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Policing, Prisons, & Criminal Justice | Navigating Police Interactions | Connecticut

Connecticut Navigating Police Interactions Q&A

I am often told by police to “move along” from public areas. Is that legal?

Not necessarily. If the area is public and not posted as having particular hours, you generally have a right to be there as long as you are not engaged in unlawful activity. Public places belong to everyone, and are often also places of public accommodation subject to Connecticut’s non-discrimination law. Even if a police officer wants to deter crime, or suspects some kind of unlawful intent, they have no general right to request people to move from one place to another unless there is unlawful conduct (Kent v. Dulles, 357 U.S. 116, 126 (1958)).

What are the general rules about interaction with police?

The presence of individuals who appear to be LGBT – whether because such individuals are displaying symbols such as a rainbow flag or pink triangle or for any other reason – should not trigger any special scrutiny by a police officer.

Police may of course approach a person, and make inquiries.  But the fact that a person has been convicted of a past offense, or fails to respond, or responds in a way which does not satisfy the officer, cannot, without more, justify an arrest.

If an officer has a “reasonable and articulable suspicion” that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed, they may briefly detain an individual, or stop the person for purposes of investigation (State v. Anderson, 24 Conn. App. 438, 441, 589 A.2d 372, 373 (1991); Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 16 (1968)). However, an arrest can only occur upon “probable cause” that a crime has been committed.

 

What can I do if I believe I have been improperly treated by the police?

Complaints may be made to any individual police department for matters concerning its officers, and complaints to the Connecticut State Police may be made to Department of Public Safety, Attn: Legal Affairs Unit, 1111 Country Club Rd., Middletown, CT  06457. Their general number is (860) 685-8000.

In some cases, you may decide to pursue a lawsuit, either because of injuries, improper detainment, or for some other reason. These matters are highly specialized, and GLAD can make attorney referrals.