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  • Traffic stop etiquette opinions

    Good sunday all,

    I wanted start a conversation, for learning, about how you talk to or interact with folks on traffic stops. I'll explain; I am, for the most part, friendly and take the time to fully explain the reason for the stop and give the driver an opertunity to explain themselves, within reason. I have noticed, at least here in Ga, that troopers are very aggressive in their stops, short and to the point with the driver/occupants. I know this is driven into them in the academy and i'm not judging them at all, more so I wanted to see if others feel that the aggressive approach helps control the stop and sets a tone for the interaction. I would think that because troopers are often alone and with very limited backup, greater control of the interaction is important.

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    I was always friendly, and depending on the offense, allowed the driver to talk. But, I was never a traffic guy.....Troopers and Traffic guys seem to take traffic offenses personal =)

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    • #3
      Traffic stops are like anything else...my demeanor, tone, language, and attitude vary according to the interaction. Most "average" traffic stops are pretty direct and to the point, while remaining professional. If I'm trying to get consent to search or something else criminal-related on the stop, I can chat it up about pretty much any subject under the sun. If the occupants want to be confrontational, I can give that right back to them, too. It's no different than any encounter on the street or complaint you get dispatched to...there's not just one tool in the toolbox you have to use.
      "He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you."
      -Friedrich Nietzsche

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      • #4
        I agree with you AB, I always start out friendly and try to show respect when I first contact the person. It doesn't hurt to be nice to people and hopefully that will help keep them relaxed. If they decide to "step it up," so can I. I always start with, "Good evening Sir / Ma'am, may I please see your license, registration, and proof of insurance." And now with the advent of body worn cameras, it makes us sound even better, especially if and when they go off on us.

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        • #5
          Greeting, identification of self, reason for the stop, and a request of mitigation. They can take it wherever they want it to go from there.

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          • #6
            "Good morning/afternoon/evening, I'm Officer X from [Agency], the reason I stopped you is [violation], may I see your driver's license please?"

            I try to operate on a philosphy of giving what I get. If the violator keeps things calm and cool, so do I. If they choose to ramp it up, I'm well-practiced in moving from Officer Friendly to Officer Not-So-Nice (But Still Professional). That said, I tend to give people a bit of leeway -- most drivers, even if they're normally law-abiding folks, get nervous when stopped by the police and may not present their best personality at first. I usually try to defuse and de-escalate a bit before changing gears.

            I also like the phrase: First I ask. Then I tell. Then WE make.

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            • #7
              Firm fair, consistent, short and to the point! Ask them how they're doing, request license usually before they have chance to answer and then explain the reason for the stop (once I get their license).

              Often I'll tell them the other stuff that they done wrong if any but tell them I'm only writing them for one or two infractions. Often I get looks of reliefs and some thank yous from them because I let them go with only one or two tickets.

              Had one guy ask me why I was being so nice to him when I gave three tickets. And he wasn't driving.




              I've tried it the way some of all do it and had problems 98% of the time. Practically every time I explained the reason for the stop before requesting the license they wanted to argue about it and not hand over their license. Came close to arresting them before they would hand it over.

              ​​​​​​

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              • #8
                I have been stopped more times than I care to admit. Some have been more stern than others, but every contact I have been on the receiving end for has been professional. That being said, I conduct my traffic stops keeping my experiences in mind. I agree with Bing_Oh and orangebottle. The circumstances dictate my approach. Unless I get interrupted by an angry outburst, my stops usually begin with "Just to let you know, you're being audio and video recorded. The reason I stopped you is ...... . I need to see your license, registration, and proof of insurance."
                "Respect is earned. Honesty is appreciated. Trust is gained. Loyalty is returned."

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                • 1RidgeRunner7
                  1RidgeRunner7 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Same spiel for me. People behave when they know they are being video and audio recorded. Body cams have done more good than harm for me.

              • #9
                Firm, fair, and friendly has always been the standard. I was also taught to make the decision whether or not to issue a citation based on the violation, before contacting the driver. When serious mitigating circumstances exist you can always change that decision, but for the majority of contacts this avoids any possibility of issuing an "attitude ticket" based on the driver's demeanor or attitude rather than on the original violation.

                Couple of years into my career I was plucked out of patrol division and assigned to traffic. Nothing but traffic accidents, radar, and traffic enforcement all day long. I hated it! So, I worked my butt off every day. If I was assigned to a radar car I worked residential areas and school zones for 8 solid hours, usually turning in 20 or 30 summonses per day. This naturally resulted in a higher than normal number of complaints to the traffic division commander and the chief, and I was counselled to cool it a bit. My response was to continue working the job I was given, set reasonable tolerance limits (radar speeding, my tolerance was 10 over the posted limit in residential areas and school zones), and issue a summons to every single violator (including city councilmen, county commissioners, and a state legislator or two). It took the bosses less than 6 months to decide to send me back to patrol and assign someone else to the traffic job. The bosses got what they wanted, I got what I wanted.

