Gender & Safety
Interactions with law enforcement can be stressful and scary — especially when you feel uncomfortable.
Being Pulled Over
When being pulled over, it’s important to stop your vehicle as soon as it is safe to do so. However, if you are being pulled over in a desolate area or by an unmarked vehicle, you can reduce risk to yourself by taking a few extra precautions. First, slow down and turn on your hazard lights to acknowledge that you’re being pulled over. If you can, continue driving to a busy, well-lit area. When in doubt, you can call 911 to confirm that you are being pulled over by an active duty law enforcement officer.
If you do not feel comfortable being searched by the officer on the scene, you can request an officer of your preferred gender. Remember, the 4th Amendment (Search and Seizures) gives you the right to deny a search—if you choose to invoke this right, say so quickly and clearly. However, if the officer suspects that you may be involved in a crime or that you may have evidence of a crime on your person, they can conduct a search without a warrant.
Just as you can request an officer of your preferred gender to perform a search, you can make the same request during questioning. While you do not have the right to this request, many police departments have policies to accommodate gender safety—especially in the event of domestic or sexual violence. However, these policies rarely apply to suspects.
Questions & Answers
I don’t feel comfortable being searched by a police officer of a particular gender. Do I have the right to request an officer of a different gender?
- No, you do not have a right to be arrested, or even searched, by any particular officer. However, a recent trend suggests law enforcement departments will oblige those requests when safe to do so.
Can I make the same request during an interview or interrogation?
- Yes, you can. Although you do not have any right to be interviewed by any particular officer.