What used to be a routine traffic stop has now become a very dangerous situation as more officers are being attacked and shot on the side of America’s roads every day. The trick to remaining safe is knowing what to do from the moment you hit the lights until the suspect pulls away or is driven away. Here are six steps you should take if you want to remain safe every time you pull another vehicle over:
Be Prepared for the Stop
• Start by keeping a very close eye on the suspect while you are calling the stop in.
• You need to be watching for attempts to conceal, dump, or destroy any evidence.
• Chose a tactically sound location to pull them over.
• Be sure the front seat of your patrol is clear of anything that might slow down or block an emergency exit.
• Keep a close eye on the suspect watching for attempts to flee.
• Be the first one out the door with your feet on the ground.
Be in Control
Taking control of the situation from the beginning is very important. It is up to you to make sure the situation does not spiral out of control from the outset. Use your interpersonal and communication skills to keep the situation de-escalated before angry words have a chance to turn into physical actions.
The Right Approach Tactics
The best thing you can do for yourself at this point is to make sure you are fully aware of the dangers. Position yourself in such a way as to not be in the way of passing traffic or being trapped between the cars. Take advantage of blind spots, the way you use your lights and mirrors to observe the occupants of the vehicle. This can give you more time to react if something goes wrong.
Never Reach into the Suspect’s Vehicle
You should never reach into a suspect’s vehicle, you put yourself at risk of being attacked by being dragged if the suspect decides to try and drive off.
Time is Always on Your Side
Time is always going to be on your side. There is nothing wrong with delaying the stop until the conditions are more favorable to a safe stop. If you are not comfortable, it’s okay to wait for a backup unit. For instance, you should never try to search a vehicle while at the same time trying to monitor the suspect. This exposes you to potential dangers, especially with a felony stop. Do everything by the numbers, it could save your life.
Beware of the Second Approach
Finally, be very aware of the second approach. While your first approach to the vehicle might have gone peacefully enough, never let this put you at ease. Doing so could cost your life. Try changing the way you approach, come up from the passenger side the second time, or work with your partner to swap out between who is the “Contact” and who is the “Cover” officer.
The most important thing you can do is NEVER treat any traffic stop as routine. Even the simplest of stops could be “the one” that gets you injured or killed. It is your job to uphold the law while at the same time to take every possible step to protect yourself.