UNIT 1: TRAFFIC LAW
LESSON 1: Traffic Law
UNIT 2: CONDUCTING PROFESSIONAL TRAFFIC STOPS
LESSON 1: Avoiding Bias-Based Policing
UNIT 3: UNKNOWN RISK TRAFFIC STOPS
LESSON 1: Initiating the Stop
LESSON 2: Conducting the Stop
LESSON 3: Enforcement Options
UNIT 4: HIGH RISK TRAFFIC STOPS
LESSON 1: Identifying a High Risk Traffic Stop
LESSON 2: Coordinating the High Risk Stop
LESSON 3: Securing the Vehicle and Occupants
UNIT 1 | TRAFFIC LAW
LESSON GOAL: At the end of this lesson, you should be able to identify common criminal and noncriminal traffic violations, and recognize a legal driver’s license and license tag/plate.
Traffic stops are among the most frequent activities that a law enforcement officer performs. Even though officers perform them day in and day out, there is no such thing as a “routine” traffic stop. Many officers are killed each year and thousands more are injured during these traffic related encounters. Both new and seasoned officers must be
aware of the potential risk each time they make a stop. Any traffic stop requires that an officer be vigilant in applying officer safety skills throughout the vehicle stop.
Florida Statute s. 316.003(75), Florida Statutes, defines vehicle as “every device, in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, excepting devices used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.” According to the Florida Legal Guidelines, a traffic stop is the lawful, temporary detention of an individual in a vehicle by a law enforcement officer for an investigative purpose.
Through effective traffic enforcement, officers can deter or detect unlawful acts or events that require law enforcement action. Examples include the following:
- car theft and carjacking
- people with outstanding warrants and escaped prisoners
- drivers with suspended licenses
- abused, kidnapped, and runaway children
- illegal weapons
- drug use or trafficking
- minors in possession of alcohol
- impaired drivers under the influence of alcohol, chemical or controlled substances
- criminals fleeing crime scenes
- uninsured motorists
Florida’s Uniform Disposition of Traffic Infractions Act (s. 318.14, F.S.) decriminalizes most traffic violations. Some violations are still treated as criminal acts: fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer (s. 316.1935, F.S.); leaving the scene of a crash (ss. 316.027, and 316.061, F.S.); driving under the influence (s. 316.193, F.S.); reckless driving (s. 316.192, F.S.); making false crash reports (s. 316.067, F.S.); willfully failing or refusing to comply with any lawful order or direction of a police officer or member of a fire department (s. 316.072(3) , F.S.); obstructing an officer attempting to enforce vehicle weight limits (s. 316.545(1) , F.S.); and obstructing traffic for purposes of solicitation (s. 316.2045(2) , F.S.). There are obviously other traffic-related criminal offenses, such as vehicular homicide. These are not violations of chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes, but violations of other statutes.
All other violations of chapter 316 of the Florida Statutes are deemed infractions—noncriminal violations that may be punished by fines, court costs, driving school, and community service hours, but not by incarceration. Because a traffic-infraction violator may not be jailed, he or she has no right to a trial by jury or court-appointed lawyer.
An infraction can be either a moving or non-moving violation, depending on how the statute defines the infraction. A criminal violation will be either a misdemeanor or felony. Because a moving violation could result in a crash or injury, violators pay a higher fine and may have points assessed against their driver’s licenses. A non-moving violation does not usually cause a crash or injury, so fines for those offenses cost less. Nonmoving violations do not assess points against a violator’s license if the violator complies (fixes faulty equipment, for instance) within a specified period of time. Unlawful speed (s. 316.183(3), F.S.), for example, is a moving violation, but not using a safety belt (s. 316.614, F.S.) is a non-moving violation. Other examples of common moving and non-moving violations are listed below.
Florida law enforcement officers should be familiar with the traffic laws found in chapters 316 (Uniform Traffic Control Law), 320 (Motor Vehicle Licenses and Registration), and 322 (Driver’s Licenses) of the Florida Statutes.
Examples of Common Traffic Violations within Florida Statutes
- 316.074, F.S. Obedience to and required traffic control devices.
- 316.075, F.S. Traffic control signal devices.
- 316.1925, F.S. Careless driving.
- 316.126, F.S. Operation of vehicles and actions of pedestrians on approach of authorized emergency vehicle.
- 316.121, F.S. Vehicles approaching or entering intersections.
- 316.122, F.S. Vehicle turning left.
- 316.183, F.S. Unlawful speed.
- 316.123, F.S. Vehicle entering stop or yield intersection.
- 316.1936, F.S. Possession of open containers of alcoholic beverages in vehicles prohibited; penalties.
- 316.613, F.S. Child restraint requirements.
- 316.172, F.S. Traffic to stop for school bus.
- 316.217, F.S. When lighted lamps are required.
- 316.221, F.S. Tail lamps.
- 316.610, F.S. Safety of vehicle.
- 320.07(3)(a) , F.S. Expiration of registration.
- 316.605, F.S. Licensing of vehicles.
- 316.614, F.S. Safety belt usage.
- 320.131, F.S. Temporary tags.
- 316.224(3), F.S. Color of clearance lamps, identification lamps, side marker lamps, backup lamps, reflector, and deceleration lights.
- 316.2065, F.S. Bicycle regulations.
- 316.1945, F.S. Stopping, standing, or parking prohibited in specified places.
- 316.646(1), F.S. Security required; proof of security and display thereof; dismissal of cases.
Criminal Traffic Violations
- 316.193, F.S. Driving under the influence; penalties.
- 322.03, F.S. Drivers must be licensed; penalties.
- 322.16, F.S. License restrictions.
- 322.34(2)(5) , F.S. Driving while license suspended, revoked, canceled or disqualified.
- 322.32, F.S. Unlawful use of license.
- 316.061, F.S. Crashes involving damage to vehicle or property (not reported or hit and run).
- 316.027, F.S. Crash involving death or personal injuries.
- 316.192, F.S. Reckless driving.
The Florida Driver’s License
According to s. 322.15 of the Florida Statutes, all people driving in Florida must possess a valid driver’s license
from Florida, another state, or entity approved by the state of Florida or the U.S. government. Drivers must
show it upon demand by a law enforcement officer or authorized representative of the Department of Highway
Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV)—the agency responsible for issuing driver’s licenses, motor vehicle titles,
license plates, and vessel registrations, as well as overseeing the Florida Highway Patrol.
It is unlawful to drive in Florida with a suspended, revoked, cancelled, or disqualified license. The charge for
doing so may be a moving violation, misdemeanor, or felony depending on the circumstances that exist as per s. 322.34, F.S. The license also may not be faded, altered, mutilated, or defaced. If the driver’s license is confiscated due to suspension, mutilation, revocation, or altered data, the officer should dispose of it according to agency policy.
Be aware that the use of fake international driving permits is becoming more prevalent in the state. A genuine international driver’s license looks similar to a passport in contrast to a state-issued driver’s license. Florida license plates (regular and specialty examples) and the Uniform Traffic Citation Procedures Manual can be found at the DHSMV’s website (http://www.flhsmv.gov. and http://www.flhsmv.gov/courts/).
