Police Officer Stopping The Vehicle

Strengthening The Citizen and Law Enforcement Partnership at The Traffic Stop:
Professionalism is a Two-Way Street




Part I: Practices for Traffic Law Enforcement Officers

Blue BulletDuring Typical Stops
Red BulletSpecial Conditions
Blue BulletConfrontational Drivers
Blue BulletDuring Suspicious or Felonious Stops
Blue BulletConclusion

Part II: Practices for Drivers

Blue BulletWhy Officers Conduct
Blue BulletTraffic Stops Are Dangerous

Blue BulletWhat Can You Do?



Special Conditions

22. Calm children and other occupants in the vehicle who may be frightened by the presence of an officer.

23. Have cards written in English and in other appropriate languages that indicate the officerís request for the driver license, registration, etc. This can be used when the driver speaks another language or when the driver is hearing impaired. Also, if the incident should escalate, be equipped with a voluntary consent form in various languages appropriate to the officerís community.

24. Be aware of cultural differences. In some cultures, persons may talk softly, while in other cultures, persons may talk loudly. Some persons may use less eye contact, stand closer to the person theyíre talking to or, on the other hand, feel uncomfortable if the officer is standing too close.

25. Avoid automatically stating the specific fine, number of points, court costs. This could increase tension. Briefly go through the procedure for sending in the fine or how to get a court appearance. If you are asked the amount of the fine and the information is available, respond accordingly.

26. Never base the stop or post-stop actions on race, gender, religion, people with disabilities, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, or social economic status. This violates the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.

Traffic enforcement must be conducted in full compliance with the constitutional and statutory safeguards established to preserve the rights of all citizens. Traffic enforcement that is discriminatory; inconsistent with democratic ideals, values and principles of American policing; is not a legitimate or defensible public protection strategy.

In fact, officers should place a special emphasis on enhancing communication and understanding between law enforcement agencies and the diverse community they serve.

Use the but/for test to determine whether a stop was based on racial profiling. Say to yourself, But for this personís race, ethnic heritage, gender, religious, sexual orientation, or disability, would this driver have had this encounter with me? If the answer is that they would not, then this was a profile stop and most likely a violation of the personís Constitutional rights. Naturally, this does not prevent officers from stopping an individual in response to a report of a crime where the suspect matches the description of the wanted individual and where that description is sufficiently specific and includes race as an identifier.

27. If asked, explain the use of bright headlights and spotlights at night. Many times, this is the basis for driver complaints. Explain the reasons why you are illuminating the driverís vehicle. Say, for example, Itís for your safety and mine.

28. Adjust the spot light after returning to the patrol vehicle. At night, the spotlight is positioned on the offendersí rear-view or driverís side mirrors to make it more difficult for them to see the officerís approach to the vehicle. After assessing that the risk of confrontation or injury is diminished, and the officer returns to the patrol vehicle to write the citation, as a courtesy, consider moving the spotlight to another area of the vehicle.

29. If asked, explain the presence of your backup officer or additional vehicles. The officer is there for your safety and mine. Say, for example, The officer in the other vehicle happened to be driving by and stopped to see if I need help.

30. Explain why you have to talk louder than normal. There are times when officers are near traffic and other noisy conditions and have to speak loudly. This is also true with motorcycle officers who are often required to speak with their helmets on while on duty. To compound the problem, drivers are in a quieter environment. If necessary, officer should explain these circumstances to avoid being perceived as rude or confrontational.