What did you stop me for?
This is the most asked question that a police officer gets. The answers are as varied as the personalities of the men and women on the force. The acceptable reasons are, you did something to draw the attention of a police officer that was extra-legal, unsafe, or “suspicious”, in the educated opinion of the officer. It is this “suspicious” part that engenders the greatest problems for police.
In my book A View from the street/ River City Policing, coming out this winter: I discuss this at length.
On the department I was on we had an individual that thought all blond “Chicks” were suspicious. I say that because every time the shift started with in minutes of leaving the station he would make a traffic stop. When the backup officer would drive by he would have a blond “chick” stopped. He was a good looking guy and the Chicks didn’t seem to mind much because they never complained. I don’t think he gave them a ticket often, because his ticket count was not out of the ordinary.
Just for information ordinary for a non-traffic patrol officer is about 15 tickets a month. More than that and he is considered traffic orientated. Younger officers seem to be more afflicted with this malady, but they soon tire of all the court and begin making stops warnings rather than ruin a citizens day. They save the court time for repeat offenders. About 10% of drivers get 90% of the citations, and that is as it should be in this ex officers opinion.
After a while when you are a police officer, you begin to develop what we called our” Spidey sense”. That’s when the hair raises on the back of your neck and you get the feeling that something just is not right. You can get this feeling walking up on a car and never figure out why. I think you get it when you smell fear coming from the vehicle. I have learned this by asking drivers that I stopped whether I had done something to make them nervous. The answer I got from one driver was revealing to me. He said “ I saw you when you approached my car. You are so big, all that stuff on your belt, that hat, your are frightening to me. I removed my hat and he immediately became calmer. We had a nice long chat and afterwards I removed all the unnecessary tools from my belt and started approaching folks without my hat. WOW the complaints I was getting went from several a year to zero and the chief got letters complementing me for putting people at ease. I still kept my awareness level high but I tried not to project that to a citizen.
Now ask yourself the next time you are stopped; am I having a reaction to this person because I am frightened by his or her demeanor? If so please tell him or her and refer them to this Blog.
Due your duty and let’s get these young officers trained up right
S. Henry Knocker