Most people have been pulled over by the police.
Most people have been pulled over by the police. It is something most of us can relate to. Yes, I have been pulled over a few times. Everyone that has been pulled over experiences the situation from their own perspective. Some people leave the stop feeling fine, but there are some that leave with negative feelings. Now, those negative feeling can come from different interactions or perceptions. What I would like to do here is explain a traffic stop from a police officer’s perspective.
As I have talked about before, there is a large amount of training in becoming a police officer and a portion of that is conducting traffic stops safely. The tactics officers utilize on traffic stops are not individual, but taught universally as best practices.
Once we find a reason to conduct a traffic stop our process starts immediately. We are looking for a safe place to stop the vehicle. When we activate the overhead emergency lights we are telling you this is where we want you to stop. We conduct many traffic stops and we know better than you where it is safer to stop. We position our vehicle off-set to keep a walking lane open to hopefully keep passing cars away from us.
At night we use spotlights to keep the occupants of the vehicle from being able to see us and to illuminate as much of the vehicle as we can. I understand that the light blinds you when you look at it, that is half the point of the light. We want to see as much as we can and limit how much you can see us. Every police officer you see has been in a fight; multiple fights. Every officer you see will be in a fight again, some of us for our lives. We don’t know when that fight will come, but we know the fight is coming sometime. That is why we use caution when approaching a vehicle. You know you are not going to hurt us, but we don’t. We can’t afford to think people won’t hurt us.
We make a visual inspection of everyone in the car, rear to the front, looking for everyone’s hands and where they are located. We want to see any potential threats. Officers love when people have their hands in plain sight.
When we speak to you, most officers will stay behind the driver. When we have our interaction with the driver we are there to correct an issue. Whatever that issue might be, that is what we are looking to do.
Sometimes other issues come up such as alcohol/drug use, license/insurance issues, etc. When we return to the squad car, we must check the license plates and driver’s license for issues. While we are checking these things, we need to maintain visual contact on the vehicle we have pulled over every few seconds. Officers are brought up watching squad videos of people attacking police officers on traffic stops. These actions take time to complete. Officers like to make quick efficient traffic stops, we don’t prolong them on purpose. The quicker we get done, the safer for everyone. When we return to the car we will take whatever action we think is appropriate.
Please remember we want to fix the issue we pulled you over for. Sometimes that is a citation, other times a warning will do. I can’t speak for every officer, but for me, personally, I am far less likely to write a citation to someone that shows understanding and takes responsibility for what happened.
I hope this came off well. I hear people talk about the things they don’t like on traffic stops and I just wanted to shed some light on why we do those things and how we approach traffic stops.