Each week, Scottsbluff Police Cpl. Krisa Brass will answer questions submitted by Star-Herald readers.
Send questions for consideration to email@example.com or by leaving your question at 308-632-9057.
If I get pulled over by police, what is the best thing for me to do? Is it OK if I reach for my driver’s license and registration information? Or should I wait for the officer to approach my vehicle first?
Obviously no one starts their day out by planning on being pulled over by a police officer. I would recommend being as prepared as you can be just in case it happens. First, it helps if you know which documents you will need during the contact. Those documents include a driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of financial responsibility (insurance). Not only is this information required on a traffic stop but the same goes if you are involved in a motor vehicle accident. So having all of the information together kind of serves a dual purpose.
It’s likely your driver’s license will be in your purse or wallet, which is fine. It’s helpful if you keep the vehicle registration and insurance card together in a location you will remember, such as a glove compartment. Knowing where all of your documents are will help speed up the process.
There’s certainly no rule against you reaching for the information or having it ready as the officer approaches. However I understand where there is hesitation because people don’t want officers to think they are digging around for another purpose.
Ultimately I think it’s easier to just wait for the officer to approach and then let them know you need to retrieve your documents from the glove compartment or wherever else you may choose to store them.
When police stop people, do they often ask people to come back to their cars? I’ve seen that happen on TV, but it’s never happened when I have been stopped. If so, why?
This method is dependent on the officer/agency and how they are trained. Typically I do not practice this method but there are other local officers who do. Some agencies (State Troopers/Highway Patrol come to mind) often practice this method regularly and there are many arguments as for the “why.”
The big argument is safety. Particularly for officers and troopers who are stopping vehicles on the highway with heavy traffic and roads that are not well lit. Having someone step back to the vehicle then reduces the risk of the officer being struck by another vehicle.
Another safety aspect is creating distance between the occupant and any potential weapons in the vehicle. After the initial contact, officers still have to make sure the person has a valid driver’s license, no wants or warrants, confirm valid registration and insurance, etc. Having the person in the patrol vehicle allows the officer to work their way through these tasks without having to worry about the person digging around in the vehicle and accessing a weapon while the officer does their paperwork part of the job.