Conducting Safe and Lawful Traffic Operations And Vehicle Stops
Build a tactical mindset This means proper mental attitude, training, tactics, tools, techniques, and skill development so that the mind, body, and spirit harmonize into a unified system of proficiency. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance Learn from each encounter and practice various scenarios. Training in proper tactics and techniques are crucial to the development of traffic stop planning and implementation. It is essential that you control and take command of your vehicle pullover operations. Proper planning is important to vehicular interdiction activities. Having the right mindset relates the right behavior and the right attitude. It means making the effort to enhance personal abilities and effectiveness at every opportunity. A tactical mindset is one of discipline, devotion, and duty to the calling of a career in law enforcement.
Based on the Training Manual and Related Materials by Randy Gonzalez, and Safe and Lawful Vehicle Traffic Stops, © 2002 Randy Gonzalez.
Avoid Tactical Errors A positive mental attitude is critical to every action taken. Avoid 'pseudo-courage', or 'false bravado' in approaching potentially dangerous traffic stops. Whenever possible, take up an effective tactical position and posture to the objective. Practice the necessity of good positioning, posture, observation, and sensory awareness. Learn how to read people, places, and things in evaluating each situation and the surrounding environment. Watch body movements, listen for verbal clues, and be attentive to facial expressions. Keep yourself at a heightened state of readiness when dealing with tactical situations. Know how to use all of your tools, equipment, and support materials. This includes proper handcuffing and ensuring that all equipment is in good working order. Execute proper arrest tactics, be careful about body proxemics, subject/officer distance, searching, and so forth. Avoid snap judgments and faulty assumptions that lead to erroneous conclusions.
Proper Preparation Officer safety considerations should automatically dictate the careful assessment of each situation. Safety and security always come first in every action we take. And, while no tactical approach is absolutely foolproof, proper planning is essential. There is no substitute for good officer survival techniques. We must bear in mind that no two incidents are exactly the same. Each stop must be analyzed in view of all the aspects that are known at the time. We must as objectively as possible skillfully develop our investigation, noting as much detail as possible. The mind must be focused on the totality of the environment, the people involved, the location, and relevant associated factors. Our body and spirit must be ready and prepared. Success favors the prepared officer. In fact, before the stop is even executed, a significant amount of investigative action should take place. Before you ever started your tour of duty, proper preparation for an eventual traffic stop should have already begun at the basic level.
Tactical Preparedness Mental-physical-spiritual conditioning and personal self-discipline. Tactical and technical preparedness, as well as readiness to do the job. Weapons-tools proficiency, including proper maintenance and servicing. Firearms training and enhanced of shooting skills, with handgun, shotgun, and rifle. Knowledge of various types of weapons and firearms in general usage. Personal safety and protection tactics and techniques, including martial arts training. Good fitness practices coupled with stress management strategies. Practical training and practice with equipment and tools, including legal updates, vehicle operations, etc. Proper mental attitude in the approach to dealing with people, places, and situations. Understanding body language, spatial assessments, and visual acuity.
Each officer must learn to focus his or her mental capabilities on the need to do a good job, yet remain safe in doing it. In order to do a good job, you must always train in an effective manner. Based on your training, you must then put the actions in to practice. Skill and mastery come with education, training, experience, and practice. Critical issues in law enforcement traffic operations, when officers get injured, relate mainly to poor planning criteria, ineffective training, and developing bad habits of performance. As officers, we must always exercise a healthy sense of alertness and caution in everything we do. Each officer must ensure that he or she properly gathers information and coordinates that information effectively to others. We all have a tendency to develop poor habits of doing things. Sometimes we get lazy and take too many short cuts. Or, we are quick to find the easy way to get things done. It takes efforts, energy, and thinking to do job better and more efficiently. We should be reminded and consider some of the patterns of behavior that could result in faulty judgments and subsequent actions: •Lack of coordination among officers during the traffic stop. •Poor communication at the scene of the incident. •Lack of a good action plan on scene in conducting the traffic stop. •Impulsiveness in action without regard for officer safety. •Dividing up partners that increase odds in favor of suspects. •Lack of command presence. •Failing to assert control as well as being assertive. •Careless, complacent, and failure to call for backup. •Overconfidence in actions.
