Pulled Over By the Police: What Now?

by Rachana Gangavarapu

It is the middle of the night and you are driving home, jamming to your favorite radio station. You check your rear view mirror and you notice a cop car. You are keeping an eye on the speed limit and the road, making sure there is no reason for the officer to pull you over. A few minutes later the sirens go on and you realize you are being pulled over. A few things happen now, your heart rate goes up and you are nervous, worried and even scared, reasonably so. So what do you do now? Here is what we suggest.

We interviewed a few law enforcement officials and other individuals who work to build trusting relationships between youth and the law enforcement serving those particular communities. Here is what we learned on what is expected of us when we get pulled over and also what are a few things they are required to do and why. This is to help us be prepared in the event that we are pulled over. Our belief is that if one is equipped with this information, we will be prepared to engage with law enforcement in a safe and productive manner.

It is important to keep in mind the following throughout your interaction with law enforcement. The interaction may not be pleasant or positive, but the steps and suggestions highlighted here are to promote a safer and informed interaction between you and the officer. We want to equip you with this information to minimize the risk of getting into an escalated situation with an Officer, solely based on what you as an individual can do and control about your behavior.

Step 1: Pull Over

· Slow down — turn on your hazard lights and pull over to a well-lit area

· If you feel unsafe to pull over at a certain place, once you get the signal from the officer to pull over, slow down to maybe 10–15 mph and then you may call 911 and let the operator know what road you are on and that you are being asked to pull over, but would like to pull over in a well-lit or public area such as a gas station.

Step 2: In Your Car — Do the Following

· Turn your engine off and place your keys on the dashboard

· Place your hands on the steering wheel — so that the officer has a clear view of them

· Do not reach for anything or make any movements

Step 3: Interacting with the Officer

· Roll your window down — all the way or just enough to comfortably pass documents and converse

· Be calm, respectful, address the Officer as “Officer” (regardless of the demeanor of the Officer)

Make sure those in the car are also complying with the Officer’s requests

· The officer will first ask you “Do you know why you are being pulled over?”

Usually this is done to see if you are aware of the condition of your vehicle and if you are paying sufficient attention to your speed.

· Once the officer requests your documents (usually registration, license and insurance) — State what you are going to do

Example: Officer, my documents are over in the glove compartment, I would like to reach over and get them for you.

It is important to keep in mind that the suggestions in this article are not the solution to the systemic issues that may be prevalent in the policing community, such as excessive usage of force or any other issue.

These are opinions gathered from individuals with years of experience in law enforcement and working with communities that are disproportionately policed. They in no way capture any official stance or view point of any organization, individuals or communities nor do they guarantee any particular outcome.

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