A bill pending in the Kentucky Senate would give police new powers to stop people on the street and demand that they identify themselves and explain their actions, drawing criticism from civil rights lawyers who say that would be an unconstitutional device likely used against minority groups.
Under Senate Bill 89, if a police officer suspects someone in a public place is involved in criminal activity or is about to commit a crime, the officer could stop that person, demand his name, home address and age — as well as ask to see his driver’s license, if he has one — and tell him to explain what he is presently doing “to the satisfaction of the officer.”
Anyone who refuses to cooperate with police could be detained for up to two hours. That detention would not be considered an arrest, so the person would not have the right to call an attorney, and no official record would be made of the detention.
Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, said Grayson County law enforcement officials asked him for the bill after a number of local incidents showed the need for it.
In one case, a man who lurked outside of an apartment complex, prompting concerned residents to call police, refused to tell the responding officers who he was or why he was there, Meredith said. He simply walked away, and later, police discovered the man’s identity and realized he had several outstanding arrest warrants, the senator said.
“If a man acts suspicious, then why wouldn’t you want to know what his name is?” Meredith said in an interview. “I can’t imagine any legitimate reason in the world why a person would refuse to give their name and photo identification to a police officer if they were asked.”