Beware of Personal Negative Behavior Patterns Lack of Practice and Training Failure to Plan Properly Poor Physical and Mental Fitness Lack of Secure Belief System Failure to Develop Contingency Plans Inadequate or No Backup Support Faulty Thinking and Reasoning Processes Acting Too Quickly Failure to be Assertive and Taking Control Lack of Command Presence Carelessness Dividing Up Forces Fallacies of Inference Overconfident and Oppressive Behavior Ineffective Interpersonal Communication Skills Adopting Inadequate Tactics and Techniques Failure to Read Verbal and Non-Verbal Cues
1. Develop an effective system of tactical readiness along with good personal security countermeasures. 2. Train to develop yourself professionally by having a good mental/physical conditioning program. Proper diet and exercise are essential. 3. Think and plan in terms of tactical preparedness for every aspect of life. 4. Develop good marksmanship and tactical skills by training with all weapons and tools on a regular basis. 5. Study some form of the martial arts and develop good defensive tactics skills. 6. Know, understand, and practice proper first response techniques including basic first aid and CPR. 7. Keep in mind that proper planning prevents poor performance in application of basic tactical skills. 8. Train to develop intuitive decision making skills and response to a range of situations and applications. 9. Know that a lack of training, poor attitude, careless actions, inadequate planning, and false confidence can lead to disaster. 10. Plan and practice hypothetical scenarios and develop decision-making skills. Review previous situations and analyze the results. 11. Guard against attitude problems and becoming apathetic about life and the job. 12. Implement a personal stress reduction program and include sufficient relaxation and rest. 13. Insist on the proper functioning of all tools and supplies to carry out each duty day, and maintain a good level of proficiency with your equipment. 14. Have a set of various action plans ready at all times.
As you approach, make sure you have a good field of view into the vehicle. Try to observe as much as possible. Watch the body language and pay close attention to what people say and do. Avoid standing outside the driver's car or your patrol car to do paperwork. Make good use of cover and control. Insist that passengers stay calm and quiet when you are dealing with the driver of the vehicle. Make sure that other occupants stay seated in the vehicle. Never take a violator and put them in the front seat of your patrol car to do any paperwork. This is not a safe and secure practice Visually inspect as much of the vehicle as possible for any clues that may tell a different story about what is actually going on. Be alert to suspicious design configurations of the vehicle. It may have been designed to carry contraband materials. Consider the condition of the vehicle and note the placement and condition of the license plate.
Remember, as you build your case by asking effective questions and making good observations, a low risk stop can suddenly become a high-risk stop. Evaluate the driver's and occupant's responses to your questions. Looks for physiological and verbal expressions of nervousness. The effects of stress will betray hidden motives and activities. The collection of information that you develop becomes the basis for solidifying your probable cause to take further action. Make sure your traffic stop is lawful and that you are capable of articulating your actions in court. You must be able to back up everything you did in your investigation. Think about all the possible locations on the vehicle where someone might hide evidence or contraband. Use a methodical approach as you look for such items throughout the vehicle.
Check the tag, the trunk and exterior as you approach.
Be cautious in your investigation and don't take any unnecessary chances with your personal safety. Make sure you have a backup officer if you search a vehicle.
Your initial engagement with the driver will, in most cases, set the stage for how the situation will unfold. It is important to establish an effective level of contact. This means exercising good interpersonal communications with the driver and the occupants of the car in question. Consider the following basic guide to establish your initial contact relationship: G.R.I.D. 1. Greet the driver with an appropriate salutation, such as "Good morning, Sir. My name is Officer Smith." 2. Reason for the traffic stop. "Sir, the reason I stopped you, was that fact that you ran the stop sign at the intersection of Maple and Oak Drive." 3. Identification and investigation of the incident. "Sir, is there any particular reason why you did that? Okay, then, I would like your cooperation in assisting me with this. May I see your driver's license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance? Thank you for your cooperation." 4. Data gathering and decision-making. Conduct relevant investigative efforts concerning all personal and vehicular identifiers (e.g. vehicle registration, ownership, VIN number, stolen status, wants and warrants, NCIC checks, traffic violations, etc.). Decide appropriate course of action: a. Traffic enforcement education - verbal warning b. Warning citation c. Uniform Traffic Citation d. Arrest e. Give a courteous explanation and departure information. "Thank you for your help. Here's what you need to do. Please drive safely and take care of yourself." After conducting your initial traffic investigation and the person is free to go, your investigation may develop further. Based on the information you have gathered, try to get written consent from the driver.
Enhancing A Tactical Mindset It is too late to think about tactics when already standing next to the driver's car door. Tactical readiness should already be a part of your everyday thinking. Avoid fixating on one thing. Use total sensory awareness. Never assume that because it looks safe that it is safe. Avoid handling a traffic stop as if it is a 'routine' practice. You must be in command of every traffic stop and control it to every extent possible. Keep in mind that even though the vehicle stop is for a traffic violation, other crimes may be involved. The very reality that you have made a vehicle stop may be enough to provoke the driver into a negative reaction toward you. People may become instantly hostile. The vehicle itself may be of such design that it conceals hidden dangers. Be alert to the type of vehicle you are stopping. Constant radio communications are essential. Dispatch communications needs to know as much about what you are doing as possible. Complete description need to be reported quickly to dispatch communications: occupants, car, location, etc. Do this every time!
