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Surviving Traffic Duty

NCJ Number
Police: The Law Enforcement Magazine Volume: 29 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2005 Pages: 34-35,38,39
Gerald W. Garner
Date Published
January 2005
4 pages
Safety tips for conducting traffic stops encompass mental preparation and tactical positioning.
Mental complacency conditioned by multiple traffic stops without incident is a dangerous mind-set that erodes the mental alertness required to notice all that is happening in the course of a traffic contact. Being mentally alert means tracking everyone present at the stop. This is best done by having all parties remain in the vehicle for the duration of the contact. If the driver is suspected of being intoxicated and there are passengers in the vehicle, a cover officer should be called to the scene to ensure officer safety while any testing of the driver is being conducted. Traffic officers should continually evaluate themselves regarding safety practices during traffic stops. It is too easy to slip into bad habits. A mental, if not a written checklist, should be reviewed after each stop. Before beginning each traffic stop, an officer should remind himself/herself that the occupants of the vehicle are strangers whose backgrounds and criminal histories are unknown. It is best to assume the worst. When stops are made on the shoulder of a high-speed roadway, a passenger-side approach is the best option; do not stand between the front of the patrol vehicle and the rear of the stopped vehicle. This article also describes other correct positioning tactics so as to make a difficult target for any occupant attempting to use a firearm. Other topics pertain to avoiding being distracted, calling for backup when danger is sensed, and avoiding an escalating verbal argument with occupants.