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Principles to Live by While Conducting a Traffic Stop: Part Two

In the last article, we discussed some principles and tactics to apply while conducting a traffic stop. Some of these tactics include strategizing before you make the stop; like developing probable cause, observing for signs of an ambush, or destruction of evidence. Your location can also be a huge force multiplier (well-lit areas, easy for back up to find) or a huge disadvantage (secluded areas, multiple subjects in the vehicle.) There are many tactics and methods for peace officers to utilize before the stop and during the approach.

In Part two, we will discuss the dangers and tactics of the re-approach, tactical positioning during the subject interaction, and cutting the subject loose.  Read on as we will continue the Principles to Live by While Conducting a Traffic Stop: Part two.



Interacting with the Subject

After you have your probable cause and your location down, you will be ready to make the initial approach. Once you make your way to the vehicle comes one of the most important steps of the traffic stop, interacting with the subject.

  • Personally, I preferred the passenger side approach to a vehicle instead of the driver’s side; I feel this is much safer and creates a more aggressive angle for you to view the interior of the vehicle, get a count of the occupants, look for weapons, paraphernalia, and so on. I would personally keep an eye on everyone’s hands; it’s the hands that can kill you. Stay frosty and keep your eyes up! Don’t look at your citation book, don’t tilt your head away to talk into the radio.
  • Stay off the radio as much as possible. Everything you will have to focus on during the interaction requires your utmost attention. With the incredible advancements in police technology, officers can handle most of the traffic stop digitally, no need to transmit everything over the radio, limiting exposure to Seconds count on traffic stops. If you need to gather more intelligence on a subject, call for backup if there are additional available units.



Re-approaching the Vehicle

Recite every move the driver has made since you walked back to the cruiser and ran their information. Not exactly sure? Me either. Your re-approach must be just as careful as the initial approach.


  • Consider using the opposite side approach as the first. Alternate your approaches. Don’t get complacent. Watch the side mirrors, look at their hands before you make your presence known. I would always look at their hands, look for weapons in the cab then switch from the B-pillar to the A-pillar. This switch gives you a better view of the vehicle, especially if there are multiple occupants in the vehicle. You have no idea what their mood will be when you walk back up to the vehicle; they could be strung out, mentally ill, or just angry. Stay vigilant change the game up.






Cutting the Driver Loose

After everything is said and done, it’s time to break off and end the stop. Don’t turn your back and walk back to the cruiser straight away, glance back and take a look at the vehicle and the occupants every few feet. Just because the stop is over doesn’t mean they still won’t try and get the drop on you.



These fundamental principles cover all aspects of your routine traffic stop. Remember adaptive intelligence is a must, use your training but don’t be a robot, adapt to the situations. Focus on the inches instead of the feet. Stay safe out there!!



This article was co-written by Tim Sholtz a fellow officer. 

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