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Cops and Traffic Stops

Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts explains to Mark Shea why my advice on traffic stops to clients is almost always the best procedure to follow:  be polite, be business-like and do not argue with the cop.  If there is something wrong  with the stop we can fight it in court.  Cops are like the rest of us, good, bad and indifferent, and most of them, in my experience, respond well to simple politeness.  Actually politeness works well in most areas of life, and should never be confused with weakness.   It costs nothing to be courteous, even in an adversarial situation, and usually pays a dividend. If 35 years of litigation has taught me anything, it has taught me that.

 

 

Yes, Mark, he was likely concerned, even if he didn’t feel threatened.

Mark Shea, in typical form, grabbed onto this story:

Here is the story.  Now, I won’t get into the case itself.  I have no clue what happened.  I’m still old-fashioned enough to believe that we hear from all sides, and seek evidence, before rendering a verdict.  If they investigate and find out he was in the wrong, he should be disciplined.  I’m OK with that.  If he feels he was wrongly suspended, let’s see what happens.  I’m OK with that.  Call me silly and stupid and a white racist Nazi sexist, but I still find comfort in a society that values presumption of innocence, due process, the need for evidence, hearing all sides of a story, and basic justice for all.

No, I’ll touch on Mark’s quips based on something I’ve learned as one of my sons trains for work as a police officer (instead of going to school to be an accountant).  I didn’t know this, but according to the officers who are training him, traffic stops are the most unnerving thing you do.

Why?  Because you have no clue what you’re getting into, that’s why.  Unlike anything else, it is a blank slate.  As the officers training him explained, when you get called to do almost anything else you have an idea what you’re getting into.  Bank robbery?  Domestic troubles?  Guarding the stadium on game day?  Entertaining a birthday party? Terrorist attack?  You know what you’re up against and you prepare accordingly.

But traffic stops are the worst of all worlds.  Often you are on your own, alone, and away from backup.  You have no clue who is in the car or what is happening.  It could be a woman in labor, a teenager with a new license, an elderly man, a drug smuggler, an arms dealer, a fugitive, a serial murderer, or someone looking for pancakes house. It could be a 65 old grandmother with diabetes.  Or it could be a 65 year old grandmother with diabetes who has her 24 year old armed fugitive son in the back seat.  You don’t know.  And you have no way of knowing until you arrive at the side of the car.  That, apparently, is the most unnerving moment of any cop’s day: That point right before you arrive at the side of the car during a traffic stop.  Which is why they have exact procedures for how the cops are to approach the car, all aimed at their safety.  Ultimately, you have only the driver’s cooperation and good will to hope for.

Even then you don’t know, since anything can happen.  Just because a person seems normal, calm, rational, or harmless, doesn’t mean they don’t have a .45 sitting under the seat.  It doesn’t mean that they’re not up to something.  Criminals come in all shapes and sizes and behaviors.  Sometimes they’re not criminals.  Sometimes they’re just people who lose control, just as cops can lose control.  You don’t know.

But guess what?  A funny thing about those cops?  They’re actually human beings.  I realize the Left has done a bang up job with the whole ‘Sanctity of life stops dead when it no longer benefits the Left’ shtick.  But a consistent life ethic means consistency.  It doesn’t just mean ‘Life is beautiful … whenever the Left says so’.  People should, you know, listen to the police officer, and do what he says.  Duh. And that includes not assuming he’s a psychoNazi racist murderer who deserves no respect, who can be ignored in kind, and had best let Greedo shoot first before he responds.

In a sane world of morals, principles, values, truth, common sense, justice, and civility founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic, the person does what my Dad did when he was mistaken for a fugitive years ago: comply with the cops.  Even though they swarmed his car, guns out, yelling for him to keep his hands visible, he decided to go crazy and … do what they said.  Know what happened then?  They checked, found out he was the wrong person, apologized, my Dad said they were just doing their job, he drove on to work, they continued their search, and that was it!  Wow.  It’s like crazy decent and sensible.  Heck, it’s almost respectful!  Thank goodness we’re done with that era.  Can’t have any of that in a Leftist paradise.

So Mark, the answer to your question is yes.  If that officer had any brains, he was worried.  Perhaps he felt threatened.  Perhaps he overreacted.  Real people in the real world get it.  I fear we’ve created a generation of armchair messiahs who can’t help but ponder how others can be so weak and flawed and imperfect.

Oh, and I get why a demographic told daily that their country hates them and wants them dead would be nervous, too.  None of this is to ignore the travesty of the Left’s manipulation and exploitation of the African American community that has no doubt left many blacks in America quite shaken.  It’s just a perspective from a parent who can’t help but wish accounting was in his son’s future, rather than police work in the age of:

 

 

Of even:
Go here to comment.  Now some sage advice as to traffic stops from Chris Rock:  (strong, strong language advisory as to the below video)

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Do You Know Who I Am?

My advice to clients when involved in a traffic stop.  Be polite and professional.  Do not argue with the cop.  Answer questions as briefly as possible.  Concentrate on what the cop is saying.  Keep track of how long the stop lasts.  Politely decline to take any tests or to allow any searches of your vehicle.  Get to me as soon as possible after the stop to tell me exactly what was said and done.  Any argument about the stop will be done by me in Court, where it matters.

 

Caren Turner, ex Ethics Commissioner for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey gives us a great example of how not to handle a traffic stop (strong language advisory):

 

Way to go Caren for turning a meaningless traffic stop into a life altering calamity for yourself!  Give her a hand ladies and gentlemen for giving us all an example to avoid!