Why a police officer
does the things he does during a traffic stop.
Why did the officer stand
behind my driver’s door so that I had to turn around to look at him?
Car stops are one of the
most dangerous things that a law enforcement officer does. A large percentage
of officers injured on duty are injured during traffic stops and domestic
The purpose of the officer
standing to the rear of the driver’s door is for his own safety. It allows
the officer a view of the entire interior of a vehicle and allows him to
react if the driver or other occupant has a weapon
The other night I was
stopped by an officer and he left all his lights on bright when he approached
my car and asked me for my driver’s license. The bright lights blinded
me. Why did he do that?
During the hours of darkness
the risk to an officer increases simply because he cannot see into the
vehicle as he approaches it. It is necessary to “light up” the vehicle
until the officer is satisfied that the occupant is not going to do harm
to the officer or hide contraband.
Why did the officer order
me to stay in my car? I just got out to walk back and talk to him to find
out what I had done wrong?
When the officer asks you
to stay in, or return to, your vehicle it is for your safety as well as
the officer’s. The officer is concerned that if you are out of your vehicle
walking around you may be struck by another vehicle. He is also concerned
you may be approaching him with a weapon and intend to harm him.
When the officer first
walked up to my car, his attitude was blunt toward me. Later, the officer’s
attitude changed and he was friendly. Why?
When the officer first approached
your vehicle, he did not know that the only thing you had done was commit
a traffic infraction. He was at that time concerned for his safety. After
the officer was satisfied that you were not someone who was going to harm
him, and in fact were an honest citizen who had just committed a traffic
infraction, the officer was more at ease.
When I get stopped by
an officer, I don’t appreciate how long it takes for him to give me a ticket.
What is he doing back there in his car?
When an officer returns to
his vehicle with your license, there are several things that happen. The
officer contacts the dispatcher and requests both a driving record check
and a check of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) computer. This
is how the officer finds out if you are wanted for a crime, or just someone
who committed a traffic infraction. Computers are sometimes slow in giving
the officer the information he needs.
When the officer first
walked up to my car, why did he have his hand on his gun? I was just speeding
and it wasn’t necessary for him to act like he was going to draw his gun.
The fact that an officer
approaches your car with his hand on his weapon is not an offensive action
on his part, but rather a defensive one. You probably also noticed that
when the officer approached your car, he walked up rather cautiously. He
also stopped just behind the driver’s door and stood at an angle to your
vehicle. All these things are for the officer’s protection until the officer
is satisfied that you, or an occupant in your vehicle, are not going to
The other night a friend
was arrest for DUI. Why was he handcuffed?
When a person is arrested,
the officer places the person in handcuffs, then searches the person to
make sure the person has no weapons. Sometimes people, who are on drugs
or alcohol, can become violent. It is necessary to restrict their movements
for their own safety as well as the officer’s.
What can I do to put the
officer more at ease when I get stopped?
If you are stopped in the
daylight, stay in your vehicle, keep both hands on the steering wheel and
wait for the officer to ask for your driver’s license or give you instructions.
If you need to reach into the glove compartment or elsewhere, advise the
officer before doing so. If you are stopped at night, it is helpful to
the officer if you have your dome light on when he approaches. Again, keep
your hands where the officer can see them. Do not be a “name dropper” or
threaten to have the officer’s job if he gives you a ticket. If you would
like to know the officer’s name and badge number, they are on the ticket.
If you have a weapon in your
vehicle, advise the officer as soon as he approaches you. Keep your hands
in view of the officer at all times.
Remember, if you treat the
officer with the same respect as you expect from him, the experience will
be more pleasant for all involved.