Police Practices

Good police practices, thorough training, carefully crafted policies, appropriate allocation of resources, and strong political and professional leadership can ensure public safety and prevent abuses in encounters between police officers and citizens.

Police Militarization Curbed With Executive Order

With civil unrest still a reality after recent examples of militarized police forces on American streets, President Barack Obama took a step ...

With civil unrest still a reality after recent examples of militarized police forces on American streets, President Barack Obama took a step in the right direction this week. He issued an executive order that banned the transfer of certain types of militarized weaponry from federal agencies to local police departments nationwide.

 Banned items include: bayonets; armored vehicles; grenade launchers; some camouflage uniforms; and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher. The order also established a “controlled equipment” list, with tightened requirements before federal agencies can transfer equipment to local cops. These include riot control equipment and drones. Federal agencies also will require local police to provide more data so the government can better track equipment.

 Read the ACLU statement on the executive order.

Black Lives Matter: A Movement to Change Police Practices

The 2012 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and subsequent acquittal of the George Zimmerman, the man responsible for Martin’s death, signaled the beginning of an awakening in America that has been long overdue. The ...

The 2012 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and subsequent acquittal of the George Zimmerman, the man responsible for Martin’s death, signaled the beginning of an awakening in America that has been long overdue.

The Black Lives Matter movement was born out of the post death de-humanization of Martin. The movement, unofficially named for the hashtag “#blacklivesmatter” on social media, calls for the affirmation all black lives. It demands an end to police practices of profiling, excessive use of force, and militarization, as well as pushes for criminal justice reforms to reduce mass incarceration.

As the Black Lives Matter movement began picking up speed, the summer of 2014 marked high profile killings of black people and, ironically, the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, the 1964 campaign to register African-Americans voters in Mississippi.

In late July 2014, Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York, was choked to death by a white police officer on a city sidewalk. Garner told the police he couldn’t breathe 11 times before he died.

In early August 2014, two men were killed by police. The first, John Crawford of Beavercreek, Ohio, was shot on sight by a white police officer in a Wal-Mart store as he walked with a toy gun he picked up from a store shelf. His last words, “It’s not real.”

Next, Michael Brown, an 18-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri, was shot and killed by a white police officer in the middle of the street. Community outrage grew from the killing. Ferguson police responded to community concerns over abuse of force with military tanks and high powered weapons. For the first time the militarization of American police was in full view for the world to see.

The grand juries in the Garner, Crawford, and Brown cases did not indict the officers involved in their deaths. Particularly, the lack of indictments in the Garner and Brown cases fueled protests nationally.

Other Ohioans—all from Cleveland—have died at the hands of police. The November 2012 deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were shot 137 times by police officers, prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the Cleveland Police Department’s use of force. The DOJ issued its findings in December 2014.

In November 2014, Tanisha Anderson, who was experiencing a medical crisis, was killed by Cleveland police officers who used a “takedown move” as her family watch on. The week following Anderson’s death, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by a Cleveland police officer within seconds of approaching him as a played at a recreation center with a toy gun.

The excessive use of force by police officers not only is a national problem, but very much an Ohio problem. At this time, conversations are continuing on improving police-community relations as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Automatic License Plate Readers: You Are Being Tracked

Click here for more information on the report A new ACLU report shows that police departments across the country are expanding their use of automatic license plate readers (ALPR’s) to track the location of American drivers. ...

Click here for more information on the report

A new ACLU report shows that police departments across the country are expanding their use of automatic license plate readers (ALPR’s) to track the location of American drivers. Unfortunately, few of these departments have any meaningful rules in place to ensure transparency, or protect the privacy of drivers.

When it comes to ALPR guidelines, Ohio is a mixed bag. The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) has a good policy, one that requires all license plate records to be deleted immediately if they do not raise any flags. It further specifies that data cannot be collected, stored, or shared for the purpose of data mining. However, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office retains data for 90 days, and public records have not been collected from many other Ohio agencies, making their ALPR policies a mystery.

The OSHP’s ALPR policy proves that law enforcement agencies can still do their jobs while protecting the privacy of innocent people. Ultimately, Ohio needs state legislation that would create similar standards for all law enforcement agencies.

Click here for more information on ALPR’s.

U.S. Department of Justice to Probe Cleveland Police Department

Less than a decade after concluding their last Cleveland police probe, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that they will return to the city to conduct a new investigation. The ACLU of Ohio requested this ...

