I'm Going to Make a Traffic Stop
Police Chief's Desk
July 21, 2021
Traffic stops on the surface seem very simple and straight forward.
From the outside looking, in these stops may appear as if someone did something inherently wrong or malicious. In general, the reason for stop is usually informative in nature for the driver.
Traffic stops are one of the most dynamic things that an officer performs. One of a patrol officers' main functions is to inform the driver about improper driving behavior or defective vehicle equipment. These dynamic interactions are heavily scrutinized in court and take extensive amounts of training to function properly accordingly to Montana Law.
Every one of the Glasgow Patrolman go through a minimum of a three-month Field Training Program along with a three-month field training before patrolling on their own. Your police department has three certified Field Training Officers and are sending another officer within the month.
Within a year after the field training process is complete the officer will be sent to the police academy. All officers are required to have follow-up training throughout their career. During the Field Training Program Officer are given the foundation to a traffic stop as one of the first and main priorities. The traffic stop is one of the main interactions with the public.
This interaction is dynamic and evolves throughout the process. Officers though calm and meticulous on the surface are usually running millions of scenarios in their head during the traffic stop. The interaction is completely dictated by the person the officer has pulled over.
While on patrol, officers are looking for infractions of Montana Law. They have to prioritize the stop with the number of officers on duty, the severity of the infraction, time of day, weigh other calls for service and the liability facts that will come with that particular stop. Officers are trained to use discretion within a certain parameter, but also remain consistent within the Department's numerous policies and procedures.
Factors that are not taken into consideration are who the person is, what they do for a living or what the effects of this stop will have on social media. Officers are trained to be impartial and consistent so they can testify to that fact in a court of law. With all that in mind; the officer must pick through traffic looking for possible indicators to investigate. Once a traffic infraction is witnessed or called in to law enforcement a traffic stop may be conducted. (Credibility of the report comes into play). Please see past article "Community Involvement essential in Police Work."
If an officer has enough particularized suspicion that a crime will be committed, is being committed or has been committed, they can decide to make a traffic stop. They must now determine the quickest and safest way to pursue the vehicle while not putting other motoring public in harm's way.
They must decide whether or not to use their lights and or sirens in pursuit of the offender. If an officer uses both lights and sirens the offender is likely to hide possible contraband, but other motor public will be aware of sudden traffic maneuvers by the officer.
If an officer uses just their lights other motorist may not see them casing an accident which is ultimately the officer's fault. The upside to this maneuver of simply using their lights is to keep the small town feel of not hearing sirens all the time. Officers must weigh all of these facts and liabilities before the vehicle is ever pulled over.
Once turning on the overhead lights the officer has determined they want the vehicle to pull over and they have an idea where they want the vehicle to pull over. This area is usually well lit and off the road way clear of other traffic. This is generally when an officer determines what the outcome of the initial driving infraction will be, example warning or citation. This is done based off the officer's predetermined decision.
If the vehicle decides not to stop in that desired location officers are trained to immediately get suspicious.
Is the person going to flee?
Are they trying to hide something?
Are they trying to take me to a location where they have the advantage and hurt me?
All of this makes an officer adrenaline raise substantially.
Once the vehicle pulls over the officer must then protect the driver and the vehicle from passing cars. They must also set the vehicle in a particular manner to protect themselves. That all has to be done in a fast safe manner because the front seat of the patrol vehicle is the number one place officers die.
During this time, the officer must keep safety of themselves and others in mind while taking note of what is happening inside the vehicle with driver and all passengers.
Officers will relay to Dispatch where they are, what vehicle they are with and generally what is taking place.
While all of this is going on the officer needs to keep their wits about them as other dangers may occur which include, but are not limited; other vehicles, other citizens, natural dangers such as weather and the suspect vehicle changing locations or driving off.
Thank you for reading this article on making a traffic stop. As you have you have read, there is a lot that goes into a traffic stop before the vehicle is ever pulled over.
Your Glasgow Police Department wants you to have the tool to assist us with a successful traffic stop. P-public O-officers, L-linked, I-in, C-community, E-enforcement.
Stay Safe and feel free to contact us with questions or ideas for future articles.