The key to a successful and safe traffic stop is maintaining professionalism while still remaining vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times. There is no such thing as a “routine” traffic stop. If a feeling is nudging you and it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Aside from taking care of procedural tasks, there are a few crucial considerations to keep in mind that will help you stay safe and in control of your next traffic stop.
© Thinkstock Images♦ Run the license plate before exiting your unit. This way you will have an idea of who you are dealing with. If the person comes back with warrants, call for backup.
♦ Ensure that the vehicle you are pulling over, as well as your unit, are well out of the roadway and in a safe spot.
♦ Stay visible. This includes making sure your unit is seen by using lights and flashers as well as avoiding pulling a vehicle over in a secluded spot. If you are in an area with heavy traffic wearing a traffic safety vest is a good idea.
Additional observations for situational awareness
♦ Always note how many people are in the vehicle and if any weapons are visible. Be sure to identify each person by running their driver’s license or identification card.
♦ Ask if any weapons are present if you do not see any. Be sure to instruct the driver to tell you where the weapon is, not show you.
Vehicle occupant body language
© Bigstock Images♦ Ask yourself about the person’s demeanor. Note their behavior and make sure to keep an eye on where their hands are and where they are looking. By instructing the driver to keep their hands visible and eye contact on you, you can decrease a potentially dangerous situation.
If a weapon is involved
♦ Ask for a backup unit to assist you. Dispatch and other officers need to be aware of the situation.
♦ Continue to maintain control of the situation by keeping an eye on the people in the vehicle. Remain calm yet assertive in your responses.
♦ Obtain the weapon safely and make it safe. If it is a firearm, ensure it is unloaded and ask dispatch to run the serial number to see if the firearm was used in a crime or is stolen.