Things to remember during high-risk traffic stops

     When Officer Rodriguez ran the plate of the vehicle in front of him on his mobile data computer (MDC), it came back stolen. Dispatch had already hit the alert tone when Rodriguez was picking up his microphone. He immediately gave his location...

     Deciding who does what should be driven by SOP and practice. Practice in an open field using two patrol cars, a civilian car and airsoft training guns. Do not forget full facial protection and proper attire. Have an officer play a suspect who routinely aggresses the team.

     Training to maintain communication also can be done using the above scenario. Officers must keep each other in their periphery and communicate while engaging and giving verbal commands. Use a referee who has the authority to stop the scenario and restart it where it branched. This will encourage a healthy dialogue about vehicle stop options.

     When training to deliver efficient fire and avoid crossfire, it is recommended that agencies use a mannequin, two patrol cars and a barricade. The mannequin is placed at various points in front of the vehicles. For example, put the mannequin in the "cone of darkness" (just in front of the arresting vehicle) and shoot the simulated armed suspect in the vehicle while a cover officer has responsibility for the suspect on the ground. The barricade simulates various parts of the vehicle exterior that will block fields of fire.

     Officers training in this scenario will immediately find that shooting from cover, two car-lengths away, is a further distance than most will practice. This is also a good time to practice efficient use of cover and steadying oneself on a vehicular barricade.


     Officers on duty generally carry only two to three pairs of handcuffs. During a high-risk stop or other operation that requires more handcuffs than the contact officer has on his belt, cover officers will pass them to the contact officer. For example, if a high-risk stop has a driver and three passengers, the contact officer uses either his projected voice or PA system to call persons out of that vehicle one at a time. After the first two are called out and handcuffed, other officers on scene must donate their cuffs in order to effectively detain more suspects.

     In light of this situation, there are a few things that wise officers do. First, if it is tactically unsound to pass cuffs to the contact officer, the officer has to rely on handcuffing resources at hand.

     If the agency also uses the kinds of handcuffs that look like big wire ties, they should be preloaded just like their steel counterparts. That is, the nylon cuffs should already be linked together with loops large enough to go over large hands but too small to fit over the head. This rule should not be compromised. Some agencies hang these things from the patrol car outside mirrors to keep them handy. If an officer is part of an arrest team in a civil disturbance, he can use a carabiner and carry a half dozen preloaded ones.

     After the dust settles, everyone switches out their handcuffs. We strongly recommend that officers color code their handcuffs so they get the correct set back. Some officers use colored wire ties on the links to mark their cuffs. Better: Get some of the brightly colored handcuffs from Hiatts to claim them easily.

     How do you put nylon handcuffs on a noncompliant suspect? That's easy — put the steel ones on first. This is why officers should always carry a minimum of two sets of cuffs.

     High-risk handcuffing is done with steel ratchet-type cuffs. Once these are on, one can slip the nylon style over the hands, even if the suspect is noncompliant. If this activity is done following any type of high-risk contact, the uniform of the day is a drawn firearm. All high-risk activity should be at gunpoint or TASER-point.

Clear the vehicle

     If a high-risk stop, or any stop, goes into a foot pursuit, there are a few things officers can do to prevent heartaches later. First, clear the vehicle. We are not just talking about clearing a suspect vehicle; the patrol car should also be unavailable to suspects. That is, things that could be used against an officer like a shotgun or an extra can of OC should be secured. The keys stay with the officer. Few things will cause more confusion and liability than a stolen police car.

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