Think Safety and Security Develop and utilize your tactical mindset in every situation you encounter. Be especially cautious of traps and setups that people may be planning. Train hard to make each encounter work in your favor. Develop skill and proficiency in your tactical abilities. Simply because a situation appears harmless or a minor problem, do not assume it is. Avoid easily observable habits others may be watching and plotting. Adjust and adapt your tactics to the situation at hand. Always watch for suspicious actions and movements. Practice good interview techniques and ask questions. Plan your approach to each situation with care and caution. Be prepared to execute your plan of action immediately if things change adversely. Use your intuitive abilities. Stay alert to danger clues. On your approach think officer survival. Make sure you have a clear objective in mind that defines your mission. Do the unexpected and seize the initiative when necessary.
As you evaluate and plan your traffic stop, use your tactical mindset to maximum advantage. A low risk traffic stop can go from a seemingly "routine" situation to a deadly force encounter in a matter of seconds. Suddenly, you could find yourself in a high-risk traffic stop where personal safety is in imminent jeopardy. Don't take any unnecessary chances, no matter how the situation looks on the surface. Dig deeper into the circumstances and the people involved. Once you leave the cover of your patrol car, start looking for clues. This begins with all the information you have gathered prior to the actual stop and continues until the stop has been concluded. On approach, observe the occupants and the vehicle itself. Maintain a state of alertness with regard to your surroundings. Consider Tactical Basics
Observation of Terrain -- Exposure -- Cover -- Concealment Opportunities for Resistance -- 'Fields of Fire and Cross-fire' Keys aspects of Approach -- Engagement -- Potential Hazards Command -- Control -- Communications Avenues of Escape and Evasion Safety and Security
Scanning For Clues – Enhance Tactical Mindset Always look for clues that something is going on but is hidden from immediate view. Evaluate the stress of the person or persons you have engaged in conversation. Use a low profile approach in terms of asking questions. Gain the confidence of the driver and the occupants and develop your case investigation accordingly. Make a careful examination of the vehicle, the driver, and all occupants. Look for visual clues to suggest something is not normal, out of place or otherwise unusual. Check the license plate, other identifiers and associated documentation pertaining to the vehicle in question, and the person driving it. Assess facial expressions, body language, verbal clues, mannerisms, physical actions, lack of eye contact, or eyes diverting on key questions. Check for an unsecure truck or compartment, car doors ajar, broken locks and windows, and loose wiring. If for some reason, the driver comes back to your patrol car just as the stop is being made, be alert and ready. Courteously, tell the driver to go back and wait at his or her car, either inside or outside, depending on your discretion and preference. Make observations about any mannerisms, particularly whether or not you see can the person's hands at all times. As you develop your traffic stop in a strategic manner, you are, at the same time, developing your investigation. Your focus concerns people, places, and things and those aspects that seem unusual or out of the ordinary. Your probable cause is based on the totality of circumstances as you weigh and consider the relevant evidence at hand. Be alert to the potential for terroristic acts, anti-government opposition And illegal immigration resistance to official actions.
Basic Traffic Stop Considerations - Review
1. Make sure the driver has stopped the car completely and shut off the engine. Consider telling the driver to turn his/her car's front wheels toward the curb. Ask that both hands be kept on the steering wheel. Use appropriate verbal tactics to gain voluntary compliance. Exercise good interpersonal skills.
2. Be alert to potential hazards on your approach and initial contact, especially if the driver suddenly becomes hostile or refuses any requests. If you have a partner or backup, be sure to give him/her specific instructions. Your instructions may include directions to the backup officer to take up a position on the passenger side of the driver's car. 3. Avoid crossfire situations. Work as a team when you have a backup officer(s) on the scene. Always approach any car with caution, even though you are making a "low risk" traffic stop. Conduct your approach at angles to your objective and bear in mind the configuration of the vehicle you are dealing with. 4. You want to remain behind the driver's door and force the driver to turn and face you. Always keep your strong side in a defensive posture, with your firearm away from the driver or person you are dealing with. Your "gun hand" should be free of any objects you may be holding. If for some reason you want the driver out of the car, open the car door for him/her slowly and give clear directions. Keep his/her hands in view at all times. 5. Make sure you stay on guard and avoid becoming distracted. Focus on the people involved. Try to do all your paperwork form the inside of your patrol car. Keep in mind the difference in tactics between a low risk stop and a high-risk stop. 6. Strategy, tactics, observations, intelligence and special procedures must be followed carefully on all traffic stops. Developing a tactical mindset is crucial to officer safety and survival. It involves using your "common sense" or perhaps, "uncommon sense." Such mental actions concern having the capacity for making sound, prudent, and practical judgments. It is a product of your attitude, manner, bearing, ethics and professionalism. You must be in a process of ongoing mastery of your skills, tactics, and thinking capabilities. Actions must be focused, decisive, and effective.