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Thread: "Routine" Traffic Stops
10-13-2003, 22:05 #1Bite and Hold Moderator
- Join Date
- Nov 2000
"Routine" Traffic Stops
*The following is an email I wrote in response to an article in the October 2003 edition of American Police Beat, in case you have it.
Upon opening my October 2003 edition, I read about a deputy who courageously gave his life in the line of duty. Under the Courage article it states, "...a sheriff's deputy was shot by a double murder suspect that he pulled over during a routine traffic stop" (pg 3). Although it may not be apparent, the use of the word "routine" has extreme ratifications. It is taught from day one in the police academy that in order to survive, we must expect the unexpected and never assume anything. This should hold most true for even traffic stops, where this article proves are not routine. By continuing to produce articles that indicate this is not only contradictory to our profession, but also provides citizens with a false view of police work and traffic stops. News articles from major newspapers that do not specialize in law enforcement repeatedly indicate such statements as "routine traffic stops." However, I would have expected much different from a law enforcement magazine written for law enforcement professionals. For the sake of the continued strive for officer safety, and more importantly to honor those lives officers sacrificed during traffic stops, I would hope the consideration of the word "routine" would be taken out of the American Police Beat dictionary.
*Probably one of the biggest pet peeves I have and was wondering if I am the only one that truly feels this way (?). Here is a response that I received by the publisher.
Thanks for your note. We'll print it in the next issue. You are more than correct - there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop.
Cynthia Brown, Publisher
10-13-2003, 22:16 #2Sergeant
- Join Date
- Jul 2001
- Lone Star State
Well about a month ago I pulled a guy over for not having break lights on his truck. It was about 2300hrs, he had taillights but no break lights.... Routine stop right?? Well he wound up being 10-99 out of another County for a Felony 1-Man/Del CS, with a $500,000 bond, considered armed and dangerous.... He was doing the speed limit, all of his stickers were up to date and he was wearing his seat belt....
Just seems that the most "routine" stops are anything but.... Routine....
10-13-2003, 23:10 #3
Good job on that email, it was very well written and apparently highly effective.
nice catch man!
10-13-2003, 23:46 #4
Good job K9 educating that writer.
The catch phrase out here for the last few years has been "Unknown Risk" traffic stops.
I use a system that has worked very well for me for 11 years and during that time have been lucky to avoid serious injury from suspects during contacts. Our Defensive Tactics people teach us the following work patterns:
Condition Green: O.D. at home with a beer in my hand.
Condition Yellow: Aware of what's going on 360 around me as much as possible. Pretty much anytime I'm armed or anytime I'm out and about. I may be green in the backyard but I can turn on yellow pretty easily. Once you get used ot paying attention to your surroundings it is not as high stress as you think.
Condition Orange: Focused on person/vehicle/incident. I'm worrying less (I'm focused but I'm not totally ignoring what's going on) about everything else and concentrating on the person/vehicle/incident. You cannot stay in Orange for very long.
Condition Red: Decision time. I'm making an arrest or displaying a firearm at a suspect or have a baton drawn back ready to strike or deciding to tactically retrograde (run away) because things have gotten too hairy. A sniper looking through his scope is in Red. You can't maintain this condition for very long and then you need to let someone else take over and relax a little or end the incident.
Don't be in condition green or yellow while working even if you are on your 12th traffic stop of the day and its a little old lady who looks lost.
10-14-2003, 00:35 #5Lieutenant
- Join Date
- Jan 2002
I don't have a problem with the term routine traffic stop. By the way you described it, I would gather that the officer was stopping the vehicle for either a traffic violation or something of that nature. The term felony stop would be used when the officer knows that the occupant of the vehicle have commited a serious crime. As police officers, do we handle a routine traffic stop in the same manner that we handle a felony stop. Of course not. Should we walk up to the vehicle in a routine stop in condition green. No, but I don't think we are going to prone everyone out either.
The term routine is used to define or describe the type of stop it was. I think most people here will tell you that a traffic stop can go to hell in about a second. With that being said, I think the term routine was an accurate description of how the officer was thinking at the time of the stop.
Leeroy stated that the catch phase now is unknown risk stop. I don't have a problem with that either, except more people would have a better understanding of routine stop. You can change the name of something but without changing the way people respond will make little difference.
A rose is a rose and by any other name would still just as sweet. In other words feel free to give it another name, but until officers respond in a different manner the outcome would be the same.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not going to second guess what the officer did that day. I'm only here to say if I got a memo today to start calling routine traffic stops another name, I would. But I would still approach vehicles in the same manner in which I do today.
10-14-2003, 10:11 #6Bite and Hold Moderator
- Join Date
- Nov 2000
Thanks for the responses!
I completely agree. When I conduct a traffic stop it is done in certain orders that try to maximize safety. This is technically a "routine" that I do when conducting a traffic stop. Not everytime as I do approach on passenger side doors, etc. However, I feel that there is a big difference between the actions you make while effecting a traffic stop and having the mindset that this is a "routine" traffic stop. Essentially, assuming that all traffic stops are the same and routine.
Perhaps the argument leads to the mindset of traffic stops being routine, thus becoming complacent, therefore being more dangerous in a profession that already has risk.
My academy was HUGE about this and using such words as "routine" in traffic stops, and other police situations. Reading an article about a LEO killed during a traffic stop, and then calling it routine just seems contradictory to me. Obviously there are others who do not agree with me, which is good! I like seeing the other side of things.
10-14-2003, 10:58 #7hopefulskeptic2 Guest
I agree that "routine" is a problem for the reason of public perception. The public generally has a great lack of understanding of how NOT routine a traffic stop can be, right? "Don't they have anything better to do than harass me?" You know, that attitude. I think if there was more publicity given to how often traffic stops are not routine, it might have a bit of impact on public opinion. I finally got my mother to quit complaining about being pulled over for defective vehicle stuff by "beating" her "over the head" with information about how often warrants are found in traffic stops. That could just be an unusual circumstance, but, I think it would help some if the public had a better understanding.