Did this police officer overreact? Should I file a complaint?

After I got off work on payday I went by my bank to deposit my paycheck. Just up the street only one block from the bank happens to be my local University's baseball field. Since I was in the area already I decided to go see if there was ticket info and see what I could see of the field and stadium. They are a top ranked college team and a game there would be just as good if not better than most minor league games. The time was just about midnight because I get off work around that time. So I drove the one block distance, parked my car and walked up to the gates/ticket office to see about prices. Then I took a quick walk around the stadium on the public sidewalk, I then cut across the parking area behind the stadium, and came up the other side back towards my car down a paved walking path between an apartment complex and the stadium, pausing only for about two minutes to take a look at the batting cages area. I was in the area for 4 or 5 minutes at the most.

At some point a security guard spotted me crossing the parking lot and called the police right away without even attempting to speak to me or approach me or see what I was doing. The police did arrive VERY fast for a call placed only minutes before but I am aware on no evidence that turned up that anyone else was around the area right before me. I at least didn't see anyone, but nor was I looking.

When the first officer drove up on the area I was already completely on public property and walking on the sidewalk towards my car. The offer made a U-turn and stopped behind me with his lights off about 200' back. Within the next 30 seconds I saw two other patrol cars arriving from different directions and set up so if I was a criminal and ran, I'd be forced to run past them to get away.

At this point the first officer drove up quickly without flashing lights, but put his spotlight on me. In addition the area was not dark and shadowy, but actually very brightly lit with over abundant streetlamps. He emerged from his vehicle with his gun drawn despite the fact my hands were empty and plainly visible. He order me to the ground. I complied right away. He then ordered me to put my hands behind my back. I complied. He then walked over, put his boot on my back, pinned me down and cuffed me. The thought going through my head was, I hope I don't get shot in the back like that kid on the BART platform last year. I spent the next hour on the curb, shivering because they unzipped my jacket but would not re-zip me up or remove the cuffs for me to do so, while they "investigated". I found out while I was cuffed that the reason they arrived was that the security guard called in someone suspected of prowling (only a misdemeanor if actually guilty by the way).

Considering, the worst I may have been guilty of was unintentionally committing a misdemeanor, and that was all the cops had been called about. No officer actually personally observed me committing any crime, they only had the report of another private citizen and I assume a rough description. Did the police overreact, and violate my 4th admentment rights by detaining me in handcuffs without cause? I immediately explained my business there, and as the university team does sell tickets to the general public, I don't think any hour of the day is completely unreasonable to stop by a baseball field where the general public is welcomed to come to these games to gather some information.

I was not in a residential neighborhood, or lurking around a business park after hours or someplace where I would have no business. Also, the officer never even questioned me at all to see if I was perhaps a university student out taking a walk, or looking for my lost dog, or perhaps even looking for a lost cell phone I thought may have dropped out of my pocket in the parking lot area sometime earlier, or any other number of completely legitimate reasons to be walking in the area.

Yes, I agree they had the right to, and should have questioned me. In hindsight I understand how I would have looked suspicious to the security guard. The problem is, when you are not breaking a law, and have no intention of breaking a law, and are just minding your own business, you aren't thinking you are doing anything suspicious, but to pin me down with gun drawn and cuff me for a hour, over SUSPICION of a misdemeanor?!? This seems like not only a waste of my time, but a waste of police resources and an officer that oversteps his authority. Should I file a complaint? Call City Hall? What would you do?


Thanks J for contributing the reactionary police opinion.

The baseball field at this university is on the other side of the main six lane road from the university, so while I crossed land that belonged to the university, I was not actually on the university where classes are held, etc. Right next to the stadium is a shopping center, the far end of it where my bank is, and next to that is a train station where trains still arrive up until past midnight. Just a few blocks past the stadium is a large 24hr grocery store. And next to the stadium is an apartment complex, where I could have lived for all anyone knew. At midnight I could have many reasons to be in the area, and for the same reason I would be there at 5:00pm too. There is no curfew against adults being out at this hou

As I mentioned, the area was very brightly lit. Spotlight, or not it was quite easy to see the officer had drawn his sidearm.


