Tips for U.S. owner-drivers on being stopped by the police

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Tips for U.S. owner-drivers on being stopped by the police

If you are stopped by the police while driving you should, in general, pull over, turn on the inside light if it is at night, take out your license and registration, roll down your window, and put both of your hands on the top of the steering wheel where they can be plainly seen.

While this is a good general rule, in certain cases it needs to be modified because of the number of robberies and assaults that take place each year by people pretending to be police officers. As an example of how serious this predicament can be, some time ago we attended a law enforcement seminar it which a case was discussed of a man who had killed an officer, put on his uniform, and driven out to find and kill other officers. Fortunately, the first officer who came along felt that something was amiss, and did not pull his car up next to what would have become a death trap.

The bottom line is that even though a person has a uniform, a badge, a gun, and a police car, they may not be cops. So what do we do?

This depends on where you are. If you are stopped by a police officer in Manhattan in the middle of the day, you will likely have a number of onlookers the entire time, providing you with some degree of protection. But what if you are in an area with nobody else around? In this case your level of risk is higher, and it may be a good idea to put on your flashers and drive, at a reasonable pace, toward a place where there are people. At the same time you can call 911 on your cell phone and tell the dispatcher where you are, what is happening, and ask if there is a legitimate police vehicle trying to stop you. If the answer, once they check, is yes, it is probably safe to stop, or to have the dispatcher tell the following car where you are planning to stop. If the answer is no, then it is probably prudent to ask to have an RMP dispatched to intercept you and the fake police car.

What do you do when you get to a place with people around you? You pull over, turn on the inside light if it is at night, take out your license and registration, roll down your window, and put both of your hands on the top of the steering wheel where they can be plainly seen. The officer may well still be angry when you explain why you didn’t immediately stop, but you are in a way better position than you were with nobody around.

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