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Frequently Asked Questions


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How do I report an emergency?

Let the dispatcher control the conversation. The dispatcher will enter the information you give into our computer aided dispatch (CAD) system, so another dispatcher can start help while you are still on the phone. Stay on the line until the dispatcher tells you it is okay to hang up. The dispatcher will need to know where help is needed.

  • In general, give the street address or intersection and city or town. Don't forget any apartment number or the name of the business. In rural areas, you can use distance in yards or miles to nearest address, cross street, or landmark.
  • In remote areas give as much information as possible. If you have gone to a phone at another location the dispatcher may ask you to wait there to guide units to the scene.
  • The dispatcher will need the description of any persons or vehicles involved. We have a standard format we use for descriptions, so let the dispatcher guide you. Describe one person at a time. Be as specific as you can. Remember words like "young," "old," "tall," or "short," are relative. Try to estimate. Is the young person in their mid teens or 20's? Is the tall person 5 foot 6 inches or 6 foot 6 inches?
  • For vehicles, was it a large car or small? Sedan or station wagon? Light color or dark? License plates are useful, but don't focus on it to the exclusion of noticing anything else, and please don't put yourself or others at risk to get the license number.
  • Please be patient if the dispatcher has to put you on hold. Sometimes we need to put one caller on hold to answer another call. We will finish assisting you as soon as we can.
  • 911 Magazine has a guide to reporting emergencies you can print and keep near your phone. It includes space to write down our 7-digit emergency number and your address. It's great for house guests, baby sitters or children at home. View this guide at http://www.9-1-1magazine.com.

What are the driving rules when a police vehicle is approaching with lights and siren?

Under California Vehicle Code section 21806, any vehicle, other than the emergency vehicle, must pull over to the right hand edge of the curb, clear any intersection they may be in, and come to a stop until the emergency vehicle has passed. Any vehicle making a turn must also do the same, when safe to do so, to allow the emergency vehicle to pass. Any pedestrian must proceed to the nearest curb and stay there until the emergency vehicle has passed.

Why do police vehicles block the roadway when making a car stop? Why can't the officers move their unit when I tell them to do so?

Police officers will create a safe zone to make their approach on foot by angling their police unit slightly into traffic. Until they are done with their traffic stop, their police unit is left in place. Officers, depending on the type of traffic stop, and if it is safe to do so, may move their unit upon a request by a citizen. However, if the traffic stop is not safe, then any citizen making a request will have to wait unit the traffic stop is completed

If a solicitor comes to my front door, what are the requirements they must follow?

Per Petaluma Municipal Code Chapter 6.32, Peddlers and Solicitors must obtain the following:

  1. From the Finance Department Business Tax [aka License] Desk:
    1. a sticker for any vehicle they use in the course of business
    2. a Business Tax Certificate (aka license)
  2. From the Police Department:
    1. A Peddlers/Solicitors Permit after submission of an application and fingerprints. Note that application submission to Finance and Police must be made concurrently.
  3. From the Community Development Department, Planning Division:
    1. a Home Occupation Permit, if the business office (paperwork, phones) for the peddler/solicitor is operated from a residence.

When I am driving and come to an intersection with the signals working and there is a uniformed person in the middle of the intersection waving their arms, whom do I respond too?

The driver of any vehicle should respond to the uniformed person who is waving their arms. There may be some physical damage to the roadway, there may be equipment that is blocking the right of way, there could be overhead wires down in the roadway, measurements are being taken to document a collision, or emergency equipment is responding to the scene, or any other good example, and the uniformed person waving their arms is trying to get your attention.

When should I call 911? What is another number to contact the police department?

You should call 911 when the call involves an in-progress emergency and time is of the essence. For example, there is a vehicle collision and no one is moving or there are obvious signs of extreme injury; someone is breaking into a home; there is a fight and weapons are being used. 911 is not for missing animals, speeding vehicles, noise complaints, or to report a theft that occurred over a long period of time. For any other reason, the business phone number for the Petaluma Police Department is 778-4372.

When I call why does the dispatcher ask so many questions instead of just sending an officer?

In order to determine what type of response is needed (police, fire, ambulance), the dispatcher needs to determine who is involved, what happened, when the incident occurred, where the incident is occurring, why it is occurring, and how many people are involved in the incident so they can determine how many officers or fire department equipment are needed to bring the incident under control.

Why do I sometimes have to wait for an hour or more for the police to come?

Depending on the type of call, it is ranked according to the seriousness of the reported incident. If the call does not require an immediate response, it waits until there is an officer available to respond. Thus, a report only status will take longer than an emergency call needing an officer now.

Are tinted windows legal on my vehicle?

The windshield, the driver's side and passenger side front windows must not be tinted, except for factory installed tinting. Other windows, such as the rear or rear passenger windows can be tinted.

Are police officers required to write so many traffic citations per day or do they have a quota?

Quotas are prohibited by law, officers issue citations based a number of factors, including; current road conditions, traffic complaints, collision history, location (School Zone, Downtown area, etc.), speed surveys, and traffic volumes.

Does the police department respond to collisions on private property?

The police department does not take property damage only collisions on private property. Involved parties can complete a Counter Report at the Police Department. The police department responds to injury and Hit and Run collisions on private property.

If I'm involved in a collision, should I make a police report?

Most insurance companies require a police report be made. The driver of a vehicle involved in a collision resulting in damage to the property of any ONE party in excess of $500 or the injury or death of any person MUST submit a SR-1 Form to DMV within 10 days, or as soon as possible. Some citizens who decide to just exchange information, find out later that the other involved party had a suspended license, had expired insurance and claim they are now injured. If an officer responds, they can verify the involved parties are properly licensed, have current insurance and evaluate any injuries.

Why can't an Officer assist me while he/she is making a traffic stop?

Because of the nature of traffic stops and their inherent danger, the officer has to focus only on the vehicle/occupants. The officer's full attention has to be with the occupants of the vehicle and only after the stop is completed can the officer divert his/her attention.

Why shouldn't I call the Police when power is out?

PGE service is out - don't call the Police Dept as we have no information and no control on when it will be put back into service. Call PGE at the # listed in your phone directory and they will call you back.

A helicopter is flying overhead - shouldn't I call the Police?

Please do not call and ask questions. The PD is busy when there is a helicopter flying overhead.

How do I contact an officer?

Use the voice mail option when calling 778 4372. You will not get the officer you want even if you ask for the 'operator'. The system that answers 778 4372 off hours is capable of locating an officer's voicemail box when you enter a first or last name following the routing instructions.


Contact Us

EMERGENCY cell phone calls: 707.762.2727


Non-Emergency: 707.778.4372
Fax: 707.656.4059

Ken Savano, Chief of Police
969 Petaluma Blvd. North
Petaluma, CA 94952


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