Citizen FAQ

What should I do if I see a crime occurring?

Call 911 immediately. Do not get involved. Be a “great witness” and take mental notes regarding questions a responding officer would need to know. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are there weapons involved?
  • Is someone injured?
  • What is the address of location where the incident occurred?
  • What direction did the suspect head to?
  • What does the suspect(s) look like? Make note of sex/race, hair color, glasses, etc.
  • What was the suspect(s) wearing?
  • Are they on foot or in a vehicle?
  • What direction did they go? If you’re not familiar with a direction, note a landmark you’re close to and point out another landmark they’re heading to.
  • How long ago did it happen?

Do I have to give my name when I call 911?

No. You can choose to remain anonymous or keep information confidential. Be sure to inform the 911 dispatcher of that.

What should I do if I’m stopped on the street?

If a police officer stops you on the street, he or she has a reason. The officer may have reason to believe that you are in violation of the law. It’s also possible that a crime was committed nearby and the officer thinks that you might be able to help.

In any case, please adhere to the following:

  • DON’T RUN from the officer. Be calm.
  • Find out what the officer wants. Don’t assume that you know the reason for being contacted.
  • Provide identification when asked.
  • Answer questions truthfully.
  • You have the right to ask questions of the officer. In doing so, REMAIN CALM. Yelling, threatening, or arguing with the officer will only make the situation more difficult.
  • Understand there may be variables that you don’t know about that may make the interaction seem odd to you yet perfectly reasonable to the officer given the circumstances of the situation they’re currently in.

What should I do if I’m pulled over in my car?

If you are driving a car and an officer signals you to stop, you must immediately pull over. Prior to an officer initiating a traffic stop, they evaluate where the safest location is for the stop to occur.  It is at that point they activate their emergency equipment to signal you to stop.  Stay in your car. If it’s dark, turn on the interior light. Do not leave your car unless directed to do so by the officer.

Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Wait for the officer to approach your vehicle. The officer will request your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Police officers are trained to ask for identification first, then provide an explanation for the stop. Please provide the officer with the required documents. An MSU police officer will always inform you of the reason that you are being stopped.

Traffic violations are the most common reason for stopping a vehicle. However, you may also have been stopped for a registration or equipment violation. A criminal investigation may be another reason for being stopped. Your vehicle may match the description of a vehicle that was involved in a crime.

At some point during the stop, the officer may ask you and any passengers to step from the car. This request may be for safety reasons, or the officer may suspect illegal contraband in the car. The courts have upheld the officer’s right to make such a request.

Our actions during a traffic stop are guided by the fact that many police officers are assaulted and/or killed each year during traffic stops. In fact, according to the Uniform Crime Report, 113 officers were assaulted on traffic related contacts in the year 2010 in the State of Michigan. Our goal is to protect you, the motorist, and to ensure our own safety.

Finally, if you are issued a citation, DON’T ARGUE at the scene. You have the right to contest a citation before a judge or magistrate at a later time. This doesn’t require the service of an attorney and the time involved is often mini-mal. Associated Student of MSU (ASMSU) Legal Services is an additional resource for information for MSU students.

MCL 257.653 (1) (a) states “Upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle equipped with not less than 1 lighted flashing, rotating, or oscillating lamp exhibiting a red or blue light visible under normal atmospheric condition from a distance of 500 feet to the front of the vehicle and when the driver is giving audible signal by siren, exhaust whistle, or bell: (a) The driver of another vehicle shall yield the right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to and as close as possible to the right-hand edge or curb of the roadway, clear of an intersection, and shall stop and remain in that position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer.”

When I am pulled over, why does the officer ask for identification first?

The officer is trained to do so. This is so the officer knows the name of the person they are contacting.

MCL 257.311 also states “The licensee shall have his or her operator’s or chauffeur’s license, or the receipt described in section 311a, in his or her immediate possession at all times when operating a motor vehicle, and shall display the same upon demand of any police officer, who shall identify himself or herself as such.”

When a car is stopped at night, why does the officer appear to “sneak up” on the driver and shine their lights into the car?

It is a safety precaution for the officer. Officers are trained to minimize their exposure to traffic and potential danger from inside the vehicle. The bright light illuminates the interior of the vehicle.

If I’m pulled over for a traffic violation, why do other police vehicles sometimes show up?

It is not uncommon for officers who are in close proximity to check on one another, even when they are not requested. Again, this is for safety concerns.

Why does the officer sit in the car for so long? What is the officer doing?

The officer usually takes the time to verify your driving status and vehicle registration. The officer does this as quickly as possible but there can sometimes be delays in the computer response. Additional time may be added if the officer choses to issue any traffic citations.

I am stopped on a traffic stop and I’m carrying a concealed weapon, what is my responsibility to the officer at that time?

When carrying a concealed pistol, you should be aware of State Law which can be found at http://www.michigan.gov/msp/0,4643,7-123-1878_1591_3503_4654-10941–,00.html. Additionally, you should be aware of MSU’s Ordinance regarding Firearms or Weapons which can be found at https://trustees.msu.edu/ordinances/ordinances_sec18.html.

Where can I find a list of all the traffic laws that I must abide by?

A PDF of the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code can be found here: https://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(qr4dy245qmowt155exmyhwjl))/documents/mcl/pdf/mcl-chap257.pdf. The laws are updated often so be sure to check this link each time for the most updated version.

I’d like to file a complaint or send a compliment regarding an interaction I had with an MSU Police Officer. Where can I do this at?

You can file a complaint or compliment by:

  • Calling 517-355-2222 and asking for a shift supervisor
  • Coming into MSUPD and ask for a shift supervisor
  • Completing an online form at http://police.msu.edu/contact-us/
  • Mailing a letter to 1120 Red Cedar Rd, East Lansing, MI 48824 addressed to the Chief of Police