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...


     Second, clear the suspect vehicle. A quick sweep with a drawn handgun can confirm that no one else is in the car, and the officer can continue the foot pursuit. Even if backup units are arriving, the first officer that needs to walk or run near any part of the suspect vehicle must clear it.

     Obviously, another reason to clear the suspect vehicle is the potential for the suspect to leave weapons behind. It is not uncommon for suspects to ditch the gun before or during the run. It is logically better to let the suspect keep running and secure a firearm that might fall in the hands of a curious child. Arriving officers can do this in order to allow the initiating officer and backup to get in the chase.

     Third, if there is potential for the suspect to double back and reclaim the suspect vehicle, disable it according to policy. Obviously, the easiest way to do this is to pocket the keys.

Use psychology

     When initiating a stop, reach over and click on the passenger side spotlight. It doesn't hurt to have them pre-positioned. It also doesn't hurt to have the Police Explorer in the passenger seat working the spotlight. The psychology of two persons in the patrol vehicle works to the officer's advantage. Telling the suspects that there is a police canine standing by can also go a long way toward compliance.

     The Explorer (or any other passenger) should not be allowed to remain in the passenger door location during a typical high-risk stop. If done by the numbers, the patrol car is offset from the stopped vehicle so that the driver side of the patrol car offers protection from traffic. Anyone in the passenger side cannot put engine block between himself and the threat. Have the passenger move to the rear of the vehicle.

     Finally, the most effective thing officers can do during a high-risk stop is present a competent officer team, so suspects recognize that the likelihood of effective resistance is trumped. In other words, overwhelm the suspects with the threat of reasonable force to solicit their compliance.

     Lindsey Bertomen is a retired police officer who teaches at Hartnell College in Salinas, California.

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