                Coincidentally, that was the first year that we were granted overtime pay for off-duty court appearances. My days off were always spent at municipal court on contested traffic cases. When I worked night shifts I frequently spent 4 to 6 hours per day at municipal court. Needless to say, the traffic division commander had to constantly explain why his overtime budget was somewhere in the upper atmosphere! My take-home pay was usually double my straight-time pay. Prior to that time we received no overtime pay under any circumstances, and it took the bosses a while to adjust to the new rules.

                Comment


                • #10
                  I try to be friendly about it, I’m usually able to get them to thank me for giving them a ticket... and I mostly give warnings anyway.

                  Every once in a while you get someone more difficult, like the lady who didn’t understand why 15 over AND failing to stop for the stop sign in a school zone was a problem. Sometimes you have to fall back on “follow the rules because otherwise it gets expensive”.... here’s the $510 ticket you talked yourself into.
                  Last edited by tanksoldier; 05-09-2020, 08:36 PM.
                  "I am a Soldier. I fight where I'm told and I win where I fight." -- GEN George S. Patton, Jr.

                  "With a brother on my left and a sister on my right, we face…. We face what no one should face. We face, so no one else would face. We are in the face of Death." -- Holli Peet

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                  • #11
                    I was a traffic cop most of my career, which I thought was the best job for me, considering so many patrol officers were spending most of their time messing with shoplifters, domestic disturbances and boring report calls. I made it a point to be very professional but courteous.

                    First off I introduced myself and told the motorist why I stopped them and asked for their DL and proof of liability insurance. If they wanted to start justifying their actions before giving me their paperwork, I again repeated that I needed their ID first, then we'd discuss the violation(s). If they felt the need to inform me how important they were, who they knew or any other reason for endangering other motorist, I told them exactly how lenient I really was, but their action forced me to do my job.
                    My tolerance for a speeding ticket was 15 miles an hour over the speed limit (11 over in a school zone); being 1 1/2 or more car lengths from the designated stopping point on a red light violation; performing six or more turns or lane changes without a signal, or any violation that caused another driver to suddenly react to prevent an accident and they got to meet me.

                    I flat out told them that if their violation hadn't been so blatant and unsafe, I wouldn't have stopped them. I'll admit that I had one major flaw in my attitude toward a motorist I'd stopped. If they could make me laugh with a goofy excuse or their reason for the violation, a whole lot of the time they got a pass. I wish I'd written a book on the stuff I'd heard!
                    If your biggest work-related fear is getting a paper cut, don't try and tell a cop how to do his job.

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                    • #12
                      My guys got sick of me saying it, but I would always send them out telling them to "treat EVERYONE and approach each situation like the (head of our department) was standing there watching everything you were doing." That goes with traffic stops, too. The other thing was pretty much the Golden Rule where you treat people how you want to be treated.

                      Be professional, and don't get chummy or you may not be able to take appropriate enforcement action. Most of all of my traffic stops when end with the driver telling me "thank you" even after I cited them.

                      My point being, after who knows how many thousands of stops I had made over my career, I was never killed or fired for heeding my own advice of just being professional, treating people how you would want to be treated in the same situation and act like the head of your agency is watching you.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        Big fan of the Seven-Point Method:

                        "Good afternoon (1), I'm Officer Moreland of the [Agency] (2), the reason I stopped you was for [violation] (3). I need to get your license (4), registration (5), and proof of insurance (6), and is there any lawful reason why you [violation]? (7)

                        I learned that from Dr. George Thompson, the father of Verbal Judo. When I returned to work I used it and was very pleased with the results. I have used it, ever since, and encouraged others to do the same.
                        "You're never fully dressed without a smile."

                        Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.

                        Three things I know for sure: (1) No bad deed goes unrewarded, (2) No good deed goes unpunished, and (3) It is entirely possible to push the most devoted, loyal and caring person beyond the point where they no longer give a 5h!t.

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                        • #14
                          I just followed the Gerbil Voodoo traffic stop procedure...

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                          • #15
                            Originally posted by ab04 View Post
                            Good sunday all,

                            I wanted start a conversation, for learning, about how you talk to or interact with folks on traffic stops. I'll explain; I am, for the most part, friendly and take the time to fully explain the reason for the stop and give the driver an opertunity to explain themselves, within reason. I have noticed, at least here in Ga, that troopers are very aggressive in their stops, short and to the point with the driver/occupants. I know this is driven into them in the academy and i'm not judging them at all, more so I wanted to see if others feel that the aggressive approach helps control the stop and sets a tone for the interaction. I would think that because troopers are often alone and with very limited backup, greater control of the interaction is important.

                            Thoughts?
                            My opening line was always the same. "I'm Officer ----- with the ----- Police Department. I stopped you because -----" Everything that followed from that point was dependent on the body language, statements and attitude of the subject(s).

                            Comment

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