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How To Survive A Traffic Stop When You’re Armed by Derek Smith

No one likes a traffic stop, Not even cops. Next, to domestic disputes, this is probably the most dangerous thing police officers do every day. Every traffic stop is potentially deadly for the police officer. It’s not just the danger of gunfire or sudden assault that police officers face… more get killed by passing traffic than a run in with a driver.

You, as a responsibly armed citizen, need to understand that a police officer is already on alert even before arriving at your vehicle window. The officer is on the lookout for a whole host of dangers and does not know your intentions during this interaction.

I have had my fair share of traffic stops. Even today, after years as a law enforcement officer myself, I still stiffen and get a little scared when an officer stops me. I have had some harsh treatment until the officer learned that I had a gun and badge too. Then things calmed down a bit.

Now that I am a private citizen with authority to carry a gun, I find myself even more afraid when an officer stops me. I am a 6-foot, 260-pound black guy carrying a weapon and I don’t want a nervous or overzealous cop to shoot me before I have the time to identify myself and show him my permit. We know this has happened in the past.

So, in this article, I want to share with you a few things you should do if you are stopped by the police, ESPECIALLY if you are carrying. These things will ensure your traffic stop ends safely for everyone involved.

I know how the officer feels when he stops you and what is going through his head. Officer safety is the main thing on his mind. Cops don’t know what to expect, so believe me when I tell you they are expecting the worse until you give them a reason not to. Even if you put them at ease, cops realize that good stops can easily and quickly turn bad, so they are still on edge. There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop.

Keep in mind that the officer has no idea who you are when he stops you. All he knows is your driving history that’s in the computer. Your actions will dictate how the officer will respond. The good ones will not approach you thinking you are a sociopath, but are aware that you could end up being one.

It’s simple, the easier you make his stop, the easier it’s going to be for you. With this in mind, here are five things I recommend you do to ensure your traffic stop ends without incident.

1. Pull over when safe to do so and come to a complete stop:

I have seen many people just stop when an officer flashes his lights behind them. This can be unsafe for traffic, the officer and you. Instead, slow down, use your directional signal and when safe to do so, move as far to the side of the road as you can. If you think it is not safe and you want to drive a little further, don’t let the cop think you are running, engage your hazard lights and drive very slowly away from traffic to a place you believe to be safe. If the officer wants you to move to another place, he will let you know over the PA. Follow his instructions to the letter.

2. Don’t move:

Once you come to a stop, roll down your window, turn off the engine and then immediately put your hands on the top of the steering wheel where he can easily see them. Tell your front-seat passengers to put their hands’ palms down — fingers extended — on the dashboard. Tell you backseat passengers to do the same, with their hands on the seat in front of them.

3. Keep your mouth shut:

You might be upset about the stop and think there is no reason for it. However, no matter what is going on with you or how bad your day has been, don’t make any angry comments because the officer will immediately go on the defensive. Also, remember to tell your passengers to be quiet as well.

4. Wait for instructions:

I already told you not to move. Don’t start digging around for your license, registration or proof of insurance until the cop tells you to. They call this “furtive movement,” and it gives the cop a reason to draw his weapon and be ready for anything. Don’t move until he asks you to move.

5. Tell the officer you want to (and will) comply:

Look toward the officer and politely let him know you will cooperate. If it seems like you are trying to hide your face or eyes, you could put him on edge.

What happens next:

At this point, the officer will identify himself, briefly explain why he stopped you and ask you for your license and registration. Let him know that you need to reach for those items and specifically ask, “Is it OK for me to (reach where ever you need to reach)?”

When the officer tells you it’s OK to move, move s-l-o-w-l-y. If you decide to narrate your movements, don’t do it condescendingly, you might put him off.

Since this article is about being stopped when carrying your firearm if you live in a state that requires you to inform police officers that you have a concealed carry permit, do so at this time. I recommend that when you give him your license and THEN tell him that you have your personal weapon with you.

Follow his instructions to the letter, repeating them if you have to. Watch your tone because if the officer feels as though you are getting angry or agitated, he will definitely respond. If you are not required to announce that you have a concealed carry permit, some say it is often best not to do so. I disagree because if he happens to see it, he will probably draw down on you and be pissed that you did not tell him. I will leave that decision to you. I usually tell them.

The DON’T’s if you are stopped

Here are some things I recommend you NEVER do if stopped. These my save your life.

NEVER reach for anything while pulling over or while the officer is approaching your car. This will definitely put a cop on high alert.

NEVER argue. You will never win, and the side of the road is not where you plead your case. If you really feel like the ticket was given in error or the stop was made without just cause, take your grievance to court.

NEVER be rude. Yep, you pay the officer’s salary. Yep, he is a public servant. No, he doesn’t have anything better to do right now. However, your being rude and telling him these things will only make your traffic stop worse.

NEVER talk about your rights. Trust me, he knows your rights better than you do. Again, if you really feel your rights were violated, take it to court.

NEVER get out of the car unless he tells you to. Cops believe that if you are in the car, it’s going to be hard for you to assault him physically. Once you get out of the car, the danger of physical assault grows exponentially, causing his anxiety level to increase exponentially too.

Final thoughts:

I said at the beginning of this article that the cop doesn’t want to be on this traffic stop any more than you do. And he definitely doesn’t want anything to “go wrong” during the stop. The fact of the matter is that when a cop uses force, he does not determine the level of force to be used, your actions do. The more you resist, the more force the officer is going to use to get you under control.

I told you he does not know you from Adam, and he regularly deals with some of the worst people on the planet. He is trained to take control of any situation and he will. This means the officer will often be direct, and maybe even abrupt. Don’t let that cause you to escalate the situation.

Cops are not out to get you. They are just doing a very tough job, and YOU have the opportunity to make that job easier. Follow the tips I have laid out here, and you will have a much easier and more pleasant traffic stop.


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