Update 2:

Update: I called the police dept today and requested an interview as was suggested. A few hours later a detective called me and said she had reviewed the incident report and asked if I'd like to make any further statements to her. I simply asked why I was treated as if I had just committed a serious felony when in fact officers has seen me do nothing illegal, and the only report was that someone was "acting suspicious".

She explained to me that that apt. complex is actually student housing (It looked like a regular apt building to me, not dorms. I never saw any signs marking it as student housing, but once again, I wasn't there to check out the apts, and I never entered them, I just walked along side them on a paved path that circles around the right field fence to the parking lot at the stadium.) That housing unit allegedly has problems with people prowling around, and/or selling drugs after dark a lot.

Continued in following "update"

Update 3:

I was also told that the dispatcher asked the person who called if whom they saw acting suspicious appeared to have a weapon, and the caller replied "I think so."

That would explain the hub-bub I guess. After the detective told me that remembered that after the cuffs were on me the detaining officer said, (I'm paraphrasing as I don't have a recording) "I'm not going through your pockets, I'm just going to pat you down to make sure you don't have any weapons. Am I going to find anything, or do you have any needles on you that are going to stick me?" I said no, and then right after that, another officer that was behind me and just walking over asked, "Does he have any weapons on him?"

So I believe the police were told bad info by the security guard for whatever reason. I told the detective I did not want to make any further statements or a complaint except what I think that apt complex has a problem with mostly seems to be a paranoid and incompetent security guard.

Update 4:

Grumpy: I was in the cuffs for actually around 50 minutes to an hour. So not over an hour, but I still fell that 50 minutes was too long given the evidence and circumstances.

Update 5:

J: You are right I could have just committed a bulglary, or a murder, or planted a bomb, or raped a little old lady, or anything else you can imagine. If it was reasonable to think that anyone simply out after midnight was committing these acts our society would look more like a Mad Max movie. The facts would only lead a reasonable person to suspect I might have been prowling. I also think that would be reasonable to warrant some questioning and for the police to look around the area. You are also right that I could have been looking for a rape victim, that is against the law. it's called, "prowling". It is a misdemeanor and an officer has to personally observe someone doing it to warrant an arrest. When the officer stepped out of his vehicle with his firearm in hand, and detained me in cuffs for almost an hour, all that they had was an opinion that I was "suspicious".

Update 6:

And in closing, I really don't care how many "suspicious" people they have to deal with. I agree it gives them the right to question me and I don't have any problem with that, but being suspicious is not actually against the law, nor is having a lapse of common sense and no one should have to be intimidated with a drawn firearm, pinned to the ground and then forcibly detained for 50 minutes for these things.

7 Answers

  • jack w
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Terry v. Ohio gives the officer the right to check you for his and your safety under suspicious circumstances.. An "investigative stop" or the equal in your state allows to officer to detain you for a period of time - again, you state law will apply - to determine why you're there. Without knowing the "history" of the area, is there lots of vandalism, assaults, thefts, etc. its difficult to speculate.

    The officer pulling his firearm seems to be an over reaction. There seems little evidence, as described by you, for the officer to elevate the situation by presenting a firearm into the equation.

    He should have to justify his actions.

