Saturday Question

I got this question about a month ago and it got buried in my folder. My apologies, Frank! Better late than never, right? So without any further ado…

It’s been a long time since I have been pulled over for anything, but if for whatever reason the subject comes up I try to encourage people to use safer practices if they get pulled over. ie… don’t stop in a traffic lane… if possible, pull onto a side street, parking lot, or far enough off the road that the LEO is not exposed to traffic… if at night, stop under a streetlight if one is available… roll down all windows if you can, turn on interior lights, keep your hands visible and on the wheel until told to do something else with them… and announce your movements before you make them (such as, ‘my insurance card is in the glovebox, officer, just a moment’). And of course, be polite, be honest, etc.
That all being the case, is there a point where being a little too friendly to the LEO’s needs will actually draw suspicion or push you away from giving the friendlies a break? Like… ‘you seem to know a lot about getting pulled over, what else have you done to have learned all this?’
Is there anything you would add or remove from my short list of do’s and don’ts for drivers who are pulled over?

Okay….that’s a whole lot of info to digest. The crux of your suggestions is greatly appreciated if not a mite over the top. Obviously, you’re advocating safety and Lord knows, we’re all for it. (Just a quick aside, here. All of these things I’m suggesting are my opinion. I don’t presume to speak for any other LEO or agency.) I’ll take your practices one by one:
1. Don’t stop in a traffic lane. Agreed. Speaking for myself, I will direct the driver via P.A. to yield to the right if there’s a shoulder. If there isn’t one, I will direct them to the next side street.
2. Stopping under a street light at night. While I absolutely appreciate the sentiment behind it, unless there is a street light within 100 yards or so of where I light a driver up, it is more likely to cause me concern pre-contact. I can’t look into a driver’s mind and see they are trying to be helpful. I have to operate under the assumption they’re up to something. Upon contact, it is typically easy to distinguish between the two, but prior to contact, all sorts of red flags go up if the driver doesn’t yield within a certain time/distance.
3. Roll down windows, turn on lights, keep hands visible. All excellent advice.
4. Announce movement. Also very helpful.
It’s funny, but when I walk up on a car and I see the driver’s hands on the steering wheel, I think one of two things: Cop or Con. If the hair is high and tight, my first question is typically, “Where do you work?” If I’m not getting a particularly porky fragrance off the driver, my first question may very well be, “Probation or Parole?” Either way, it’s nice to deal with professionals. Soccer moms have no understanding of Officer Safety.
Insofar as being overly friendly goes, after stopping literally thousands of cars, it becomes close to second nature to sniff out the well-intentioned from the sleight-of-hand artist. As I’ve said innumerable times, attitude and honesty go a long way with me. If I’m inclined to give warnings, it can only help.
Thanks for taking the time, Frank, and again, I’m sorry for taking so long to get to your question. It was a valuable one! Thanks for reading and come back anytime!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

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10 thoughts on “Saturday Question

  1. One other thing–just pull over! We don't care if the curb is red or not. No we're not going to add a red zone parking ticket if you pull over at a red curb. Use common sense, if pulling over immediately is in an obviously unsafe spot, such as a major thoroughfare that's always busy with traffic, go to a parking lot or side street. Just don't let a red zone stop you from pulling over if it is otherwise safe to do so…that annoys the hell out of me.

    And if it's a motorcop pulling you over, expect a passenger side approach most of the time–it's safer for us (something our carcop friends haven't quite learned or mastered yet for the most part).

