Among the everyday tasks we in Law Enforcement face, we have the Traffic Stop. By far one of the most habitual tasks performed by a patrol officer and probably one of the least thought about. Do you really have control of your traffic stop? Here are somethings to consider.
Is there such a things as a better location?
As you may have already experienced, suspects will continue after you have signaled to stop, taking you as far off known common areas as possible, or at least to a location that provides them an advantage to abandon the vehicle or plan an attack.
An example of this could be when a deputy finds a vehicle’s driver taking an extra amount of time to pull over, and when the driver does stop, it’s in an area that may be darker or out of view from a passerby. The deputy realizes the occupant(s) are looking to get him in an area that will offer few witnesses to whatever surprise they have planned for him. The deputy decides to wait for backup and have the occupants exit the car, rather than approach the vehicle by himself . It is learned after the stop was conducted in it’s entirety that drugs and weapons were in the vehicle.
A constant consideration as to how to conduct your traffic stop should include picking where and when you are going to effect the stop. If you realize that the driver continues and chooses his /her own location, then you may want to consider not approaching the car until you have enough backup on scene.
If your stop occurs prior to your realization of the attempt to re-locate you in “not so good” location, then control your stop by verbal direction from your vehicle (using loud speaker) until an additional or enough units arrive to make it as safe as you can.
Consider your approach. Are you approaching were expected?
We talk about the “Fatal Funnel” during tactical movement all the time. Approaching the vehicle after it’s stopped is comparably the same. If the suspect wanted to bet on your location for a sudden attack, chances are you will be approaching from the vehicle drivers side. Sure not too many choices, however read the occupants, consider surroundings and a better approach. One strong recommendation seen almost in every article I have read, was not to cross in front of your headlights or spot lamps at night. No matter which side of the vehicle you choose to approach, limit the chances of getting hit by a passing vehicle!
Maintaining visual contact
Are you looking down at your computer the entire time? I can assure you that for the suspect, he/she is looking at you the entire time. Just like we read body language, it works the same for them. Consider looking for signs or movements in the vehicle during your research of records. In your mind prepare your self should a sudden attack occur. If for some reason the actions of the occupants make you nervous, stop looking at the computer, exit the vehicle and wait for additional units. Where should you wait? Consider a blind spot behind your cruiser.
Wrapping up the stop!
How many videos have we seen were at point of issuance of a citation or a warning, things become deadly? Too many! Consider issuing the citation away from the vehicle and additional subjects in the vehicle. Preferably with something between you and the violator like the hood of your vehicle.
Just because your wrapping up the stop, it doesn’t mean your suspect isn’t starting their attack!