The purpose of this information is to clearly state that racial and ethnic profiling within the Putnam County Sheriff's Office is an unacceptable practice. A fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States to all who live in this nation is to the equal protection under the law. Along with this right to equal protection is the fundamental right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by government agents. Citizens are free to walk and drive our streets, highways, and other public places without police interference so long as they obey the law. They also are entitled to be free from crime, and from the depredations of criminals, and to drive and walk our public ways safe from the actions of reckless and careless drivers.
The Putnam County Sheriff's Office is charged with protecting these rights, for all, regardless of race, color, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, physical handicap, religion or other belief system. Because of the nature of their business, law enforcement officers are required to be observant, to identify unusual occurrences and law violations, and to act upon them. It is this pro-active enforcement that keeps our citizens free from crime, our streets and highways safe to drive upon, and that detects and apprehends criminals.
It is the policy of the Putnam County Sheriff's Office to patrol in a pro-active manner, to aggressively investigate suspicious persons and circumstances, and to enforce the motor vehicle laws, while insisting that citizens will only be stopped or detained when there exists reasonable suspicion to believe they have committed, are committing, or are about to commit, a violation of the law.
Should you encounter a situation where you believe you were stopped by a deputy based on your race, color, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, physical handicap, religion or other belief system, you are encouraged to contact the on-duty shift supervisor as soon as possible or make a complaint to the Putnam County Sheriff's Office as soon as practical by calling 386-329-0800.
Understand that each situation is unique and the deputy must alter his or her response to fit the circumstance. Generally, however, a deputy:
- Will provide his/her name upon request.
- Will inform a person of the reason for being stopped.
- Will only arrest a person for a crime committed in his/her presence, or when the deputy has probable cause to believe the person has already committed the crime.
Summary of Complaint Procedures
You may appear in person at the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at 130 Orie Griffin Blvd., Palatka Florida, 32177. You may also mail in a written complaint if you prefer. Complaints will also be taken over the phone by asking to speak with the on-duty shift supervisor at 386-329-0800.
Depending upon the circumstances, the incident will either be handled by a supervisor, informally by an Internal Affairs Investigator, or formally by Internal Affairs. If your case is assigned to the deputy's supervisor for investigation, the supervisor will contact you to try to resolve the situation.
If the case is to be handled formally, an Internal Affairs Investigator will complete a thorough report regarding the complaint.
All formal investigative reports are reviewed by the Sheriff's Staff for approval and recommendations.
Formal Investigation Disposition: You will be notified of the final disposition by mail.
Why Do Deputies Stop People
There are many different reasons why you might be stopped by the Sheriff's Office. Whatever the reason, the deputy needs your cooperation:
- The deputy may want to warn you about a potentially dangerous situation.
- You may have committed a traffic violation.
- You or your vehicle may match the description of one used in criminal act.
- The deputy might think you are in trouble and need help.
- You may have witnessed a crime.
If you are stopped by a deputy while driving, you may feel confused, anxious or even angry. These are natural feelings, but remember, traffic stops can also be stressful and dangerous for the deputy as well. Many law enforcement officers are killed each year and thousands more are injured in traffic-related incidents. For example, each year approximately half of all line-of-duty officer deaths were related to traffic incidents. In addition, when the use of weapons at the traffic stop is added, the percentage of traffic-related deaths is over 55 percent. Every stop for a traffic violation has the potential for danger. Help lessen the uneasiness experiencing a traffic stop.
Remember: Be courteous and cooperative in any stop by law enforcement.
Florida Statute 316.126 requires that all drivers shall yield the right of way to emergency vehicles. Drivers are to immediately pull over parallel to the nearest edge, stop and remain in a stopped position until the emergency vehicle has passed.
Drivers shall vacate the lane closest to a roadside emergency vehicle and shall also slow to a speed that is 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit; or travel at 5 miles per hour when the posted speed limit is 20 miles per hour or less, when driving on a two-lane road, except when otherwise directed by a law enforcement officer.
- When you see the emergency lights and/or hear the siren, remain calm, slow down and pull over in a safe location completely off the roadway.
- Do not exit your vehicle unless asked to do so. This is for safety reasons.
- Keep your hands on the steering wheel so the deputy can see them.
- Inform the deputy of any weapons in your vehicle and their location. Do not reach or point to the location.
- Avoid any sudden movements, especially toward the floorboard, rear seat or passenger side of the vehicle.
- Comply with the deputy's request to see your driver's license, proof of insurance and vehicle registration. Florida law requires you to carry these with you.
- If your documents are out of reach, tell the deputy where they are before you reach for them.
- If there are passengers in your vehicle, encourage them to remain quiet and cooperate with instructions. You, as the operator, are solely responsible for your vehicle and its occupants.
- Avoid becoming argumentative. Arguing will not change the deputy's mind. If you contest the violation, you will have an opportunity to address the matter in court.
- Answer all questions truthfully.
- If the deputy issues you a ticket and you feel the reason is vague or unclear, politely ask him/her for details.
- If asked to sign a citation, do so. It is not an admission of guilt. Refusal could result in an arrest. You may contest the citation in court at a later time.
- You have the right to politely deny a request by a deputy to search your car; however, if probable cause is present, the deputy has the right to search your vehicle without your consent.