  2. As a cop, you are typical. You're the boss and if I am the one being stopped, I better damn well obey you, or else. How can driving an extra 100 yards possibly get your condar up? I want to be where I can see you, the cop, and feel safe about you, the cop. You talk and act as if all cops are perfect and it's always the citizen causing the problem. I think that's a load of bull. I feel you, the cop, have a duty to assume I am a good guy and to give me that benefit. When you see me reach for my wallet or glove box, it doesn't give you the right to draw on me as if I am suddenly a bad guy. I have a concealed weapons permit. I have a right to carry a gun with me. And, just because you have come in contact with me doesn't mean you have the right to treat me differently or demand I hand over the weapon. My gun is to protect me from itchy trigger finger guys like you and, as long as the contact is consensual, I have as much right to be armed as you do. So, get off your high horse. If you pull me over, it'll be where I think I am safe-from traffic and from any shennanigans you might pull, even if it's three hundred yards down the road. I won't speed up or act otherwise stupid. And I'll be respectful, but not slavish. And if you are wrong. I may tell you. And I expect you to show me respect if you expect any in return.

  3. I'm always nice!!! 🙂 Unknown how we got into the conversation.. but I was once on the side of a country road exchanging hard water stain remedies with a chp unit!
    -Dispatcher

  4. MC, would it not be more advisable to wait until the LEO reaches the side of the vehicle to be reaching down or across the seat to roll down windows, turn on lights, etc? Sorry, but not all vehicles have a single push button for those functions. The last time I was stopped, I waited with my hands on the wheel until the Officer could see what I was doing. I got a ticket and we had a friendly conversation, too.

    Cophawk

  5. MC, it just so happened….

    I bought a car located three hours from home. We made it into a family trip. I have several children, and the 5 year old got into the Suburban and buckled himself in back as usual – without volunteering that his car seat wasn't present. We found out a couple hours later. We'll be watching more closely for that….

    Anyway….

    Got the car. It is a low-miles '79 LeBaron that screams 'hoopty', bought for a friend who plans to restore it and make it into a show car. 5 year old wants to ride with me. No car seat… I doubt he's much less safe in this steel brick than the Suburban, though I am still unhappy about this.

    Upon pickup, I see the tabs are expired. Nice. I also forgot to bring my proof of insurance cards.

    You can see where this is going.

    Driving home late at night, kid is asleep in back. Crown Vic lights come up quick on my left and then drop back, and I know I am owned.

    He dropped in behind me, running the plates, I suppose, then lit me up a minute or two later

    Conveniently (or by his plan) we were at an interchange. I was able to pull across an on-ramp and park on the shoulder well away from active freeway traffic, under some lights. Did everything else except the interior lights (not working).

    I told him I just bought the car, and confessed knowing my tabs were expired and that I had no registration papers or insurance card, and also that not only did I know I was supposed to have a car seat, but that as a 16-year fireman I knew full well how dangerous it was to not have one. I told him that I deserved any and all cites that I was eligible for.

    Then I kicked myself… dang it, I did not intend to 'drop' my profession like that. (No stickers, shirts, or anything else present).

    He took my license, ran my record, found I was clean, and let me off with the directive to get tabs ASAP and never run without a car seat again.

    I was very grateful and wished him a safe evening.

    I deserved a big ticket.

    Sorry for the long post to go with my original long Saturday question. Thanks for the blog.

    – Frank (aka F4)

  6. In my driver's ed class many moons ago, we were all taught that, if we were pulled over, we were to roll down our window, put our hands on the wheel where they could be seen, & wait. The advice to announce all moves was also given. Thus, I have done this on both occasions I've been pulled over even though I'm a lot closer to a soccer mom than a convict.

  7. Anonymous,

    You seem confused. 100 yards doesn't get my 'condar' up. The cop/con comment was in regards to those that look the part. The 100 yards was a measurement for the sake of discussion. Suffice it to say if the driver fails to yield within a certain distance, yes, it sets off the warning bells. That doesn't mean I'm yanking some blue hair out of her window. Let's not over-react.

    I've never pulled my gun on anyone when they reached to where 99% of people keep their information. That's not to say my hand isn't resting on the butt of my gun.

    All cops perfect?!? Oh, hell no. Believe me when I tell you I've seen some dumptrucks in my time. Cops are just as human as you. Society at large tends to forget that.

