m sure someone from every respective career has probably done that…and they’re all in the wrong as well. But when you made a statement saying “MAYBE” to cops actually saving more lives than causing deaths….that is just dumb. Everyone knows the answer is, they have saved more.

LKidKyle1985's avatar

yeah, why don’t you man up jack. sounds like you have been going out on the limb to villify officers who are just trying to do their job and are clearly within their granted authority to blow through a light or speed. I mean speeding is inevitable, we all speed, and Yes cops do get speeding tickets, just not when they are on duty. and they don’t get it when they are on duty because they have a job to do. In most places officers are not required to use their sirens to respond to a call that requires them to speed. So just because you got this idea in your head that they do, and are assholes if they don’t is rediculous. Get over yourself. And no, cops do not kill more people than they save.

JackAdams's avatar

I have never said, if you will review my posts carefully, that “cops kill more folks than they save.”

Because I have a few realtives that are/were cops, I may know a tiny bit more about them, than the average citizen who isn’t related to one.

As I’ve already opined, the overwhelming majority of peace officers in the USA are sincere and dedicated professionals, who are trying hard to do a honorable job, against incredible odds. But, there ARE notable exceptions.

In Denver, Colorado, you can’t legally carry a gun, if you have been convicted of beating your wife, so there are a couple of Denver cops who can’t carry a gun, just for that reason. I don’t know all of the complexities of that, at this moment, but one of my best friends in Denver is a retired DPD Detective, whom I have known since 1978; a period of 30 years.

It’s unfortunate that the cops who do a fantastic job and save a lot of lives, end up on page 15 of the local newspapers, while the ones who screw up, are videotaped beating a motorist, and are seen repeatedly on the 6 o’clock news, and on the front page of every publication in America.

People forget that 72 New York City police officers lost their lives on 9–1-1, trying to save the lives of the folks in the Twin Towers. Here’s a list of their names:

http://www.america911.com/911-police-angels.html

Another thing to be mentioned, regarding cops who drive with lights/sirens (“Code 3”), is that in many communities, they have to be authorized to do so, via their dispatcher, who will say on their radio, “Code 3 is authorized,” and there is a technical reason for that.

Should the officer be involved in a traffic accident while moving with “Code 3” authorization, their insurance will cover them. Without such authorization from their HQ dispatchers, the insurance carriers may try to avoid paying any claims. So, because all radio transmissions are tape recorded, the department has proof that the running of “Code 3” was done with authority and permission from the officer’s superiors.

Typically, a “Code 3” call is used when an officer is in pursuit of someone, or when the officer is rushing someplace in a “life or death” emergency.

I just reviewed every post I have made in this thread, and nowhere did I specifically state anything about peace officers doing more harm than good.

I am an admirer of law enforcement officers, and would never bad-mouth the majority of them.

But, as I have previously noted, there are a few exceptions known as “bad apples,” and police officers themselves, do not wish to work around them, because they give ALL peace officers a (collective) “black eye.”

Let’s honor and praise the good officers we have, while condemning those who are proven to abuse the power and authority we place in them.

August 25, 2008, 4:53 AM EDT

RandomMrdan's avatar

@jackadams what did you mean by “MAYBE” then? And then when asked initially you didn’t deny it. Perhaps you should review what you say on here before you click the “answer” button.

gooch's avatar

@jack remember the phrase “One bad apple…” really I can name a bad apple in any profession. Police officers are very public and subject to extra scrutney. Another phrase to use is “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater” What is your profession. I am sure I can name someone in it who is less than the model citizen. I too have worked with “law enforcment” for many years and learned not to judge the masses but the individual.

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