Current Formatting There are four current versions of the Florida Driver’s license, which is the license issued to state of Florida residents who pass the DHSMV tests granting them the privilege to drive in Florida. The Florida driver’s license includes several different classes. Card types and license classes are identified by color headers:
- yellow: Class E Learner’s License
- green: Class D and E Licenses
- blue: Commercial Driver License (CDL)—Classes A, B, and C
- red: Identification Card
In addition, licenses for drivers over the age of 21 are formatted horizontally, while licenses for drivers under the age of 21 are vertical. An officer will need to closely inspect older formats to obtain required information, including the expiration date.
Endorsements/Restrictions/ Informational Alerts
A license endorsement is a special authorization printed on a Florida driver’s license permitting a driver to drive certain types of vehicles or transport certain types of property or number of passengers. Examples of endorsements include authorization to drive motorcycles, school buses, or combination vehicles with double or triple trailers.
A restriction, printed on a Florida driver’s license, may limit a driver from operating certain types of motor vehicles or require that he or she meet certain conditions when driving any motor vehicle. For example, someone who needs corrective lenses may be restricted from driving without them. Another person who is hard of hearing may be required to wear hearing aids when driving. Other restrictions may pertain to equipment required on the vehicle, such as hand controls for a driver who does not have full use of his or her legs.
A Florida driver’s license may also include informational alerts that signal an officer about a person’s health condition or public safety status. For example, a diabetic person’s license may display “insulin dependent” in red print. If an officer encounters a person who appears to be impaired or in medical distress, that officer must call the Emergency Medical Services immediately.
Two other alerts—ss. 775.21, for sexual predators, and 943.0435, F.S., for sexual offenders—would be displayed in the right hand corner in black.
Required restrictions and endorsements will be listed on the front of the license. Explanations of the restrictions and endorsements are on the back of the license. For drivers authorized to operate a motorcycle, the following endorsement will appear on the front of the driver’s license under the expiration date: Motorcycle Also or Motorcycle Only
Classes of Florida Driver’s Licenses
Another component of licenses is the notation of the class on the back of the license.
CLASS A: required for drivers of trucks or truck combinations with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 lbs. or more, provided the towed vehicle is more than 10,000 lbs.
CLASS B: required for drivers of straight trucks with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of 26,001 lbs. or more. CLASS C: required for drivers of vehicles transporting hazardous materials in sufficient amounts to require placards or vehicles designed to transport more than 15 people (including the driver), and with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of less than 26,001 lbs. CLASS E: required for drivers of any non-commercial motor vehicle with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating less than 26,001 pounds, including passenger cars, 15-passenger (including the driver) vans, trucks or recreational vehicles, and two- or three-wheel motor vehicles 50 cc or less, such as mopeds or small scooters. Farmers and drivers of authorized emergency vehicles who are exempt from obtaining a commercial driver’s license must obtain a Class E license.
CLASS E-Learner: A driver with a Class E-Learner license is limited to driving motor vehicles weighing less than 8,000 pounds. In addition, such a driver must be accompanied by a licensed driver 21 years of age or older who occupies the closest seat right of the driver, and the learner may initially drive only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Three months after issuance of the learner license, the driver may drive from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. A driver with a learner license may not operate a motorcycle without a motorcycle endorsement.
Florida Vehicle License Plates/Tags
Florida’s DHSMV issues standard and specialized vehicle tags. While the majority of specialized tags are “vanity” plates displaying the owner’s nickname or commemorating a college, sports team, or cause, some have specific uses and restrictions. For example, some tags are limited to commercial or government vehicles, while others are assigned based on the owner’s status: e.g., state legislator or firefighter. Officers should be familiar with the uses and restrictions of such tags to make sure that their uses are authorized. In addition, there are specialized tags that must have additional prefix characters or descriptions not preprinted on the tag. When running a specialty tag, an officer should follow agency database requirements to enter the prefix.
UNIT 2 | CONDUCTING PROFESSIONAL TRAFFIC STOPS
LESSON 1 - Avoiding Bias-Based Policing
LESSON GOAL: At the end of this lesson, you should be able to recognize the characteristics of a professional traffic stop free of discriminatory or bias-based policing
Discriminatory or Bias-Based Policing:
Discriminatory or bias-based policing is the unequal treatment of any person— including stopping, questioning, searching, detaining, or arresting a person—solely or primarily because of the person’s race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status. This behavior is illegal and will not be tolerated in law enforcement.
Some observers consider bias-based policing to include any law enforcement action—not merely traffic stops—that targets an individual based on a variety of group characteristics. In addition to considering ethnicity, color, national origin, or ancestry, these characteristics are often extended to address groups of individuals defined by gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, occupational status, socioeconomic status, or ability to speak English (International Association of Chiefs of Police Bulletin, September 2006).
According to Title 18, Section 242 of the United States Code, anyone who “under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, willfully subjects any person…to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws…or to different punishments, pains, or penalties, on account of such person being an alien, or by reason of color, or race…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for no more than one year, or both, and if bodily injury results…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for no more than 10 years or both…and if death results…shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned for any term of years or for life or both, or may be sentenced to death.”
The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees every person within the U.S. equal protection under the law. In Mapp v. Ohio, 367 S.S.643 (1961), the Supreme Court declared that no state can limit this constitutional right; every person is entitled to be treated the same under similar circumstances.
The fact that a person is of a particular racial or ethnic group is not a basis for suspicion of wrongdoing. Suspected violators may be targeted based only on their conduct. It is always wrong, both legally and ethically, to use race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation as the sole basis for stopping a person. However, an officer may properly focus attention on a person of a particular race or background if the officer has specific suspect information. For example, if a bulletin is issued for an elderly Asian female suspect wearing a red shirt, an officer is justified in stopping elderly Asian females because they fit that specific description.
Real and Perceived Problems Faced by Minorities
Minority describes the smaller segment of a population that differs from the majority by one or more characteristics. Because of past unequal treatment of minorities, most law enforcement agencies across the country now require officers to report traffic data, which may include race and gender data on their traffic stops. This data assists agencies in investigating possible allegations of bias-based policing. Various laws and court rulings require this information to detect and eliminate unfair policing. Whether or not their perception is accurate, minorities frequently believe that they are unfairly treated by law enforcement officers, particularly with regard to traffic stops.
Minimizing Tension and Maximizing Cooperation
When stopped, traffic violators typically react with embarrassment, anger, fear, and excuses. The situation can be tense. But by conducting a proper and professional traffic stop, an officer can minimize negative and potentially unsafe results. To do this, officers should follow the established professional agency protocol and do the following:
- Greet the driver (and passengers) politely, introducing yourself and immediately explaining why you made the stop; courts have ruled that people are entitled to know why they were stopped before any further discussion or requests are made. Describe the violation in terms of what you saw the vehicle, not the driver, do.
- Maintain a pleasant expression, a calm tone of voice, and a non-confrontational interview stance.
- Establish a commanding presence by using words that convey professionalism and demand respect.
- Allow the driver to talk; law enforcement officers should remain polite and focused, conveying to the driver that they are hearing him or her.
- Do not argue with the violator; the officer should simply explain the observations and the violation, if any. Whether or not you issue a warning or citation, listening respectfully will help many people calm down and accept the situation.
- Heighten the importance of the enforcement action by not lecturing the violator but rather explaining the seriousness of the violation by mentioning the risk of a crash or other circumstance.
- Keep the detention time as short as possible.
- End the interaction with a “thank you” in a courteous, non-sarcastic manner (especially if the person turns out to be cleared of any wrongdoing).