Less than a decade after concluding their last Cleveland police probe, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that they will return to the city to conduct a new investigation.

The ACLU of Ohio requested this federal investigation after a 2012 incident in which dozens of police cars participated in a three-city police chase. The chase ended with 13 officers firing 137 rounds and killing two unarmed suspects.

DOJ last investigated the Cleveland Police Department in 2000, responding to complaints that city police were routinely violating the constitutional rights of citizens. When this investigation finally closed in 2004, it had uncovered numerous problems and extracted a promise from the department to make changes. Sadly, by the end of the next year, five more police suspects had already died under questionable circumstances.

The problems have continued unabated into this decade. Viewed as a timeline, a sad pattern emerges: a spiral of policy violations, violence, and eventually blood in the streets.

This pattern must be addressed.

Racially Biased Policing and Excessive Use of Force in Cleveland

The Cleveland Police Department has recently been criticized for several officers’ prolific use of non-deadly force and for failing to review incident reports fully. This criticism after two officers were charged with ...

The Cleveland Police Department has recently been criticized for several officers’ prolific use of non-deadly force and for failing to review incident reports fully. This criticism after two officers were charged with assault for beating a man during an arrest.

In addition, the ACLU of Ohio is concerned the Cleveland Police Department may employ some racially biases policing methods. A June 2011 report, “Overcharging, Overspending, Overlooking: Cuyahoga County’s Costly War on Drugs“, describes the targeting of African American communities for patrols and sweeps, resulting in disproportionate rates of arrest and incarceration for people of color.

The ACLU of Ohio also represented two Clevelanders who were victims of racially biased policing in July 2010 in City of Cleveland v. Alvin Williams and City of Cleveland v. Chanel Christian. As a result of the incident, the Mayor agreed to permit federal mediators to provide training to business owners and police to avoid any similar incidents.

Use of Technology to Profile

Police departments around the state have begun to use web sites like Facebook and MySpace to monitor people’s online profiles and identify individuals whom they believe engage in illegal activities. Unfortunately, many innocent individuals are wrongfully identified as criminals because police ...

Police departments around the state have begun to use web sites like Facebook and MySpace to monitor people’s online profiles and identify individuals whom they believe engage in illegal activities.

Unfortunately, many innocent individuals are wrongfully identified as criminals because police have relied only on flawed profiling techniques rather than generating clear evidence that the person is engaged in illegal activity

Local Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws

The Ohio General Assembly is considering Senate Bill 98, which would allow local police to enforce immigration laws. The ACLU of Ohio ...

The Ohio General Assembly is considering Senate Bill 98, which would allow local police to enforce immigration laws. The ACLU of Ohio opposes such efforts because they encourage racial profiling and causes resources to be diverted from dealing with local crime. More information is available on our Immigrant Rights page.

Good police practices, thorough training, carefully crafted policies, appropriate allocation of resources, and strong political and professional leadership can ensure public safety and prevent abuses in encounters between police officers and citizens.

Police Militarization Curbed With Executive Order

With civil unrest still a reality after recent examples of militarized police forces on American streets, President Barack Obama took a step ...

With civil unrest still a reality after recent examples of militarized police forces on American streets, President Barack Obama took a step in the right direction this week. He issued an executive order that banned the transfer of certain types of militarized weaponry from federal agencies to local police departments nationwide.

 Banned items include: bayonets; armored vehicles; grenade launchers; some camouflage uniforms; and ammunition of .50-caliber or higher. The order also established a “controlled equipment” list, with tightened requirements before federal agencies can transfer equipment to local cops. These include riot control equipment and drones. Federal agencies also will require local police to provide more data so the government can better track equipment.

 Read the ACLU statement on the executive order.

Black Lives Matter: A Movement to Change Police Practices

The 2012 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and subsequent acquittal of the George Zimmerman, the man responsible for Martin’s death, signaled the beginning of an awakening in America that has been long overdue. The ...

The 2012 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, and subsequent acquittal of the George Zimmerman, the man responsible for Martin’s death, signaled the beginning of an awakening in America that has been long overdue.

The Black Lives Matter movement was born out of the post death de-humanization of Martin. The movement, unofficially named for the hashtag “#blacklivesmatter” on social media, calls for the affirmation all black lives. It demands an end to police practices of profiling, excessive use of force, and militarization, as well as pushes for criminal justice reforms to reduce mass incarceration.