    Contact the Chief of Police and request an interview.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Sounds like you were guilty of loitering and prowling, or whatever your state calls it. Your actions might have been normal for a reasonable law abiding citizen at say 5 o'clock in the evening, but at midnight??? You incorrectly say "the worst I may have been guilty of was unintentionally committing a misdemeanor". The worst you could reasonably expected to have been doing there at that time of night would be felony burglary, or considering you were on a university campus it would not be at all unreasonable to suspect that you might be skulking around looking for a rape victim. NUMEROUS case law allows the police to investigate suspicious activity based on a reasonable suspicion. ANYONE, much less a trained police officer, should have been suspicious of what you were doing. The requirements for an officer to draw his firearm are that, he needs to feel that he needs to. If I was confronting a suspicious guy at midnight I would have mine out too. I kind of wonder though how truthful you're being. Since if as you say you had a spotlight in your eyes there is literally NO WAY you'd be able to see through the light to see if the officer had his gun out or not. No, you shouldn't file a complaint since you don't have a valid complaint. You should exercise more sound judgement in the future and maybe you won't find yourself in a similar situation.

    In most states everything within a very wide distance, 600 yards in my state, of any university property is on the university. So yes you were ON the university. There's no fixing stupid.

    Source(s): Common sense
  • Mary C
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Here's the thing...I have had several run-ins with the police that were very much like yours. I would bet all that I own that within 90 seconds after confronting you, the police knew that they had a non-criminal. I don't know why they have to go through the whole drill like they did with you!

    Years ago, my first bad experience with the police was when they broke into my home at about 2:00 AM. They had the right address and street, but my house was North and the house they wanted was South -- about 20 miles from me! Within seconds, they knew they were in the wrong house! The target house was lived in by a gang who sold drugs. In my house were me, my husband, three pre-teen kids, and an elderly houseguest!. Although the police knew they were in the wrong house; and we knew that they knew; and they knew that we knew that they knew; they still tore the place apart! They tore the house apart and shot our dog -- who fortunately survived the onslaught!

    Afterward, we went to the best attorney in the city regarding a lawsuit. This was his advice:

    "1. I can win this lawsuit and get you a lot of money.

    2. You will have to move to another state or else you and your family will be the target of every police officer on the force forevermore!

    If you are willing to do #2, I can do #1."

    We weren't willing to leave, so we just let it go. And we all took away a lesson from this -- The police are NOT your friends!

    But frankly, I would think that the school would owe you a couple of season tickets for their games since their security guard was the start of the whole situation!

    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    From what you have given us as in INFO. Yes I do have to say that the officer OVER re-acted. And to have kept you in cuffs for an hour or more. YES. But I am NOT familiar with the area you were in as in if it is a high crime area or drugs things to this nature. BUT once the officer did a pat down and found NO weapons and since you were co-operating then I myself believe the cuffs should have been REMOVED. Yes you can file a complaint with the Chief of Police and or city hall. BUT before you file a complaint, I would try to get a copy of the police report or incident report. ONE should have been filed since you were cuffed and detained for such a length of time. If NO report was filed then you have more than justified grounds to file a complaint or more.

    Source(s): Retired coppa
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  • 1 decade ago

    IF you go into an area that is policed and they do pick you up - you have to obey them - OR FACE THE consequences this is the thing about RULES AND not breaking actual laws - IF SOMEONE INFORMS ON you incorrectly then you could be picked up by the police officers that they have lied to - it has happened - it happened to me and I was very much teh worse for wear and could have sued - SEE AN ATTORNEY AND find out from him what the rights are and if they are in the wrong then send them a lawyers letter - OR SUE - if not then there is not much that you could do - MISUNDERSTANDINGS DO HAPPEN THERE is always a chance that someone who is innocent of wrongdoing gets picked up ---

    Source(s): SIMONE OZBOLT 360
  • 5 years ago

    The officer should have taken a report. He was wrong. But, beside making a report, there is not much he can do for a fight that did not occur in his presence. She got beaten by an onlooker, and no doubt her version of the story will be very different.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Over reaction. They do not have the right to order you to the ground or make you bow before them! American common law predates the Constitution! We are not required to bow before King nor Man. Agreed to by all the founding fathers. Upheld by the Supreme court. How they get away with this is beyond me?

    Source(s): American History Have we forgot the lesons of our fore Fathers
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