Pulled Over: Know your rights

Pulled Over: Know your rights

(WTOL) - The videos are hard to watch—Traffic stops gone bad.

The dramatic and sometimes violent encounters between police and citizens have become a hot topic across the country.

Some have prompted mass protests and a push for policy change and training.

"These interactions have been taking place for many years—we just didn't have the technology to document that," said Shakyra Diaz, policy manager with the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU).

On July 19, 2015, 43-year-old Samuel DuBose was pulled over by a University of Cincinnati police officer for a traffic stop in Cincinnati.

Minutes later, DuBose is shot in the head. The officer involved was charged with murder.

A month earlier, 30-year-old Jeremy Linhart was shot and killed by a police officer in Findlay after some sort of struggle during a traffic stop.

There was no proof of what happened because the department isn't equipped with dash or body cameras for officers.

A grand Jury decided not to indict the officers involved.

But incidents like those keep happening across the state, prompting Governor Kasich to assemble an advisory board to look into the issues.

"I think there is a great need for additional training for police officers," said Oregon Police Chief Mike Navarre. "I think other states have taken that initiative and are way ahead of the State of Ohio."

Currently, the advisory board has no way to force departments across the state to adhere to their recommendations, which some people say defeats its purpose.  

"You can talk about inequality or constitutionality, but if you're not really prioritizing that, by funding it to ensure it, then it's not going to happen," said Diaz.

According to attorneys, in order for an officer to pull someone over, he or she must have probable cause or a legal reason. If not, that's a violation of rights.

"You have the first amendment right to film. You have the fourth amendment right to be protected from excessive force by the police. So there are many rights a person has under our constitution," said lawyer Thomas A. Sobecki.

Sobecki has represented many clients who have filed suits against local police department. He says the number of claims against officers have increased over recent years, mainly because many of the encounters are now caught on camera.

"There is an old saying—a camera speaks a thousand words," said Sobecki.

Despite that, Sobecki says people should always get out of the car when asked by an officer because it's an indication of a probable cause.

The law for searching your car however, gets a bit complicated and usually requires a warrant or permission.

Sobecki says even if a person feels like an officer is violating his or her rights, they should cooperate.

"Do not be confrontational at that time," said Sobecki. "You can always bring up a claim later, but as it is happening, I don't think it is a good idea to be confrontational because that can make a bad thing… And someone may get hurt."

In Toledo, officers train year-round on both lethal and non-lethal methods used during different scenarios.

But anytime officers know a person is going to hurt them or someone else, they can use deadly force.

"And that can happen really, really quick," said Russel Burk, training officer with the Toledo Police Department. "It's always an unknown going into a traffic stop. We've got a lot of bad guys now that are waiting on the officer and coming out with a firearm."

The department hopes their rigorous training will keep officers safe and help rebuild relations with the community.

If you feel your constitutional rights have been violated, legal experts say you should get the officer's name and badge number and file a complaint with the police department.

Do you know your rights? Check out these easy-to-use resources, so you can have your rights at your fingertips.

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