Police to civilian encounters happen routinely every day in America. Most of these encounters usually end peacefully, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. Misunderstandings between law enforcement and civilians lead to injuries and, sometimes, unnecessary deaths. Here are some tips to reduce the chances of a bad encounter during police stops.
First impressions matter
An officer uses the first few moments of the encounter to assess you. If you initially appear excessively agitated or aggressive, they’ll believe they first need to control you before controlling the situation. Always remember things can quickly move away from your favor if the officer feels the need to request backup.
During a stop, refrain from arguing with the officer. Instead, save it for the judge. Know your rights, but remain calm, courteous, and polite. Use the first seconds of a police interaction to reassure the officer of your willingness to cooperate to help resolve the reason for the stop. You can best do so by being compliant and cooperative.
Be proactive in reducing an officer’s apprehensions during traffic stops
Traffic stops are risky encounters for officers. If police stop you on the road, activate your emergency flashers and pull over at the first opportunity where it is safe to do so. Roll down your front windows and turn on your interior lights if it is nighttime. If your vehicle has rear tinted windows, roll those down as well. Have your ID and paperwork ready before the officer approaches. Then keep your hands on the steering wheel as you wait for the officer.
If the officer asks for documents that you haven’t already retrieved, let the officer know in advance from where you intend to retrieve them. Always listen and be responsive to requests or legal commands from the officer. In this manner, you signal to the officer your intent not to pose a threat. These actions can help reduce tension during the encounter and help get you on your way sooner.
Possessing a concealed firearm
Having a firearm on your person during a police stop can create a dangerous situation. Missouri law does not require you to inform an officer that you have a gun. However, if the nature of the stop becomes invasive, it is better to warn the officer before he or she sees it first and overreacts.
Never use the word “gun” when informing an officer you have one. “Gun” is a trigger word. Instead, tell the officer you are licensed to carry and that you are carrying. Listen for the officer’s instructions, and repeat them aloud before following them. The officer may let you retain the firearm or remove it from the vehicle until the encounter is complete.
Police stops are never enjoyable. But with a bit of forethought and preparation, you can help make the experience uneventful.