- Provide the person with your complete name and badge number upon request.
- Eliminate racially-charged stereotypes, racial jokes, and epithets from your speech. These increase the likelihood of insensitive behavior or the perception that you are biased.
During the investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department following the Rodney King case, investigators downloaded hundreds of racially inappropriate messages that were exchanged on mobile data terminals in Los Angeles Police Department cruisers. The evidence of these incidents of racial discrimination were used against the officers involved in the King case.
When dealing with a particularly disrespectful driver, officers may be tempted to respond arrogantly. A professional law enforcement officer must not let ego or emotion interfere with their actions. Law enforcement work is stressful, but officers sworn to uphold the Constitution and laws must consistently heed the laws they enforce. No circumstances justify an officer acting in an unprofessional or discriminatory manner. Florida is becoming increasingly diverse; it is up to individual officers to avoid giving even the perception of discriminatory policing in their actions.
UNIT 3 - UNKNOWN RISK TRAFFIC STOPS
LESSON 1 - Initiating the Stop
LESSON GOAL: At the end of this lesson, you should be able recognize when and how to initiate a safe and professional unknown risk traffic stop.
Deciding to Make a Traffic Stop
If working in stationary mode, the officer should choose a safe parking place for the patrol vehicle from which to monitor vehicle movement and watch for traffic violations. For example, when watching an intersection for traffic light violators, the officer should position the patrol vehicle where it does not obstruct traffic flow but can enter the roadway quickly and safely to make a necessary stop. Such safe places include areas with a wide shoulder off the roadway, available parking areas, and areas with an unobstructed view of oncoming traffic when entering the roadway.
A traffic stop begins the moment an officer observes an event or reason that merits the stop. An unknown risk traffic stop refers to a stop in which the potential risk of the situation is not known. Officers may stop a vehicle if reasonable suspicion exists that a crime was, is being, or is about to be committed. Officers may also conduct a traffic stop if they observe a violation for which a citation may be issued. Other justifications for a traffic stop would be to assist a motorist who is obviously lost or whose vehicle has mechanical trouble, to investigate suspicious behavior, or to investigate a vehicle or occupant matching a BOLO description.
Upon seeing a violation or other cause for a stop, you must decide whether it is necessary, prudent, and safe to stop the vehicle.
If you are en-route to an emergency call or in-progress crime or are transporting a prisoner, stopping a traffic violator is not prudent. On the other hand, a reckless driver who is immediately endangering the lives of other motorists and pedestrians may justify a stop, even if stopping means abandoning the earlier call. Agency policy may dictate priority in these situations. If immediately stopping the driver may endanger you or other motorists, you should not make the stop. Unsafe conditions for a stop include heavy traffic, construction, or roadway conditions that do not allow room to pull over. Making a stop on a long bridge is unsafe for this reason.
Planning the Stop
Plan the stop in an area that gives the driver a place to stop safely. You must also be ready to adjust and react quickly to developments in the situation after the driver stops the vehicle. Any suspicious activity by the driver or passengers can increase the level of risk of the traffic stop; consider requesting backup from additional officers. Certain roadway and traffic conditions may increase the potential for particular traffic violations. These include merge areas, intersections, and acceleration lanes.
Traffic flow is the general speed and direction of vehicle or pedestrian movement. Weather conditions, school zones, construction zones, and neighborhood activities may all affect traffic flow by slowing drivers and causing congestion. In an assigned zone, an officer must be familiar with normal traffic flow, speed limits and where they change, and changes to traffic flow at different times of day.
Initiating the Stop
The officer’s familiarity with area roads is critical to selecting a safe stopping location
Step 1: Maneuver the patrol vehicle through traffic until safely catching up to the violator, and determine at what point to safely make the stop.
Except in emergencies in which a stop must immediately be made, choose a location where the violator can maneuver out of the flow of traffic, where both you and violator can avoid the danger of passing vehicles. Passing traffic is not the only risk—stopping a violator in an area populated by his or her peers may create a volatile and dangerous scene. After deciding to make the stop, move the patrol vehicle into a position to catch up with the violator, initiate the stop, and maintain a safe following distance until the violator pulls over.
Use defensive driving techniques to catch up with the vehicle and follow at a safe distance. Signal all lane changes. A well-executed traffic stop should minimally affect normal traffic flow. Other drivers may slow down to see what is going on. This can cause a traffic jam or hazard. You may have to follow a vehicle for some time before initiating the stop. If needed, request another patrol vehicle for help. You may need to follow the violator’s vehicle for an extended period before help arrives.
To ensure that you are stopping the correct vehicle, constantly observe the vehicle from the time of the violation until the stop is completed. Note the vehicle’s description, including its type, make, model, year, color, tag number, and state where the tag was issued. Note the driver’s description (glasses, hat, beard, etc.) and any information about passengers, as well as any vehicle descriptors, such as condition, bumper stickers or decals, dents, or the presence of a toolbox.
Step 2: Notify dispatch of the traffic stop.
Once an officer has made the decision to stop, the officer must provide the following general information to dispatch according to agency requirements:
- The officer’s identification number
- The officer’s location, such as the street, plus a cross street or a house number; this is crucial on interstates and divided highways. If the situation escalates and the officer is injured or cannot use the radio, dispatch can pinpoint the officer’s location.
- The officer’s general direction of travel: north, south, east, or west
- The vehicle tag number and state of issue
- A description of the violator’s vehicle including color, make, approximate year (newer or late model)
- The number of occupants and descriptions if possible
- The need for backup or other assistance as required
Complete and accurate dispatch information is especially important for officer safety. It allows time for a criminal justice database check on the tag before you talk to the driver. In addition, if you see the occupants acting suspiciously, you may immediately be able to request backup. If the final stop location changes, you should update dispatch immediately.
Step 3: Select a safe location to stop
The following are major considerations that you should have when selecting the safest proper location to make the stop:
- Width of road and shoulder
- Traffic congestion
- Level of visibility
- Presence of hills and curves
Check the width of the road and the shoulder to ensure that both you and the violator are far enough off the road so that other vehicles can pass. This prevents crashes, especially in a congested area where other drivers may not be able to change lanes to give an officer extra room. Try to pull off onto a level spot or a slight downgrade. Stopping on an upgrade may cause a large vehicle to roll into the patrol vehicle. Officers should not make a stop on a curve, a ramp, or the crest of a hill, close to an exit ramp, or where road conditions could cause other vehicles to hit the patrol vehicle. Additionally, take special caution when conducting stops in areas where children are present, such as school parking lots.
Step 4: Activate emergency equipment to communicate the stop to the driver.
Officer-driver interaction begins when the officer signals the driver to stop. Once that signal is given, the officer has limited control over where the driver will stop.
Begin communicating the stop to the violator by pulling directly behind the violator’s vehicle. Once in a safe location to make the stop, turn on the emergency equipment. Emergency notification equipment includes emergency lights, siren, headlights, PA system, and horn. Section 316.216, F.S. explains the legal right to use lights and sirens to get the violator’s attention during a traffic stop. The violator may display several indicators that show awareness and anticipation of the stop.
The violator may look into the rearview mirror and make eye contact with the officer, signal a lane change to pull over, or suddenly slow down.
Use flashing emergency lights cautiously when conducting traffic stops. Each driver reacts differently. Some might panic and stop in the left lane, skid to a stop, or swerve. Others ignore the lights. If this happens, tap the siren for one or two seconds.
