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 behavior.  

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 humiliation.

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.  Oops!

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
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 intersection.

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
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

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 © 2019  Barry M. Baker