We interrupt our regularly scheduled posts because something has come up. In a recent incident in the UK, a woman was stopped by a fake unmarked police car. (Please note: there are many stories of this kind periodically doing the rounds, many of which are fake and spread unnecessary fear. This one was real, but it still doesn’t mean that every traffic stop should be a cause for panic.)
It got me thinking: I don’t know what a normal police traffic stop looks like, so how could I recognise a fake one? So I asked around, and Greg Rowe, a policeman in the USA, kindly wrote the following post.
Please note that this advice applies to the US. Some alterations may be necessary for other jurisdictions/types of vehicles. It pays to ask your local law enforcement officers.
“Ideal stop. My lights go on, after the driver notices, turn signal goes on (oddly enough, it shows acknowledgement and will make your stop better). It’s almost like a handshake. I see you and see that you want something. Pull over safely at a normal speed. Put the car in park (I’ll see the reverse light for a split second and know the odds have been lessened that they’re going to flee or shoot and flee). Feet off the brakes (see above). Both hands on the wheel in normal driving position. Keep your head forward and wait for me to tap on the window. If you’re looking all over the place for me, my concern will be increased. At that point, roll down whatever window I’m at and make eye contact. The verbal interaction should be about the same level as meeting a new person at work (not overly familiar, but not scared). Courtesy goes a looooong way to making your stop better. It’s not kissing ass, it’s like a normal business interaction. I’m not stopping you because I don’t like you.
Keep the hands still until I ask you to get something. Moving your hands when I can’t see them will raise my concern a great deal. The hands are what will hurt me, retrieve weapons, and hide evidence. If you have a weapon let me know. Move at a normal pace (just like work, if someone asked you for your stapler, you wouldn’t suddenly lunge for it). I’ll tell you why I stopped you. My goal is to minimize the encounter for you and me. I’ll go back to my squad, run checks, issue a cite or warning, and handle whatever I’m doing in the squad.
While I’m away, don’t excessively move around. Don’t start going through your car looking for something. Keeps your hands in your lap or on the bottom of the wheel. Remember, after the first approach, I’m more relaxed, but if you are reaching beyond the area I’ve had the chance to look at, I’m going to be more concerned when I come back. Same thing applies when I come back, I’ll handle my business and tell you what I did and let you go. This isn’t the time to argue if you feel wronged. That’s what court is for. The less I remember about you, the better off you are if you go to court. Every time I go to court, our attorney asks what I want him to do. If you were decent , I tell him that and you’re much likely to get a better deal.”