Students in the Waxahachie Citizens Police Academy were taken through the process of how officers do a traffic stop at their latest meeting. Officer David Bittle told students he is always thinking about safety while conducting his duties.
“With traffic stops there is a lot to them that people don’t understand,” he said. “We are kind of like a duck. You see us in the car, like a duck that is above the water, but below there is a lot of paddling like you cannot believe.
“The first thing we have got to do is figure out where we are at. We are going to give the location first to dispatch just in case something happens. We give the location followed by the license plate number of the vehicle, the color, make and, if I can tell, how many occupants,” Bittle said. “Also, you are going to get every possible light onto that vehicle for officer safety so you can see what is going on in that car. Time is on my side because I sit there and call for backup. We have to do 15 things before we ever put it in park. We also have to make sure we stop them in a safe location.”
Officers approaching a vehicle have their flashlight out if there’s not enough light – and they’re watching everything that is going on around them. Once contact is made with the driver, Bittle said an officer stands away from the door because it provides a good view of what is going on. It also prevents the officer being hit if the door was to open and possibly knock them off balance. Upon contacting the driver, the officer needs to identify him or herself, ask for the driver’s license and proof of insurance. Bittle explained he always asks if there is an emergency present.
The officer checks the records using the patrol car computer or through dispatch – and a determination is made whether to issue a citation or not. If one is issued Bittle said he explains to the driver he or she needs to contact the court before a certain date and has them sign a form that doesn’t admit guilt but promises to contact the court.
Academy students were then shown how a mock traffic stop works. After the demonstration, students acted as the officer in the traffic stop scenario.
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