Emergency lighting systems differ among agencies. The light bar is one system, along with strobe, flashers, and other lights. If the stop occurs at night, use spotlights for additional lighting.
The patrol vehicle’s high beams, spotlight, and takedown lights conceal an officer from the violator’s view and are important for officer safety and survival. Activate the patrol vehicle’s high beams, unless they interfere with oncoming traffic or restrict your vision by reflecting off the violator’s rear bumper or another object. If your patrol vehicle is equipped with them, activate the takedown lights—the white lights facing forward on the light bar. These illuminate the interior of the violator’s vehicle and prevent the driver from seeing into the patrol vehicle.
Once the violator acknowledges that you have directed him or her to pull over, go through the following steps:
- As the driver changes lanes, follow smoothly.
- Follow the violator’s vehicle at a safe distance. A safe distance is staying far enough behind the violator to be able to react to the situation at hand. Use safety precautions, such as avoiding traffic lanes, watching for pedestrians, and protecting the violator.
- If uncomfortable with the initial stopping place, use the PA system to direct the violator to a safer location. An officer might say, “Driver, drive into the parking lot ahead” or “Driver, pull your vehicle farther to the right.” The officer should be firm but respectful.
During the stop, the overhead emergency lights should be left activated to warn oncoming traffic.
UNIT 3 | UNKNOWN RISK TRAFFIC STOPS
LESSON 2 - Conducting the Stop
LESSON GOAL: At the end of this lesson, you should be able to safely and professionally conduct an unknown risk traffic stop.
Conducting the Stop
Step 5: Park the patrol vehicle.
After stopping the violator in a safe location, park the patrol vehicle a safe distance behind the violator’s vehicle. Because of roadway conditions, traffic, and other environmental factors, each traffic stop is unique. As a general rule, the patrol vehicle should be positioned one and a half to two car lengths behind the violator’s vehicle.
If the violator stops on the right side of the road, assume the offset position in which you align the center of the patrol vehicle’s hood with the left taillight of the violator’s vehicle. If the stop occurs on the left side, the officer will align the center of the patrol vehicle’s hood with the right taillight of the violator’s vehicle. The wheels should be turned toward the road. If the situation escalates, having the patrol car in this offset position may provide cover from potential skipping rounds shot from the violator’s vehicle.
With a more dramatic turn of the nose of the patrol vehicle in either direction, angling does not have to incorporate the offset position. If needed, you can use the PA system to verbally direct the violator to move his or her vehicle further to the right to improve your safety and minimize the stop’s obstruction of traffic
Continued officer safety also involves the following practices:
- Ensuring you are a safe distance from the roadway
- Maintaining a safe reactionary distance between the violator’s vehicle and the patrol vehicle
- Offsetting and/or angling the patrol vehicle in relation to the violator’s vehicle
- Adhering to agency policy and procedure
Sometimes due to environmental conditions, roadway obstacles, or agency policy and procedure, the officer may decide to make a traffic stop on the left side of the roadway
In less than optimum conditions (construction, sinkhole, city streets as opposed to major highways), it may be necessary to make a traffic stop in a roadway. To do this, move the patrol vehicle as far to the outside of the driving lane as possible without offsetting its angle position.
After making a stop, an officer should be prepared to exit the patrol vehicle quickly. Constantly observe the violator’s vehicle and all occupants. If you sense any danger while assessing the situation, request backup. Upon exiting the patrol vehicle, make sure your equipment belt is free of the seat belt and that the seat belt does not hinder your exit of the vehicle. Use emergency lights at all times.
Positioning of the Backup Patrol Vehicle
If an officer has requested backup, the backup officers’ patrol vehicles should be parked at a safe distance behind the primary patrol vehicle. Depending on the location of the traffic stop and its environmental conditions, the backup patrol vehicle may be offset to the left or the right of the primary patrol vehicle. This will enable the emergency lighting to light the back of the vehicles better. The backup officer should approach along the passenger side of the primary officer’s patrol vehicle, which may assist in preventing a crossfire situation.
Backup officers must limit their use of emergency lighting that may blind or silhouette the primary officer. If possible, only use rear emergency lighting. See Figures 10-6 & 10-7 on the following page.
Step 6: Conduct a visual assessment of the violator’s vehicle
The officer should assess the violator’s vehicle for signs of danger prior to exiting the patrol vehicle. If any occupant attempts to exit the violator’s vehicle, the officer’s discretion and agency policy will determine whether the officer should immediately order the subjects back into the vehicle.
One clue of possible danger is if the occupants are nervously watching the officer. Officers should expect some activity as the driver retrieves his or her driver’s license, registration, and insurance information from a wallet or glove compartment. Suspicious movements may suggest danger—such as, moving towards the floorboard or backseat, excessive motion that seems beyond natural curiosity, or rigid, wooden posture (which may indicate occupants who are frightened or poised for action). You must constantly observe behavior.
If the vehicle appears to be heavily weighed down in the rear, discuss this with the driver. The vehicle could be carrying stolen merchandise, drugs, tools, a person, or a corpse.
Step 7: Exit the patrol vehicle
Before exiting the patrol vehicle, check for oncoming traffic in the rear and side-view mirrors. After exiting the patrol vehicle, securely close the vehicle door so it will not blow open and possibly be struck by a passing vehicle. The officer should close the door quietly and keep the portable radio just loud enough to hear the radio traffic. A silent exit from the patrol vehicle gives the officer time to approach the vehicle and assess the situation before the driver reacts.
Step 8: Apply appropriate approach techniques.
In all approach situations, an officer should exit the patrol vehicle and make use of available cover. Approach the violator’s vehicle cautiously, constantly assessing the situation. Do not fix your full attention on any one part of the scene, but rather scan the vehicle and its occupants for suspicious movements. Always continue to observe both the vehicle and the passengers throughout the stop. Examine the interior of the vehicle while looking through the rear window into the rear seat, if possible, noting the number of passengers, position of the rear seat, and the presence of any contraband or potential weapons. If a situation seems dangerous, request backup and wait for its arrival before taking any further action.
Check the trunk lock and trunk lid alignment to determine if someone is possibly in the trunk. Officers should also check for a popped trunk lock. This would indicate that someone hammered out the keyhole, allowing entry into the trunk without a key. You might see a hole in the trunk where the lock should be, which is a common sign of a stolen vehicle. Note if the trunk lid is fully closed. A subject could hide inside the trunk and surprise an officer.
If the trunk lid is unlatched, you should push it down when you approach the vehicle. Doing so will lock in anyone hiding inside the trunk.
As you approach the violator’s vehicle, assess the license plate. Indicators that the plate may not belong to the vehicle include:
- the way the plate is attached (bolts, wire) may suggest the license plate was removed from another vehicle
- age of attachment relative to the plate (e.g., Are there shiny, new bolts on a dirty plate?)
- expired expiration sticker or sticker that looks like it was removed from another plate
- paint or dark film on the license plate
- the presence of dead insects on the tag, suggesting it was the front plate of another vehicle
Approaching the Violator’s Vehicle on the Driver’s Side
Approach the vehicle cautiously and remain vigilant for dangerous traffic situations. Take advantage of light and shadows at night. Touching the rear of the violator’s vehicle ensures that the trunk lid/hatch is closed and transfers the officer’s fingerprints to the vehicle as evidence of contact. Touch the trunk lid for this reason during every traffic stop, even if the lid appears closed. Stay close to the vehicle, stopping at the back edge of the driver’s door. At night, only hold a flashlight in your support hand. Remain behind the vehicle’s doorpost for cover.