    Let me assure you, I have no duty to assume you are good, bad, or indifferent. You're demeanor and behavior are the barometer by which I gauge what category you may or may not belong in. That's not to say that you can't move from one to another in a moment, either.

    Insofar as your CCW permit goes. You and I will be far happier if you advise me you have a weapon in the car and you have the proper paperwork for same. I will assume you are bright enough to do just that. If you fail to let me in on your little secret and I see it before you do, you may very well be staring at the business end of a .40. Note that I didn't say I'd shoot you, but please be aware that until I feel the situation is under control, you may not appreciate being handcuffed. Again, note that I didn't say I'd shoot you, pistol whip, man handle you, or generally treat you poorly. There is a smart way and a less smart way to handle a concealed weapon.

    CA law requires you to yield to the right when you see the pretty lights behind you. Not where you think it is okay to stop. Not in your driveway. Not where you feel like it. If you don't follow that particular VC, you may be subject to an additional citation. If I cited everyone for that section that didn't follow the letter of the law, I'd run out of cites. Everything is a case by case basis.

    And finally, with regard to respect…I'll say two things. First, you get what you give. I treat every stop as similarly as I can with regard to my initial contact. It is typically the driver's attitude that sets the tone for the remainder. Second, like the title says, "If you got stopped…you deserved it." I'm more than happy to educate you on your violation based on your attitude. That doesn't always entail a citation. If we meet, it's because you did something you shouldn't have.

  8. Anonymous:

    Based upon your comment, I wonder how you ever qualified for a CCW permit. Did you fail to tell them you wanted to carry the gun to protect yourself against "rogue cowboy cops" with "itchy trigger fingers"?

    Oh, and by the way, it is not your right to carry your weapon concealed, it is a privilege. Just like driving. And just like driving, if you abuse it, the privilege can be revoked.

  9. My thing is not that I don't resepct cops and the job they do. What I don't like is that the cops always think they are right, hence the name of this Blog. My point is, when I meet up with you for whatever reason, until something makes it otherwise, I am your equal, and I don't always deserve to be stopped because I didn't do the crime. 99.9% of cops don't believe that. Maybe you are part of the .1%. Fact, I don't always deserve it when I get stopped, because sometimes the cop is wrong. On at least two occasions I have been stopped and cited for something I didn't do, there was no way the cop observed or could have observed me doing what he said I did, and if I had done it I did it blatantly in front of him (which would have been a real stupid move on my part), and I could prove I had not done it. It really pissed me off cause he wouldn't listen to me and I had to waist time in court to get a dismissal (which I did). And I had to waste time on a stupid stop. When I am wrong, I admit it and take my lickin'. Politely. I ain't perfect, but I am as perfect as any cop.

  10. Anonymous,

    Perhaps I should change the title to "If I stopped you…you deserved it." I can unequivocally say that if I stop and cite you, you did exactly what I cited you for. I'm not going to risk my career, house, family, etc. by detaining you illegally.

    Have I stopped someone by mistake (similar make/model, whatever)? Yup. Did I cite them? Nope. Was I an asshole to them? Nope. I'm just as human as you are. Again, though, I won't cite someone if I am not willing to stand before a judge and testify under oath.

    Your point is well taken. Being stopped twice for something you claim you didn't do is either really shitty luck on your part, not accurate, or there are some issues within whatever department you are being stopped by. I don't know because I wasn't there. I'm not trying to be judgemental at all, it just sounds like rotten luck.

    Finally, with regard to roadside discussions about a violation…on occasion I will talk to the person about it, but more often than not, it's not the appropriate venue for discussion. That's precisely what court is for. With all sincerity, I applaud you for seeing it through to court and having the fortitude to prepare and build your case in what I can only assume was a clear, well thought out defense. Most people are either incapable of that or just don't care and are hoping the cop doesn't show.

    Thanks for your point of view. I'm sure if we were ever to meet on a stop we'd both be just as polite as the other and would wonder "Was that MC/Anonymous?"