Documenting Force: Traffic Stop Details

Editor’s Note: This post was written by use of force expert Jon Blum. Check out Jon’s background here and his Law Enforcement Learning course here.

Jon Blum Post Image FinalTraffic stops are one of many dangerous tasks performed by law enforcement professionals every day. According to annual FBI Law Enforcement Officer Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) reports, officers frequently encounter drunk drivers, illegal drugs, firearms, and wanted persons, to name a few. Moreover, traffic stop location and other conditions can significantly increase the level of danger, especially when offenders resist. If force is used to control offenders during traffic stops, effective report narratives include the following details when relevant:

  • time
  • weather
  • speed limit
  • road type (i.e. I-40; HWY)
  • distance from moving vehicles

Report Example 1

The traffic stop was at 8:30am on NC Route 26, an undivided, two-lane state road with a 55 MPH speed limit. While handcuffing [NAME] between my patrol car and his [MAKE & MODEL], [NAME] began pulling away. Motorists were driving by in both directions 10-15 feet away. Steady rain decreased driver visibility and wet pavement increased passing vehicle stopping distances.

Report Example 2

The traffic stop was at 10:00pm on I-40, a divided three lane interstate with a 70 MPH speed limit. While handcuffing [NAME] in front of his Chevy Tahoe SUV, he abruptly turned around, grabbed my right forearm, and pushed me backwards. Vehicles of all sizes (cars, trucks, tractor-trailers, etc.) were traveling less than 10 feet away. Darkness had decreased visibility and the size of [NAME’s] Tahoe was an obstruction for oncoming drivers.

The Bottom Line

In both report examples, the event could suddenly enter the path of oncoming drivers without warning. This could reasonably cause unnecessary injury or death to offenders, officers, AND innocent third persons. Therefore, it is critical for officers to control offender resistance as quickly as possible.