Police Officer Stopping

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
Blue 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
Red BulletWhat Can You Do?



What Can You Do?

Whether you are stopped by a state highway patrol or state police trooper, a county sheriff deputy, or a local police officer, under our laws and ordinances, you are expected to cooperate. Just as the officer strives to maintain a level of professionalism during the traffic stop, drivers and other occupants can do their part, too, by following these simple guidelines.

  1. Carry proper identification: a valid driverís license, proof of vehicle registration and proof of insurance.

  2. When being signaled by an officer to stop, look for the nearest place to position your vehicle as far out of the lane of traffic as possible. Generally pull off to the right side of the roadway or to where the shoulder is wider, unless otherwise directed. Signal your move to the side of the roadway, stop, then turn on your flashers.

  3. Never attempt to outrun the patrol vehicle or pretend not to see the lights or hear the siren.

  4. Stay in your vehicle. If you are asked to exit the vehicle, do it slowly.

  5. Remain calm. If there are passengers, also ask them to remain quiet and cooperative with all reasonable requests. Do not let anyone in your vehicle make threatening statements or gestures to the officers.

  6. Keep your seat belt fastened until the officer has seen you wearing it.

  7. Avoid automatically thinking that this stop was based on race, gender, religion, national or ethnic origin. Wait for the officerís explanation. Officers are trained to know that this type of traffic stop violates federal civil rights laws.

  8. Turn on the interior lights when the stop occurs during darkness so the officer can easily see that all is in order.

  9. Understand that officer will turn on the patrol carís headlights and spotlights during darkness for safety purposes. It helps illuminate the interior of your car.

  10. Understand the reason that there are times when officers have to speak loudly because they are near traffic and other noisy conditions. They are not trying to intimidate you.

  11. Keep your hands in view, preferably on the steering wheel. Ask your passengers to place their hands in plain view such as on their laps.

  12. Do not duck down or make sudden movements, especially toward the floorboard, rear seat, or passenger side of the vehicle. The officer may interpret these movements as an attempt to hide illegal goods or to obtain a weapon.

  13. Turn off your engine. Also, if in use, turn off your cell telephone and radio to facilitate communications.

  14. Roll down your window all the way so you and the officer can communicate.

  15. Ask for identification if the officer is not in uniform or does not have a marked patrol vehicle.

  16. Remember the name of the officer.

  17. Remember, the first words spoken by you (and the officer) may very well determine the tone of the interaction during the traffic stop.

  18. Do not immediately reach into your glove box, console pocket or backseat. Wait for the officer to request your license, registration and proof of insurance. If the documents are out of reach, tell the officer where they are and reach for them slowly. Otherwise, keep your hands on the steering wheel.

  19. Give the officer a chance to explain the violation. Most officers are trained to ask for identification first before providing an explanation of the stop.

  20. Answer the officerís questions to the best of your knowledge.

  21. If the charge or citation is not clear, ask for an explanation in a respectful manner.

  22. There is no need to apologize over or to elaborate on the offense, in effect, to testify against yourself. Simply be civil and polite. If there are any special circumstances surrounding the incident, provide a straight, honest and up-front explanation.

  23. Avoid provoking the officer or showing off in front of other occupants. Do not interfere with the questioning or the arresting of other occupants. Comply with the officer first and then, if needed, seek an explanation.
  24. Do not argue with the officer at the roadside. If you disagree with the citation or the officerís actions, discuss it later with the law enforcement agency or the judge.

  25. Let the officer know if you are carrying a properly registered weapon. In these cases, the officer may have a special procedure that, for example, may require you to identify the location of the weapon, to state if the weapon is loaded, to step out of the vehicle, etc. Also, the officer may ask for your permit number to radio in a check and compare it to the serial number on the weapon. In some states, weapons are registered for specific purposes such as hunting and target practice. So the officer may be required to ask you questions about your activities.

  26. Report the incident to the officerís agency, if you feel the officer has acted irresponsibly. Document the officerís misconduct in a written statement and submit it within a few days after the incident. Call the agency and follow their procedure. Also, since traffic enforcement procedures may vary from state to state, consult an attorney or law enforcement agency representative who are familiar with laws and agency policies.

  27. If you receive a citation, in most states you will be asked to sign it. This is not an admission of guilt. It only means that you received the citation. Any refusal to sign the citation could result in an arrest or being taken to the station to post collateral and pay for the offense.

  28. Donít be surprised if another patrol car appears. Since many law enforcement agencies use
    one-person patrol cars, this is done to assure the officerís safety.

  29. Do not resist a pat down search. This will be done only if the officer has a reasonable suspicion that you may be carrying an illegal weapon.

  30. Be flexible. There are many issues of safety and officer concerns that may be unique to your traffic stop. No traffic stop is routine. Cooperate with the officer and follow instructions.

  31. Practice the golden rule. Treat the officer like you would want to be treated.

  32. Treat law enforcement officers with respect. In fact, say hello to officers next time you see one around your community. Write the agency when an officer is exceptionally kind and helpful.

  33. Teach your children to respect and to talk to law enforcement officers when they meet them in the community, schools, etc. Help them realize that officers serve and protect everyone in the community. We must continue to pass-on, from generation to generation, respect for professional law enforcement officers.