Standing behind the driver’s doorpost gives an officer a position of advantage while maintaining a safe distance when talking with the driver. If, when approaching on the violator’s side, you see a passenger in the backseat, stop at the back of the rear window and instruct the driver to open the window. If no one occupies the backseat, remain behind the front passenger’s doorpost for cover to take advantage of body armor. Continually watch the driver and any passengers.
Approaching the Violator’s Vehicle on the Passenger’s Side
If you decide to approach the vehicle on the passenger’s side, begin by walking behind the patrol vehicle to avoid crossing in front of the headlights and betraying your location. Approaching on the passenger’s side will give you extra time to look and listen. The occupants of the vehicle will likely expect an officer to approach on the driver’s side. At night, keep your flashlight off while approaching the vehicle until you make contact with the driver and other passengers.
An observant officer can tell if the driver is concealing something on his or her right side, including a popped ignition, keys in the ignition, a weapon, an alcoholic beverage container, and drugs or drug paraphernalia. The officer will also notice how many other occupants may be in the vehicle.
In the case of a popped or damaged ignition, the plastic housing around the column’s base has been popped open, exposing ignition bars that can be pulled forward to start the car. It also means that the key portion was removed from the ignition key area, allowing the ignition bar to be exposed.
If the preliminary visual check reveals a potential threat, the officer should call for backup and assess the situation. However, if passengers occupy the backseat, remain standing at the rear of the backseat window. The officer should look through the rear window at the rear seat, noting the number of occupants, the position of the rear seat, and the presence of any contraband or potential weapons.
“No Approach”: Calling the Driver Back to the Officer’s Patrol Vehicle
An officer must decide whether to approach the violator’s vehicle or call the driver back to the patrol vehicle (called the no approach tactic) to acquire information.
If an officer decides to call the driver back to the patrol vehicle, the officer should assume a safe position, such as behind either the driver’s side or the passenger’s side doorpost, depending on traffic conditions. When moving to a position behind the passenger-side doorpost, walk behind the vehicle while constantly observing the driver and any passengers. Keep an eye on passing traffic to avoid being struck by a vehicle. To avoid being silhouetted against the emergency lights, do not walk between the patrol vehicle and the violator’s vehicle. Use a commanding voice or the PA to verbally direct the driver to walk back to the patrol vehicle. If the driver is looking at you directly or through a mirror, you may simply motion the driver to come back to the patrol vehicle. As the violator approaches, be observant, especially of the driver’s hands, for any signs of aggression or the presence of a weapon.
Step 9: Interact with the driver.
A courteous but commanding presence is the key to effective communication with the vehicle driver. An officer is less likely to encounter resistance if his or her presence is dignified and commanding. Make sure your expression, tone of voice, body position, gestures, and words portray professionalism and respect, along with sufficient assertiveness. Upon first contact, identify yourself to the driver as a law enforcement officer, especially if you are not in uniform. Many agencies have a specific policy for doing this.
Observation skills, safe positioning, and safe distancing are important to consider when interviewing the driver or passengers. If the situation becomes dangerous or unstable, you must increase the distance between yourself and the stopped vehicle.
In accordance with agency policy, courteously explain the reason for the stop in terms of what you saw the vehicle, not the driver, doing and request the required documentation. An explanation for the stop might include the observation that the vehicle is in violation of F.S. s. 316.221, inoperable tail lamps, for instance. Allow the driver to offer an explanation, such as medical difficulties or vehicle malfunctions. If necessary, contact dispatch to request medical assistance for the driver or arrange for a relative or responsible person to remove the vehicle or have it towed.
Drivers in Florida must provide a driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance upon an officer’s request per ss. 322.15, 320.0605 and 316.646, F.S. Additionally, ss. 316.646(1) and 320.02, F. S., allows individuals to provide proof of insurance in either a uniform paper or electronic format as prescribed by the DHSMV. Never accept a wallet from the driver. Instead, ask the driver to remove the license from the wallet. This prevents the driver from later making accusations of theft.
During this process, observe the interior of the vehicle and activities of the passengers. You may ask where the driver keeps the documents; doing this will help you predict where the driver’s hands will move. If the driver reaches to open the glove compartment or other inside compartment, request that he or she do so slowly. Pay close attention to both of the driver’s hands. The driver could use the reaching hand as a distraction while going for a weapon or object with the other hand.
The driver is the only occupant in the vehicle compelled to provide documentation, unless other occupants are suspected of a crime or violation. If such a suspicion demands identification from other passengers, officers should request documents that provide the most accurate personal information, such as:
- driver’s license or state-issued identification card (with picture)
- residence card for non-citizens (green card)
- military ID
- school picture identification
- Social Security card (according to agency policy and procedure)
Verify that the information on the license is current and valid. Compare information on the registration to the VIN, make, type, and year of the vehicle.
In addition, confirm that the insurance card is current and applicable to that vehicle. Be mindful of safety concerns and use discretion while applying the most appropriate technique in interactions with other passengers in the vehicle. You may request that the driver and any occupants stay in the violator’s vehicle or in a designated place within your sight—to make attacking you from behind more difficult.
After obtaining the required documentation, safely return to the patrol vehicle and request from dispatch or complete criminal justice database checks using the driver’s information. Safely returning to the patrol vehicle means never losing sight of the stopped vehicle and the occupants even if you are running FCIC/NCIC database checks.
FCIC/NCIC database information can be useful during traffic stops. It can provide useful, additional information about the person or vehicle stopped. It includes people with outstanding arrest warrants (entire U.S.), drivers’ licenses and vehicle registrations (entire U.S. and Canada), missing juveniles and adults, and stolen property (entire U.S.).
If the driver matches an identity in the criminal justice database check, an officer may arrest the violator and impound the vehicle as necessary and as agency policy dictates.
On occasion, when undercover officers have been stopped for a traffic violation, they may or may not present law enforcement identification to the officer who pulled them over. If they do offer identification, dispatch can verify employment and official status. When an undercover officer has no identification, sometimes because of the nature of his or her assignment, that officer will likely not sacrifice avoiding a ticket to not reveal his or her identity. Follow agency policy and procedure in these situations.
UNIT 3 - UNKNOWN RISK TRAFFIC STOPS
LESSON 3 - Enforcement Options
LESSON GOAL: At the end of this lesson, you should be able to correctly complete and take appropriate law enforcement action (take no action, issue a Florida Uniform Traffic Citation, issue a written or verbal warning, or make an arrest) as appropriate.
Course of Action:
Officers often use discretion and flexibility in judgment. In the case of traffic violations, officers may decide appropriate action as taking no action, issuing a verbal warning, a written warning, a citation, or making an arrest. The law, agency policy, and the circumstances of the violation affect the decision. This discretion applies only to traffic violations and misdemeanor offenses, with some exceptions for misdemeanor offenses. Some agencies do not permit officers to issue written warnings. Others do not allow verbal warnings. Individual officers must weigh the seriousness of the offense, the road, the weather, and traffic conditions. Document each stop with appropriate, recorded enforcement action, whether it is a citation, a warning, or an arrest.
An officer should write a citation when there is a clear violation which is not satisfactorily excused or justified by the situation, when agency policy supports the writing of the citation.