As the Black Lives Matter movement began picking up speed, the summer of 2014 marked high profile killings of black people and, ironically, the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, the 1964 campaign to register African-Americans voters in Mississippi.

In late July 2014, Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York, was choked to death by a white police officer on a city sidewalk. Garner told the police he couldn’t breathe 11 times before he died.

In early August 2014, two men were killed by police. The first, John Crawford of Beavercreek, Ohio, was shot on sight by a white police officer in a Wal-Mart store as he walked with a toy gun he picked up from a store shelf. His last words, “It’s not real.”

Next, Michael Brown, an 18-year-old from Ferguson, Missouri, was shot and killed by a white police officer in the middle of the street. Community outrage grew from the killing. Ferguson police responded to community concerns over abuse of force with military tanks and high powered weapons. For the first time the militarization of American police was in full view for the world to see.

The grand juries in the Garner, Crawford, and Brown cases did not indict the officers involved in their deaths. Particularly, the lack of indictments in the Garner and Brown cases fueled protests nationally.

Other Ohioans—all from Cleveland—have died at the hands of police. The November 2012 deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were shot 137 times by police officers, prompted the U.S. Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the Cleveland Police Department’s use of force. The DOJ issued its findings in December 2014.

In November 2014, Tanisha Anderson, who was experiencing a medical crisis, was killed by Cleveland police officers who used a “takedown move” as her family watch on. The week following Anderson’s death, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by a Cleveland police officer within seconds of approaching him as a played at a recreation center with a toy gun.

The excessive use of force by police officers not only is a national problem, but very much an Ohio problem. At this time, conversations are continuing on improving police-community relations as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Automatic License Plate Readers: You Are Being Tracked

Click here for more information on the report A new ACLU report shows that police departments across the country are expanding their use of automatic license plate readers (ALPR’s) to track the location of American drivers. ...

Click here for more information on the report

A new ACLU report shows that police departments across the country are expanding their use of automatic license plate readers (ALPR’s) to track the location of American drivers. Unfortunately, few of these departments have any meaningful rules in place to ensure transparency, or protect the privacy of drivers.

When it comes to ALPR guidelines, Ohio is a mixed bag. The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) has a good policy, one that requires all license plate records to be deleted immediately if they do not raise any flags. It further specifies that data cannot be collected, stored, or shared for the purpose of data mining. However, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office retains data for 90 days, and public records have not been collected from many other Ohio agencies, making their ALPR policies a mystery.

The OSHP’s ALPR policy proves that law enforcement agencies can still do their jobs while protecting the privacy of innocent people. Ultimately, Ohio needs state legislation that would create similar standards for all law enforcement agencies.

Click here for more information on ALPR’s.

Good police practices, thorough training, carefully crafted policies, appropriate allocation of resources, and strong political and professional leadership can ensure public safety and prevent abuses in encounters between police officers and citizens.

ACLU Releases Protester Advisory

CLEVELAND—With demonstrations occurring in Cleveland, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has released a protester alert. This advisory gives basic information about the rights of protesters, the limitations of those rights, and what to do if these rights are ...

CLEVELAND—With demonstrations occurring in Cleveland, the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has released a protester alert. This advisory gives basic information about the rights of protesters, the limitations of those rights, and what to do if these rights are violated.

“We have an important and constitutionally protected right to peacefully protest in this country,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “This advisory will help protesters anticipate and, if possible, avoid confrontations with law enforcement.”

The ACLU protester advisory also makes clear the difference between protected speech and civil disobedience, in which protesters choose to break the law, and face potential arrest in order to make a point.

“The ability to protest about important civic matters is core to our First Amendment rights, and must not be impeded by law enforcement or other government officials,” said Link. “At the same time, protestors should be educated on their rights and what they can and cannot legally do.”

Recently, several groups in the city, many affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement, have organized protests of the trial verdict of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo and the investigation of the death of Tamir Rice.

For more information, visit www.acluohio.org/protest.

Protesters: Know Your Rights!

Although the right to peacefully protest is constitutionally protected, the definition of “peaceful protest” may differ from person to person. Here are some valuable tips on what to do if you are confronted by a police officer or another public ...

Although the right to peacefully protest is constitutionally protected, the definition of “peaceful protest” may differ from person to person. Here are some valuable tips on what to do if you are confronted by a police officer or another public official during a protest.

Bookmark this page! You can also download a wallet size card for printing. If you have an encounter with the police, you can protect yourself and your rights. If you believe that your rights have been violated, please contact an attorney.


