Public Misunderstanding of “Officer Safety”Public Misunderstanding of “Officer Safety”How many times have you been pulled over by a police officer, and whenthe confrontation was complete you said to yourself, “Boy, was he rude!” or”There was no need for him to treat me like that.” Well, unfortunately, thepublic is prone to misinterpret an officer being safe for being rude.
Unfortunately, the actions taken during a “routine” traffic stop which areinterpreted as being rude are necessary steps that insure the safety of bothofficer and civilian.Imagine for a moment that you are a police officer on duty. You observea vehicle traveling 36 miles per hour on a 30 mile per hour road. You decide tostop the vehicle and give the driver a verbal warning in hopes that he willslow down and avoid an accident further down the road.
As you walk up to thedriver’s side window, you are shot 10 times in the face and chest and the driverleaves you for dead. This situation actually occurred in San Diego, CA, 18months ago. Many like it occur every day, and this is in the forefront of themind of every officer.
Another thing that an officer must keep in mind during a traffic stop isthe safety of the civilian driver. Same situation as above, but instead, as thevehicle stops, the driver gets out of his car and is struck by a passingmotorist. Again, this happens more than you would like to believe.The FBI conducts semi-annual research regarding the subject of officersafety and procedural changes which increase the chances of law enforcementofficers surviving their high risk work day. These are the some of theprocedures which they have published in regards to traffic stops, and whichmyself and other trainers have used to train their mobile patrolmen in hopes ofreducing their risk:Step #1: Park your patrol car approximately 1.5 car lengths behind, andwith the passenger’s side headlight even with the center of the violatorsvehicle.
By doing this you allow yourself, as the patrolman, an ample distancefor reaction. By parking off center you also allow a “hallway” for yourself toconduct business safely.Step #2: Turn your vehicle’s high beams, spotlight, code lights andany other light on your vehicle on and facing towards the stopped vehicle.
Thiswill make it hard for the violator to see where you are and get a good shot in.It also allows you to see what is occurring inside the vehicle clearly.Step #3: At no time do you allow the driver to exit his vehicle. It issafer for him and again puts him at a disadvantage for completing any violentacts against you.Step #4: While walking up to the vehicle, look at and lightly press downon the trunk. This reduces the chance of a hidden person coming out of thetrunk and firing on the officer.
(This does occasionally happen.)Step #5: When reaching the rear window, place your thumb print in thelower driver’s side of the window. If you are unfortunate enough to be shot orseverely injured in the process, this allows positive identification of thesuspect vehicle.Step #6: Position yourself at the rear of the driver’s side front door.
It will prevent the driver from opening his door too swiftly and striking you.It also places you with a good line of sight and the driver at a disadvantagedposition making it harder for him to surprise you.Step #7: When the stop is complete assist the driver in safelyreentering traffic.It is a sad definition of U.S. society that officers must constantlyfear for their life and take such severe steps in situations like these, butthey have no way of knowing who the bad guys are these days.
The violentcriminal could be anybody from a raggedy dressed man on a street corner to aupset office executive to the common housewife next door. The line dividing thegood guys from the bad guys has thinned and the black and white have runtogether creating as large grey area.It is not discounted that there are the occasional genuinely rudeofficers, but mostly the officer has a job to do and would like to complete itthe safest and most efficient way possible, and with the least amount ofinconvenience to the driver of the stopped car.Please remember, next time you are stopped for a violation of trafficregulations, that the officer is just doing his job and if you keep a positiveattitude and cooperate then you will be back on your way in no time. Law