LAW ENFORCEMENT 101
Safe Traffic Stops
*The following information is from the Gentry Police Department and the National Child Safety Council. Please feel free to share this information with all drivers in your family and friends as well:
Law Enforcement departments strive to provide professional service to everyone however, if you believe the officer acted irresponsibly or inappropriately, document the officer’s behavior in a written statement. Contact the specific department about their complaint procedure and consider visiting with a department supervisor about the issue.
Law Enforcement is both a difficult and dangerous profession. Officers must constantly be aware of not only the safety of the citizens they are dedicated to protect, but of their own safety, too. Procedures may appear unnecessary however, even the most routine traffic stop can be potentially dangerous. Remember, no traffic stop is ever “routine” for a police officer. Understanding what is going to happen and what will be expected ahead of time may eliminate possible misunderstandings.
This guide offers common sense advice on handling a basic traffic stop which can help ensure the officer’s safety and your own.
*Procedures for traffic stops may vary from department to department however, if you are driving along and see the flashing lights of a law enforcement vehicle in the rearview mirror, follow these guidelines.
1. Pull over to the right side of the roadway and position your vehicle as far out of the traffic lane as possible.
2. Turn off your engine and any other device (radio, etc.). Roll down your driver’s side window and any dark tinted windows so the officer can clearly see. Keep your seatbelt on. If it is dark, turn on the interior lights and your hazard flashers.
3. Stay calm and ask passengers to remain quiet and calm, too. The officer will speak to passengers if necessary. As the officer approaches, put your hands in plain view, preferably on the steering wheel or in plain sight. Stay seated and inside the vehicle unless you are asked to get out. Remember, you are safer in the vehicle than out of it during a traffic stop. Make all movements slowly. The officer is watching carefully to make sure a weapon is not being drawn or something is being hidden.
4. Ask for identification if an officer is not in uniform or if the patrol vehicle is unmarked.
5. Usually, you will be asked for your valid driver’s license, proof of insurance and registration. You do not have to be told why you were pulled over before you comply. When you do move, say that your are going to, then move slowly. Put your hands back on the wheel while the officer checks your license and vehicle status.
6. Answer questions politely and honestly, but be brief. Remain calm and respectful. Let the officer know if you are carrying a weapon and if you have a legal permit. Never reach into an area where you may have a weapon without first advising the officer. The officer will be watching closely in the areas where you are reaching and will likely be using a flashlight during dark hours.
7. Follow the officer’s directions concerning getting out of the vehicle, suspicion of alcohol use, possession of illegal objects or, safety violations. Do not resist a pat down. Officers may conduct a brief pat down for safety at times.
8. Be polite and do not argue if you are given a citation. This matter can be contested later in court. The citation should indicate the date, time and location of the court. If not, call your local department.
9. Don’t be surprised if other patrol vehicles appear. This is not unusual in the world today. And remember, many police departments utilize car and body cameras. The interaction may be recorded for everyone’s safety and proper documentation of behavior, evidence and other information.
*I hope this information proves useful to you and all driver’s in your family.
Chief Keith Smith