No one likes to see those red and blue flashing lights in the rearview mirror, but every driver will see just that at one time or another. Drivers get distracted and run a stop sign, change lanes improperly, fail to yield to traffic, or drive over the speed limit, and officers are trained to notice and respond.
So what happens when an officer pulls someone over?
Most people get nervous and rightfully so. For many, this might be the first time they have been confronted by an officer, and do not know what to expect. For others, it is the fear of paying a ticket. And on occasion, it is because they have something to hide.
Officers are nervous too. As they approach a vehicle, they do not know what they will be faced with — an average traffic stop or a life and death situation. They watch the driver and all passengers for suspicious body language and what each person is doing with his or her hands. The best way to make the traffic stop run smoother for both the driver and officer is to keep hands where they can be seen and avoid rummaging around. If the driver needs to grab a wallet or open the glove compartment, it is courteous to tell the officer beforehand.
Upon approaching the vehicle, the officer tries to put the driver at ease.
According to Altus Police Chief Tim Murphy, communication and tone is essential to making sure the driver leaves with a positive experience, even if he or she has been issued a citation.
Police officers patrol school zones, heavy traffic areas and locations that seem to be forgotten throughout their jurisdiction. Along with patrolling, an officer will perform a walk through in local businesses to deter crime, offer a sense of security to business owners, and serve as a presence to represent the police department.
When they are patrolling, they look for things that are out of place and suspicious body language. Field interview reports are meant to deter crime, protect property and the public, and provide hints toward possible crime occurring in an area.
While officers are doing their daily patrols, they are constantly utilizing measures to keep themselves and the public safe. They look for intoxicated drivers, bring toys for children who might need consoling, and use the most seemingly insignificant things like the position of the patrol car when pulling over a motorist and a spotlight at night to make sure operations run smoothly.
“I’d rather write a citation than work a crash,” Altus Police Officer Chris Barngrover said. “There’s no damage or injury done.”
Police officers are trained to pull over drivers to prevent accidents. Accidents cause vehicle and property damage and can result in injuries to those involved.
Reach Katrina Goforth at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.