What You Need to Know

     Your Rights as a Protester

     Limitations on Speech

     Limitations on Action

     If You Are Arrested


Your Rights as a Protester

  • What you say to the police is always important. What you say can be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you—especially if you “bad mouth” an officer.
  • You are required to provide your name, address, or date of birth to a law enforcement officer upon request.
  • You can be arrested for refusing to identify yourself to an officer.
  • You do not have to consent to a search of yourself or your car.

Go back to list


Limitations on Speech

  • The government can limit speech by imposing “time, place, and manner” restrictions. This is most commonly done by requiring permits for meetings, rallies, and demonstrations.
  • The First Amendment does not protect speech that incites violence, is obscene, or is threatening
  • It is a federal crime to threaten to harm the President, the Vice President, or a major candidate for either office.

Go back to list


Limitations on Action

  • If you endanger others through the manner in which you choose to protest, you can be arrested. A protest that blocks traffic is illegal without a permit.
  • You do have the right to distribute literature, chant, and engage passersby in debate, but you do not have the right to block a building entrance or physically harass people.
  • Protesting on private property is not protected by the law.
  • Do not interfere with, touch or verbally antagonize the police.
  • Avoid carrying any drugs or weapons. If you happen to be arrested you could face additional charges for their possession.

Go back to list


If You Are Arrested

    • Do not run or resist. It may result in additional charges.
    • The whole process, from arrest to release on bail, should take about 24-36 hours.
    • The police will ask you for basic biographical information and will take your fingerprints and photograph, unless you have been charged with a very minor crime.
    • You will then be interviewed by a court agency so that bail can be assessed. You do not have to answer their questions, but giving accurate information will speed the process.
    • You can hire an attorney to represent you at the arraignment and present arguments regarding bail.
    • The judicial officer will set bail according to several factors (local connections, seriousness of the crime, how many other protesters have been arrested, etc.).
    • There are three main types of crimes that you could be charged with. They are, from least to most severe, a minor misdemeanor, a misdemeanor offense, and a felony offense.

Go back to list


Go to our Protest page
, where we have a number of additional resources.

Protesting? Know Your Rights

The Rights of Protesters

...
Protesting? Know Your Rights
Protesters in the street

As Americans, we have the right to peacefully protest. Our nation was founded on political dissent, and joining others in peaceful assembly is vital to a thriving democracy.

Although protesters are clearly protected by the First Amendment, challenges from law enforcement to the right to protest have come in many forms, including mass arrests, illegal use of force, curfews and even corralling protesters into so-called “free-speech zones.” Increasingly, new surveillance technologies are used to collect information on an individuals’ activities by their association with or proximity to a given protest. Even without active obstruction of the right to protest, fear of police intimidation can chill public expression and result in self-censorship.

The ACLU monitors the government’s respect for this foundational right. We intervene and advocate—through police departments, the courts, the state legislature, and Know Your Rights presentations and materials—so everyone’s right to protest is respected.

Protesters! You Have Every Right To:

  • Peacefully assemble to exercise your First Amendment right to protest.
  • Protest in public spaces, such as streets, sidewalks, and parks, as long as you aren’t blocking traffic.
  • Protest without a permit in response to recent events.
  • Distribute literature, chant, and engage passersby in public spaces without a permit.
  • Photograph or videotape the police.

Learn More About Your Right to Protest


Visit Our Free Speech and Police Practices Issue Pages.

 

Check out our newest resource, the Ohio Civil Liberties Snapshot

Download our “Know Your Rights” Publications

Given how complex our nation is, it should come to no surprise how difficult it can be to know each and every one of the legal rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio ...

Given how complex our nation is, it should come to no surprise how difficult it can be to know each and every one of the legal rights guaranteed to us by the U.S. Constitution. That’s why the ACLU of Ohio has produced these “Know Your Rights” publications on such topics as free speech, voting rights and police practices among other civil liberties issues.

Our list of downloadable publications is available at www.acluohio.org/KYR

Blog Post » Black Lives Matter: Marching on Washington

Protesters: Know Your Rights

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Good police practices, thorough training, carefully crafted policies, appropriate allocation of resources, and strong political and professional leadership can ensure public safety and prevent abuses in encounters between police officers and citizens.

Check out our newest resource, the Ohio Civil Liberties Snapshot

Blog Post » Sunset at the Statehouse

Blog post » Standing on the Side of Justice