Florida law states that all felonies are arrest able offenses. If an officer has probable cause for a felony arrest, he or she must make that arrest. Agency policy dictates the proper paperwork that should accompany the arrest.
Uniform Traffic Citations (UTC)
The Uniform Traffic Citation is given for traffic offenses covered under chapters 316, 318, 320, and 322 of the Florida Statutes, and is used to collect and store information about traffic enforcement and traffic case adjudication. For traffic offenses, the Uniform Traffic Citation is generally the only report that an officer must complete. However, individual agencies may require additional reports for particular offenses.
The Uniform Traffic Citation also is used for certain non-traffic felony and misdemeanors which can result in suspension or revocation of the offender’s driver’s license. Pursuant to F.S. s. 316.650(10), an officer must issue a citation to anyone convicted of any offense that requires the mandatory revocation of the driver’s license.
Officers are assigned Uniform Traffic Citation books with a preprinted number. In this book, they must account for each Uniform Traffic Citation assigned to them. If a UTC is destroyed or lost before the officer gives it to the violator, that officer must document the circumstances of the destruction or loss in the UTC book that he or she was issued. The DHSMV tracks all Uniform Traffic Citation numbers to ensure integrity in issuing citations. It is illegal to “tear up” a citation after it has been issued. s. 316.650(8) , F.S. states “it is unlawful and an act of official misconduct for any traffic enforcement officer or other officer or public employee to dispose of a traffic citation or copies thereof or of the record of the issuance of the same in a manner other than as required.”
In addition to the DHSMV’s responsibility to keep accurate records regarding Uniform Traffic Citations, each law enforcement agency must keep records of and must account for all citations supplied to them. Each Uniform Traffic Citation book contains two receipts that are used for assigning the book to an officer. Agencies may develop their own procedures for assigning citation books to individual officers and may use these receipts to assist with internal control and record keeping.
Upon receiving the receipt of each book, inspect it to ensure that the citations are in correct numeric sequence and that each book contains 25 three-part citations. Inspect the sequential numbers assigned to each book to ensure that the numbers on the book are the same as the numbers of the citations contained in the book and listed on the officer’s receipt.
Under no circumstances is it permissible for one law enforcement agency to transfer citations to another law enforcement agency. Each Uniform Traffic Citation is recorded in the DHSMV inventory files as being distributed to a particular agency. When an officer leaves employment with an agency, his or her Uniform Traffic Citation book(s) shall be turned over to his or her immediate supervisor. Periodically, the DHSMV conducts audits of Uniform Traffic Citation books for accountability purposes pursuant to s. 316.650(3)(4)(8) , F.S.
Distribution of Traditional Paper Uniform Traffic Citation and Electronic Citations
The traditional paper Florida Uniform Traffic Citation form HSMV 75901 contains three copies that are distributed as follows:
Part One (white)—Complaint—Retained By Court This part is designed to serve as a sufficient complaint for both civil and criminal cases. Judges and clerks use this to document court actions taken on the reverse side of the form. A citation is required per F.S. s. 316.650(3)(a) to be submitted to the Clerk of the Court within five days after issuance to the violator.
Part Two (yellow)—Summons—Violator’s Copy This part is reserved for the traffic offender. The reverse side is to be used only to notify individuals charged with traffic infractions (not requiring a court appearance) as to what options they have when answering the offense charged.
Part Three (pink)—Officer Copy The officer/agency retains this paper form to maintain accountability, to maintain a record of the court’s action, and for officers to make notes for testifying in court. An officer may wish to retain a copy for court purposes.
Law enforcement agencies are increasingly using computer generated electronic citations. They generate these using laptops or handheld devices. These kinds of citations are used like the traditional UTC forms.
Procedures to Complete a Uniform Traffic Citation:
Officers should make sure that a hard divider splits the sets (three copies), when completing the citation. Use a ball point pen to ensure that the information is legible on all three copies. Print all information in black ink.
Clearly fill in each data field or “X” the appropriate box based on the requested information at the top of each category. Complete all applicable sections and leave blank any that are not applicable.
The instructions for completing the Uniform Traffic Citation are in the DHSMV Uniform Traffic Citations Manual. An officer should review the description and procedures sections in that manual.
The most common reason the DHSMV returns a Uniform Traffic Citation to the issuing agency is for correction or clarification. Common errors preventing UTC acceptance include illegible handwriting, omitted statute number and sub-section, failure to list a statute corresponding to the description of the violation, failure to either check or write in a violation, or incorrect entry of the violator’s date of birth.
Explaining and Issuing the Warning or Citation:
The violator must understand the violation and the warning or the citation. The issuing officer must understand Florida traffic violations sufficiently enough to explain the nature of the offense to someone unfamiliar with the law. State the specifics of the violation slowly and clearly and assure that the violator understands when you give the verbal warning or present the written warning or citation.
You should explain the violator’s options for responding to the citation, which are listed and explained in detail on the back of the violator’s (yellow) copy.
Moving violation options are to pay a civil penalty, elect (request) a hearing in traffic court, or elect to attend and complete a Driver Improvement Course (if eligible). Some moving violations require a court appearance.
Non-moving violation options are to pay a civil penalty or elect a hearing in traffic court.
Criminal violations require a court appearance on a scheduled date.
If proof of compliance is provided to the Clerk of the Court within 30 days under these certain statutes, the violator may elect to enter a plea of nolo contendere (no contest), present a valid driver license, tag, registration, or proper proof of insurance to the Clerk of the Court, and pay a fine and court costs if charged with any of the following:
- Safety of vehicle: inspection. (s. 316.610, F.S.)
- Failure to display a valid driver license (s. 322.15(1), F.S.)
- Failure to possess a valid registration (s. 320.0605, F.S.)
- Failure to maintain proof of insurance (s. 316.646(1), F.S.)
If charged with operating a motor vehicle that is in an unsafe condition or is not properly equipped, the violator may elect to provide certified proof of correction of the condition or equipment problem.
Finally, you should encourage the violator’s awareness of his or her responsibility to obey traffic laws and local ordinances.
By explaining safety issues and the importance of preventing violations, you help the driver understand the law. Return the driver’s documents with a copy of the warning or citation and any relative public information pamphlets that your agency may provide.
On the citation, you should point to the section where he or she checked the violation and wrote specifics. If the violator has committed a violation that requires a mandatory hearing listed in s. 318.19, F.S. or any other criminal traffic violation listed in chapters 316, 320, 322, F.S., the officer should instruct him or her to sign the Uniform Traffic Citation and explain that signing is not an admission of guilt.
Certain violations require the violator to sign the citation. According to s. 318.14(3), F.S., refusal to accept and sign a Uniform Traffic Citation requiring a court appearance is a criminal violation that may result in arrest. When confronted with a violator who refuses to sign, the officer has an opportunity to use good communication skills to gain compliance from the violator. Tell the violator that refusal to accept and sign the citation might result in arrest. The officer can stress that signing the Uniform Traffic Citation is not an admission of guilt or a waiver of rights. If the violator still refuses to sign, place him or her under arrest and issue another Uniform Traffic Citation for refusal to sign a citation. Throughout the traffic stop, maintain a professional and courteous manner with the driver and passengers. Completing contact with a violator is easiest if you clearly explain options for handling the citation. Do not argue about the merits of the citation with the violator or tell the driver to “Have a nice day,” since this could be interpreted as sarcasm.
