The tensions between law enforcement and many United States citizens is palpable. When a cop pulls out behind you or seemingly comes out of nowhere to pull you over, what thoughts go through your mind? What emotions are you feeling? More than likely, you are nervous, anxious, stressed, irritated, scared or all of the above. These feelings have been felt by citizens for a long time when confronted by a police officer, even if they know that they did nothing wrong beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Now, while law enforcement officers should be able and trained to control their emotions, that isn’t always the case. So, even during what you would consider a “routine traffic stop,” what can you do to help quell your unrest and peacefully move the situation along? No one is saying that you should have to be the cooler head in interaction with law enforcement, but doing so can be the difference between life and death. If you follow these suggestions, you can likely avoid the worse case scenarios. 

  1. Keep your emotions in check. If you need to verbally blow off some steam, wait until you are no longer interacting with the officer.
  2. Turn off your vehicle and place the keys on your dash.
  3. At all times, please keep your hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them.
  4. Be prepared to hand the officer your license, registration and proof of insurance.
  5. If the officer speaks of a vehicle search, state that you “do not consent to a search.” If the officers state that they have probable cause, they may search anyway. Do not intervene and try to stop them but reiterate that you “do not consent.”
  6. Do not flee the scene.
  7. Do not verbally abuse of physically touch the law enforcement officer in any manner.
  8. Do not speak about the incident, no matter how minor. Exercise your right to remain silent unless providing necessary information like your name or address.

Finally, it is your right to record the interaction. All Arizona officers do not have body cameras and currently, officers have total discretion on when they turn on and off their body cameras even if they have them. Record every interaction with law enforcement.