Ask a Cop?: Traffic Stop Safety…Cop Perspective..


—–Original Message—–
Subject: Traffic Stops

I am a former police officer from Texas, now living in Las Vegas. I used to work a lot of TLE, and the Academy as well as my FTO always taught me to stop a violator off the street – a side street, parking lot, etc. – for two reasons (1) it was safer for the motorist and the officer, and (2) less chance of blocking traffic. But I see a lot of officers just stopping violators in the middle of busy streets – surely a huge safety hazard! Why don’t the officers order the motorists off the main streets before making the stop?


Its actually safer in Vegas probably to do a stop right on the strip, as the perp is less likely to run, fight etc. I believe most area’s surrounding the strip are low income area’s where more trouble would rise as the "turds" gather around etc.

Spoken like a true X cop

And from Mark:

When I was in the police academy here in CA 20 yrs ago, the emphasis was mainly on the placement and positioning of the police vehicles and officers on traffic stops. It was recommended to try and make the stop where concealment and cover were available in case the stop went sideways. There wasn’t too much emphasis on getting off a busy street although officers were taught to use common sense. Stopping a car for a high-risk felony takedown presents problems on a busy street because of all the passing motorist and the fact that it takes extra officers to stop traffic in both directions. Also, as most people have seen especially on the freeways, a traffic stop on the side of the road often causes traffic slowdowns and at times rear-end accidents from all the rubber-neckers. But there’s also a risk to having a violator pull into a parking lot or isolated area; the suspect may be more tempted to resist the officer or pull a gun if there are not people around. Also, I’ve seen violators ordered to drive to the next side street but as they start to slowly drive again, it gives them an opportunity to re-think their options and flee.

When we turn on the lights we never know where the violator will stop; some stop immediately, some travel quite a distance. I too have seen stops where it is blocking a lane of traffic and it can get pretty risky standing next to a violators car as cars and trucks whiz by. I used to work motors and usually conducted my stops wherever the violator stopped as long as it didn’t present a hazard or block lanes of traffic. If I was in a hazardous area I’d have the violator pull around a corner to a side street but I felt a little more vulnerable if it was an isolated area. I think most officers conduct stops wherever the violators stop their vehicle. It would be interesting to hear what police academy’s in other states are teaching now. If we get replies we’ll post them.

Thanks for the great question!

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