If the driver expresses a desire to make a complaint against the officer, politely explain the process for doing so and notify your supervisor according to agency policy. A driver who is upset should be allowed time to calm down before resuming driving. Showing professional courtesy will help reduce the tension. When the driver is ready to leave, make sure the driver is able to safely re-enter the traffic stream. Return to your vehicle and clear the stop with the communications center.
During the course of a traffic stop, you might be able to develop probable cause if required to justify an arrest of a driver or a passenger for an unrelated offense. Whether to make a physical arrest or take some other action will depend on the nature of the offense, the severity of the circumstances, and agency policies and procedures.
Once an officer has made an arrest decision, the officer should call for backup. When the backup officer arrives, both officers can decide upon the proper method to approach and carry out the arrest. Based on arrest procedures, the officer should handcuff the suspect and place him or her in the patrol vehicle.
Disposition of the Vehicle:
If an officer arrests the driver during the course of the traffic stop, he or she then must decide what if anything to do with the vehicle and any passengers per agency policy. This decision involves whether the officer has the right to search the vehicle, whether it should be impounded or used for evidence, or if it might even meet the requirements for forfeiture. An officer may arrange for a third party to remove the suspect vehicle or leave it at the scene with the owner’s consent, when the driver is arrested, when the vehicle is stolen, or when the vehicle must be impounded.
If you are going to contact a wrecker to tow or impound the vehicle, inventory the contents of the vehicle. Remove and secure any remaining driver possessions and items per agency policy.
UNIT 4 - HIGH RISK TRAFFIC STOPS
LESSON 1 - Identifying a High Risk Traffic Stop
LESSON GOAL: At the end of this lesson, you should be able to identify relevant safety factors involved in a high risk traffic stop and prepare to make the stop while communicating with dispatch and backup.
Primary Objectives of a High Risk Traffic Stop:
As mentioned earlier, a traffic stop is never routine. When an officer knows in advance that a vehicle has been reported stolen, was seen in the commission of a felony, or when the driver or an occupant of that vehicle is suspected of a crime in progress or felony, the risk increases both for the officer and for the public. This is known as a high risk traffic stop. Listening, observing, and communicating are especially critical during these stops.
The primary objectives of a high risk traffic stop include being able to recognize a suspect vehicle from a BOLO description, properly relaying what you observed, stopping the vehicle safely, keeping yourself and the public safe, and apprehending the suspect. You should not work alone in order to meet these objectives. You must coordinate closely with dispatch and communicate to other officers all pertinent information concerning the suspect vehicle
Identifying a Vehicle or a Suspect:
To identify the suspect vehicle, the officer must be able to recall its description, most commonly from a BOLO. This requires matching identification points, including the observed vehicle’s make, model, year, color, and tag number as well as any damage or special markings (unusual features like neon lights, writing on the windows, or bumper stickers) to help confirm the identification.
Identifying information also includes the driver description, the number of occupants in the vehicle, and the vehicle’s direction of travel. Look, point by point, at each part of the BOLO to compare your observations with the BOLO information. If they match, notify dispatch that the vehicle or suspect has been located and request backup.
Information to Relay to Dispatch:
As you begin the high risk traffic stop process, give dispatch your location, the suspect vehicle location and travel direction, that vehicle’s description per agency policy (make, model, color, and special identifiers, such as vehicle damage or bumper stickers), the known number and description of occupants, the tag number and state, and suspected crimes and weapons.
Waiting for Backup:
If dispatch confirms the information that you supply, there is reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop; request backup. Follow the suspect vehicle until backup arrives and a safe stopping location is identified. Until backup arrives, maintain constant observation of, and a safe distance from, the suspect vehicle based on the vehicle’s speed of travel. Meanwhile, do not turn on the emergency equipment. If backup is unavailable from your agency, request assistance from other agencies. A high risk stop should only be conducted alone if the driver’s actions force it (for instance, the occupant’s behavior or vehicle movement places the public at immediate risk).
Not only are you required to request and, if prudent, wait for backup before acting, you must also maintain radio contact with dispatch and with responding units. As circumstances change, update dispatch and backup on the movement and route of the suspect vehicle, activity of the occupants in the vehicle, and your observations of weapons or contraband. Without regular updates to dispatch, backup might arrive at the wrong location. Staying in touch is an important role of the primary officer in a traffic stop. Periodically, the primary officer should request the location and estimated time of arrival (ETA) of the backup units to keep from waiting in vain. An accurate ETA allows for planning the best stopping location.
UNIT 4 - HIGH RISK TRAFFIC STOPS
LESSON 2 - Coordinating the High Risk Stop
LESSON GOAL: At the end of this lesson, you should be able to safely coordinate a high risk traffic stop.
The key to safely conducting a high risk traffic stop is for an officer to have knowledge of his or her work zone. A safe location protects the officer and the public. It is impossible to predict the exact stopping location of the suspect vehicle, but officers should use common sense; every effort should be made not to conduct a high risk stop in places where people gather in large numbers, such as on active school grounds, at a ball field, or at a busy shopping center.
Coordinating the Stop:
When backup has arrived, the primary officer should locate a safe stopping place. Safety is crucial for the primary officer, the backup officers, and others who may be nearby. A safe stopping site is visible to officers and oncoming traffic and is away from heavy pedestrian traffic and heavy vehicle traffic; it also is large enough to accommodate backup units, has a straight road, and is in an open or rural area (versus a business area) with light traffic. A visible stopping site has an unobstructed view between the suspect vehicle, the patrol units, and oncoming traffic.
The primary officer should also choose a site with enough roadway width to accommodate two or more patrol vehicles. If possible, an officer should attempt to stop all vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The primary officer will coordinate the stopping site once the backup units have arrived. He or she should pick a location before the actual stop is initiated. Using the radio, the primary officer will direct the responding patrol units to positions of backup or control (of driver and occupants) and know what is expected of each position so he or she can provide directions for the group to work safely and effectively as a team. The primary officer may use the Public Address (PA) system to give directions to the driver of the suspect vehicle.
When there is enough backup to initiate the high risk stop, the primary officer should request a secure channel for emergency traffic and give dispatch the location of the stop, as well as information regarding the vehicle’s occupants’ actions and behavior.
Use of Emergency Equipment:
After selecting the stopping location and communicating with dispatch and backup, the primary officer should turn on the patrol vehicle’s emergency red/blue lights and the siren—if, for example, the driver does not respond to the emergency lights—to direct the driver of the suspect vehicle to stop the car. The officer should keep the emergency lights on throughout the entire stop. Using emergency lighting can be effective for officer safety day or night. An officer should use the patrol vehicle’s takedown lights, high beams, and spotlight during a night stop to illuminate the interior of the suspect’s vehicle.
Positioning the Primary Patrol Vehicle:
In accordance with agency policies and procedures, once the suspect vehicle stops the primary officer should park the patrol vehicle so that the driver’s door of the suspect vehicle is visible. You may stay in the vehicle or quickly take cover using your own vehicle. Stop at a safe distance behind the suspect vehicle. A greater distance behind the suspect vehicle will provide you with more protection. The situation and agency policy will dictate this safe distance.
