Traffic Stop Safety – Part II
After setting up a safe traffic stop you must then prepare to interact with the officer and practice your own calming techniques. You have already done everything in your power to ease the anxiety the officer feels in approaching your car. And about the stop and hopefully helped to kickstart his or her calming process. The officer should be making a mental note of all the things you are doing to make the encounter safe but your job is not done…
Officers are trained to approach the car in different manners so be ready for interact through the driver’s side or passenger side window. Your movements are being watched carefully as the officer approaches so I make sure I don’t reach for anything until being told to do so. They are also taught that the hands are what will kill you so you want to keep them in view. Choose one of three set positions for your hands (high on the steering wheel with natural grip, wrist touching palms up or wrist touching palms down).
Keep head forward until officer arrives at window then turn towards officer when talking (this way you limit movements and allow the officer to see your face, eyes and calm demeanor). *Remember: Don’t take it personal if officer shines flashlight in your face. They are taught to do that to have a quick moment to visual scan for intoxication, anxious behavior and to be able to see into the car.
If the officer does not greet you first initiate the conversation with simple greeting (“How’s it going officer?”). Just be respectful and as polite as possible. *Remember: You should already understand you are being detained in most cases to answer for a traffic violation. The officers are trained to tell you the reason for the traffic stop so wait for it. Some will ask, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” so simply state, “No, would you mind telling me?” (Don’t take it personal or get angry).
When the officer makes a request for your driver’s license and other documents (insurance or registration) do not reach for them immediately. Keep your hands on the wheel and state, “Officer I want you to feel safe so I do not want to reach for my documents without permission to move.” *Remember: You have already made the interior of the car as safe as possible and now you are providing confirming through your words that you are wanting the officer to feel safe. This will go a long way and help to keep the officer calm and could make the difference between a ticket and a warning.
When retrieving your documents explain where each is, then slowly move your hand in that direction to grab it, hand to officer, then place hands back on steering wheel. * Remember: You want to ask each time you move.
If you disagree with the officer’s assessment or have a reasonable explanation for your driving behavior you could ask, “Officer would you like to hear the reason why?” If the officer does not want to hear about it then save your reason for the judge. *Remember: The side of the road is not the place to present your case; do it in the courtroom.
If the officer is acting unreasonable, aggressive or has a tone you don’t appreciate look at his name tag and badge number. The same thing goes for officers that are not being respectful or using profane language; do not respond or engage in back and forth. *Remember: The officer has to write the badge number and name on the ticket so you could get it from there if needed.
You do have the right to request a supervisor but it would be best to do so immediately after you are released from the traffic stop. This way you are free to leave already and additional tickets or an offense in which you can be arrested is not entertained. *Remember: The person to make complaint with is the officer’s immediate supervisor.
If you are a concealed carry permit holder and have a firearm on you or transporting one legally in your car please know the laws in your state. Know if your state requires you to inform the officer during the traffic stop. Do not grab for anything. So that the officer receives the information in parts I would start by saying, “Officer I have a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon”. Allow the officer a moment to ask where it is and respond verbally. *Remember: Don’t just say, “I have a gun” or “I have a gun on me and a permit.” The officer may only hear “I HAVE A GUN” and get stuck on that phrase and hear nothing more. * Remember: If an officer has a reason to point a gun at you it means they have a fear for their safety (real or perceived). Slowly move only when told to do so, follow the orders, and talk calmly.
If the officer feels his has reason to arrest you and you disagree please allow the officer to place handcuffs on and do not resist. *Remember: You can always get clarification after you have been placed in the car without physical confrontation or injury. You could also request a supervisor.
Again, all these steps are for your safety and the officers. A great side benefit of this is you have a great chance of getting out of a ticket or having it significantly reduced. More importantly we can keep some of these incidents from escalating and save lives on both sides. The following is an example of a young man that understands how behavior and communication plays a big part in having a positive outcome with police during a traffic stop.” Please watch and share this article and video with every friend you care about.
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