There will be occasions when you stop
people who are very polite and
cooperative.  While you can't expect
anyone to be pleased with the prospect
of receiving a citation for a traffic
violation, there are a few people out
there who realize that a nasty attitude
serves no purpose.

If you've ever been pulled over by a
police officer, you're familiar with that
queasy feeling you get in your stomach.  
You also know, with rare exception, why
you're being stopped.  Even though
people know exactly why you're stopping
them, most will still ask the question,
"Why am I being stopped?"  I particularly
love this one.  You stop a car for running
through a red light.  Before you can even
get out of your car, the operator of the
car you stopped is out and almost
running toward you shouting, "I didn't
run that red light!"  Yes...you're going to
run into some real winners and losers
depending upon how you view their

Your attitude has everything to do with
how well or badly a traffic stop will go for
both you and the person stopped.  The
one thing you must never, never do is
argue with the person.  You're in a
position of ultimate power, and there will
never be any reason for you to engage in
any conversation that is even slightly
argumentative.  Sarcasm is out of
bounds as well.  While people will open
themselves up for more than a few clever
responses, you must resist the urge to
subject a person to any kind of

I stopped a man for running -- really
running -- a stop sign.  This guy was
bad.  He never stopped talking as he
went from all the usual donut shop
remarks to, "Why aren't you out there
arresting murderers instead of [expletive]
with me?"  It was obvious from the very
beginning that he was trying to get me
to argue with him.  He didn't stop his
loud and abusive tone, or I should say
pause; until, I handed him the citation for
his signature.  He was quiet as he read
the citation while I explained to him that
his signature was simply to verify his
receipt of the citation, and it was not an
admission of guilt.  When I finished
speaking, the man looked up at me and
spoke.  This time his tone was normal
and subdued, "You're as bad as that
state trooper who stopped me last
month.  You guys are so polite, it makes
me sick."  

I've always hated the phrase, "Have a
nice day."  When you issue a traffic
citation to a person, you have literally
ruined that person's day.  To me, saying,
"Have a nice day" to a person you've just
nailed with a citation is sarcastic and
devoid of any sincerity.  As I handed the
stop sign runner his copy of the citation,
I conveyed to him my standard parting
phrase, "I hope the rest of your day goes
better."  It worked pretty well on him.  
Instead of making a nasty remark or just
ignoring me all together, he replied,
"Yea...you too."  

Now...you're going to run into some
people who you'll think just landed from
another planet.  Right from the very
beginning they'll question everything.  
"Why do you want to see my license, I
didn't do anything wrong," or "I don't
have to show you my license."  Then,
there's the, "I'm not signing that ticket."  
You really need to take the time to
explain to these types that failure to
follow your lawful commands will result in
arrest.  Some will take you to the point
of you showing your handcuffs while
others never get it; until, the judge gives
them a quick education on the subject.
Let's say you're patrolling an area where
there's been several reports of a man
trying to entice small children to get into
his car to help him look for his lost
puppy.  In one of the incidents, a sexual
assault did occur.  There's been no good
description beyond a white male
operating a dark color car.  As you're
sitting in your car just off the street near
an elementary school, you see a car pass
slowly in front of you.  A few minutes
later, you see the same car pass again in
the opposite direction. Again, the car is
moving slowing, and the operator is
frequently glancing toward the sidewalk.

Ordinarily, the man's behavior is no big
deal.  Perhaps he's just looking for
someone or even an address.  However,
the operator and the car does fit the
description, limited as it is, of a possible
child molester.  The activity you've
observed so far does not establish
probable cause for you to stop the
vehicle, so you simply get behind him.  
While anyone's discomfort increases the
longer a police car dogs them, anyone
who's involved in criminal activity suffers
an even greater level of discomfort once
that person determines, rightly or
wrongly, that he or she is the subject of
your interest.

Once you're behind this guy, he quickly
changes his slow moving searching
mode, and he begins heading out of the
area.  You follow him for several blocks,
and it's obvious that he's trying to do
everything right including coming to
complete stops at stop signs.  This guy's
actually pretty good at not screwing up;
until, he makes a left turn at an
intersection.  The street he turns into
has a left turn lane, and he cuts his turn
too short causing him to enter the left
turn lane causing him to travel on the
wrong side of the center dividing line.  

You turn on your overhead lights, and
your man quickly pulls over.  When you
approach the driver's door, the man is
already removing his license and
registration from his wallet.  The man is
obviously nervous...that's okay...but,
he's being just too friendly.  He
immediately acknowledges what he did
wrong.  As he gushes on about his
stupidity, you're looking around the
interior of the car.  You notice a child
safety seat in the back seat of the car.  
You also notice that the man does not
wear a wedding band.  Okay, big deal.  
But...your next observation has more
significance.  On the floor of the front
passenger side you see a dog leash.  At
the end of the leash is attached a dog
collar...a very small dog collar...as in
puppy collar.

If it turns out that this guy is indeed the
suspect responsible for the sexual
assault, your observation of that dog
collar in plain view could be significant.  If
you'd stopped him on a mere hunch, that
observation would be lost since you had
no probable cause to stop the vehicle
and be in a position to make the
observation.  But...the citation you issue
for the traffic violation will clearly
establish probable cause for the car stop.

Sometimes...a person might as well put a
big sign in the back window saying, "Stop
Me!"  Car thieves are the best...or
worst.  If there were a true definition for

acting guilty
, these guys would be that
definition.  Car thieves are usually young,
and they panic easily.  You'll know what I
mean when one day you'll stop behind a
car at a traffic light.  Suddenly, the doors
will swing open, and several young men
will jump from the car and run in different
directions.  You'll then watch helplessly
as the driverless car rolls into the

A Dangerous Activity

While it's impossible to prepare you for
even a fraction of all the circumstances
you'll encounter during traffic stops, you
must never forget that every one of
them will be a potentially dangerous

Traffic stops are, in fact, one of the most
dangerous activities you'll perform.  From
1996 to 2005, 102 police officers were
feloniously killed in this routine activity.  
During your academy training, this fact
will be impressed upon you.  The training
will be designed to ensure your maximum
protection, and you'll do well to pay close
attention.  As a police officer, you'll soon
learn that perceived circumstances can
instantly change into something totally
unexpected.  You'll also soon learn that
the traffic stop is fertile ground for
changing circumstances.
As you might expect, one of the first
things you'll be doing as a police officer
will be making traffic stops.  You'll quickly
learn that people, no matter their
educational, financial, or social status, are
at their very worst when behind the
wheel of an automobile.
From time to time you'll hear traffic stops
and citations come under the heading of
"quotas."  I can truthfully say, that
during my career, I never had a
supervisor require any specific number of
traffic citations.  Car stops is another
story, but you can't classify the car stop
in the quota category.  You may well
have a supervisor who will require you to
perform a minimum number of car stops
-- perhaps two -- during your shift.  The
way people drive makes two car stops
per shift a very easy task to accomplish.

The reason for which you stop any
vehicle is all important.  You must never
stop anyone; unless, you have a valid
reason to do so.  When it comes to
moving vehicles, you'd have to be blind
not to observe a valid reason which can
be as simple as an operator failing to use
a turn signal or coming to a complete
stop at a stop sign.  
"The reason for which you stop any
vehicle is all important.  You must
never stop anyone; unless, you have
a valid reason to do so."
~ Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2016  Barry M. Baker