Agency policy and the physical situation (terrain, type of intersection, whether it is a highway or street, officer safety) both help the officer determine how far to offset and angle the primary patrol vehicle. Generally, the primary patrol vehicle should be offset towards the driver’s side of the suspect vehicle. The nose of the primary patrol vehicle should be angled towards the center of the suspect vehicle
Positioning the Backup Patrol Vehicles:
The high risk traffic stop usually involves multiple backup units. The first backup patrol vehicle should generally be positioned to the right of the primary patrol vehicle. The first backup patrol vehicle should be offset to the passenger side with nose angled towards the center of the suspect vehicle.
Position all backup vehicles two door widths apart so that all vehicle doors can open completely. During a night stop, the backup vehicle’s takedown lights, high beams, and spotlight should be focused on the suspect vehicle’s passenger side. A third vehicle (or fourth) should be positioned to one side or the rear of the primary vehicle at a slight angle.
All arriving officers should refrain from leaving their area of cover and approaching the suspect vehicle. See Figure 10-8. The officers’ employing agency might use other variations of vehicle positioning
Taking Cover Using the Patrol Vehicle:
After the suspect vehicle has stopped and all patrol vehicles are properly positioned, the officers must use available cover to improve their safety. An officer’s patrol vehicle is the most effective and readily available cover. The officers can remain seated in their vehicles, exit them, or crouch behind their vehicles’ doors, according to agency policy and procedures. Once the officers have established proper positioning, they should draw their firearms and point them at the suspect vehicle with their fingers outside the trigger guard. It is important that officers position themselves in relation to other officers to avoid being caught in a crossfire situation. The officers’ positions are also dictated by the situation at hand. Events are fluid, so flexibility is required. If the driver pulls away after the stop is initiated, officers should make a second attempt to pull the vehicle over.
If the suspect does not stop, you must decide whether or not the situation is legal, feasible, and necessary and meets the agency’s criteria for pursuit. If your supervisor advises against pursuing or advises the officer to cancel the pursuit at any time, the officer must comply
UNIT 4 - HIGH RISK TRAFFIC STOPS
LESSON 3 - Securing the Vehicle and Occupants
LESSON GOAL: At the end of this lesson, you should be able to safely apply a tactical approach when conducting and concluding a high risk traffic stop.
The primary officer assumes command of the high risk traffic stop. Use verbal commands to direct all the occupants of the suspect vehicle. Agency procedure and the situation dictate who will verbally control the driver and occupants. This verbal control provides order and keeps the suspects from gaining an advantage. For example, the primary officer may control the occupants on the driver’s side of the suspect vehicle so that the first backup officer can control the occupants on the opposite side of the suspect vehicle.
You may use the PA system to identify yourself as a law enforcement officer. When giving voice commands, stay within the cover of the patrol vehicle.
Instruct all occupants to put up their hands so that they are clearly visible. Command the driver to: “Roll down the windows and unlock all the doors with your left hand and then raise your hands again where I can see them.”
Next, tell the driver, “Use your left hand to turn off your engine. Remove and place your keys outside on the roof of your vehicle, open your door from the outside with that same hand, and return your hand above your head.” Officers should be aware that because of the newer car technology there may not be a key in the ignition. Next, direct only the driver to exit, on the driver’s side, keeping hands visible and extended above the head while facing away from the officer.
If the vehicle’s windows are heavily tinted and the occupants are not easy to see, instruct the occupants to put their hands outside the windows so they remain visible.
Once the driver has exited the vehicle, tell the driver to step away from the vehicle, extend arms above their head, lift the back of their shirt by the collar, and slowly turn in a complete circle. Look for any weapons or obvious bulges from possible weapons as the driver turns in a circle with their shirt lifted. The driver should then be told to stop, facing away from you, and instructed to listen to commands. If you observe a weapon, the driver must be advised that any movement towards the weapon will be met with appropriate force.
Next, command the driver to slowly step backward toward the sound of your voice. The driver should be told to stop at the back door of a four-door vehicle and then instructed to open the back door. Next, the primary officer should command the driver to continue backing up until he or she reaches an area centered and in front of the patrol vehicles where they are commanded to stop. A backup officer will take over and issue commands to the driver directing him to the take-down area (a designated area of disadvantage to the suspect vehicle driver or occupant) where searching and securing occur.
Once the driver is in the take-down area, a backup officer may tell the driver to kneel/become prone or whatever position of disadvantage applies when the driver arrives. The officer should then holster his or her weapon and approach and handcuff the driver. That officer will conduct a cursory pat-down for weapons, secure any weapons, and walk the driver back behind the cover of the backup vehicle to secure, completely search, detain, and interview him or her about remaining passengers and weapons. To gather intelligence for officer safety, the interview should concentrate on the presence of any weapons and number of passengers in the vehicle.
Where the driver and passengers are handcuffed may vary. Some agencies handcuff all suspects at the front tires of the backup vehicle, leaving the back of the primary vehicle as a “safe zone,” while others take all suspects to the back of the backup vehicle to search and secure. The secured driver should be placed into a patrol vehicle. Once the driver is secured, the backup officer should return to position with his or her weapon drawn.
Removing Passengers from the Vehicle:
No passengers should be removed from the vehicle until the driver is secured. All passengers will be removed from the vehicle one by one after each is secured. Backup officers should use the same procedures to remove, search, secure, observe, and detain the passengers as they did with the driver. The last passengers exiting the vehicle should be instructed to leave the door open.
When the officer believes that all passengers have been removed from the suspect vehicle and no one can be seen inside, he or she should use pretense or a bluff and command any hidden passengers to exit the vehicle. This is a safety technique, often referred to as the “plus one” rule of safety. When applying the “plus one” rule, the officer should focus on the observed suspects and the “plus one” that may be assumed to be hiding.
Searching the Vehicle for Hidden Passengers:
After the suspects and any passengers are out of the vehicle, check the vehicle for hidden passengers. If there is no response to the bluff, the backup officers should approach the vehicle. While the primary officer continues giving commands, backup officers (if available) should move at the same time using a tactical approach with their weapons pointed at the vehicle at all times. They should use caution not to bump into the vehicle and alert hidden passengers of their presence.
Maintaining a tactical position, the officer should check the vehicle’s interior for passengers. Officers must do a systematic visual search of the vehicle. After the interior is clear, the officer should retrieve the keys or remote in order to open the trunk. Again, in some newer vehicles, there is no key to unlock a trunk. To clear the trunk, officers should move tactically to the trunk area. The backup officer may retrieve the keys or remote and move to the rear of the vehicle. One officer should unlock the trunk while another holds it down to prevent it from opening. After the trunk is unlocked, the officers need to move back and assume a safe position to cover the vehicle, pointing weapons at the trunk and making sure they are not in a crossfire position. The backup officer should lift the trunk lid. Both officers should then clear the trunk.
When the scene is secured and all is safe, the primary officer should notify dispatch to clear or open the channel and discontinue emergency radio traffic. After the investigation, the suspects are either informed of the charges, arrested, and transported to the agency or jail. If the people stopped are not the suspects, explain the reason for the stop, i.e. matched description of vehicle used in robbery, and release them.
Securing the Vehicle:
Circumstances and agency policy will dictate the disposition and documentation of the vehicle at the conclusion of a high risk traffic stop depending on whether it will be seized, impounded, or released.
Proper documentation of the incident—from information at roll call to locating a possible suspect, confirming a warrant, contacting and then arresting the suspect, and seizing evidence—helps lead to a conviction on all charges.