Managing Risk: Traffic Stops Can Prove Deadly for Officers

The number of officers struck by vehicles in 2021 was the highest it has been in the past decade.
 
 

Just a few days before Christmas, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Officer Mia Goodwin was directing traffic at a crash scene along a North Carolina highway.

The mother of three—including a 4-month-old infant—had recently returned from maternity leave and had arrived at the Interstate 85 collision at around 10:30 p.m. on Dec. 21 to relieve colleagues. She had been at the scene for a few hours when the second crash happened.

Two tractor-trailers collided before slamming into police vehicles. Those cruisers then struck Goodwin and three other officers.

The other officers were taken to the hospital and later released. Goodwin was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 3:30 a.m. Dec. 22.

“Today, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is hurting,” Chief Johnny Jennings said during a news conference following Goodwin’s death. “We mourn the loss of a police officer… a good, good one. And the profession hurts, our city hurts.”

Even before the pandemic, roadside safety was already an increasing concern for police officers. States like Ohio and Illinois have strengthened their existing move over and slow down laws, while departments around the country continually try to raise public awareness.

Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, overall fatal traffic accidents have been increasing at a time when fewer drivers have been on the road, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Agency estimates for the first quarter of 2021 showed a 10.5% increase over the same period in 2020 despite a 2% drop in vehicle miles traveled.

The second year of the pandemic has also seen a spike in traffic fatalities among law enforcement officers. Traffic-related law enforcement deaths were up by 38% in 2021, with 58 officers killed in 2021 compared to 42 deaths in the previous year, according to the the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).

In fact, the number of officers struck by vehicles in 2021 is the highest it has been in the past decade. In 2020, 15 officers were fatally struck, and a total of 19 in 2019; 27 officers were killed in 2021, the NLEOMF reports.

“We are seeing an increase in speeding violations, people driving under the influence, texting while driving and they’re not following Scott’s Law,” Illinois State Police Trooper Haylie Polistina tells OFFICER Magazine, referring to the state’s move over law named after Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen, who was fatally struck at a 2000 crash scene by a drunk driver. “These are the violations that are contributing to these fatal accidents and Scott’s Law-related crashes.”

Nearly halfway across the country, California Highway Patrol Officer Ramondo Alexander has personally witnessed similar driving behavior. Instead of fewer vehicles on the road creating a safer traffic environment during the pandemic, he believes that open freeways enticed some motorists to drive more recklessly.

“During the pandemic, I saw a lot more vehicles speeding,” says Alexander. “There were a lot more vehicles making unsafe lane changes and violations like that, so there’s a little increase in reckless driving.”

“I would call it a violation of opportunity,” he adds. “If there’s no one to enforce it at that particular time, some people take advantage of it. And during the pandemic, I think there were quite a few people taking advantage of the freeways being empty.”

Alexander says he was routinely pulling over drivers traveling more than 90 mph during the pandemic. And those speed violations can inflict more damage than simply a fine.

“I did see an increase in major injury collisions because you’re traveling at a faster rate, it’s going to cause more damage to the cars and there are probably going to be major injuries to the involved parties,” he says. “So I did see an increase in that, because when you have the opportunity to speed, there are going to be people out there who are going to speed because the freeways are clear.”

That threat of physical danger also extends to officers and troopers working along roadsides.

“When troopers are out there making these traffic stops, they’re aware that the vehicle coming behind them might not be paying attention to what they’re doing and be incapable of moving that vehicle out of harm’s way by the time they realize there’s a danger,” says Lt. Craig Cummings of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Keeping your head on a swivel

Officers can be particularly vulnerable and exposed during traffic stops and working crash scenes. That’s why troopers need to balance their attention between what’s going on in the vehicle and the surrounding environment, as well as conducting a thorough investigation, says Cummings.

And it’s that situational awareness that can alert an officer to potentially life-saving clues.

“It takes a tremendous amount of training and experience—of doing it day and day out—to know what the sound of the average road tire is coming down the highway when it’s tracking like it should, as opposed to when that tire starts to drift a little too close. There are tiny little nuances that the officer or trooper at large will pick up on.”

Alexander also preaches the need to multitask while responding to roadside calls. Officers must keep their heads on a swivel and try to remove as many dangerous variables, especially given driver behavior during the pandemic.

“There are a lot of things that go into conducting a traffic stop. If you can eliminate some of the elements to get the job done safely, then do so,” he says.

“When I turn on those lights and I’m getting ready to stop some vehicle, the first thing I think of is I want to get through this contact safely,” adds Alexander. “That’s the first thing that goes through my head. The next thing that goes through my head is getting this vehicle pulled over to the right, either to the shoulder or off the freeway completely.”

Getting vehicles off the freeway and on to surface roads when possible during stops is one of the safety techniques that Alexander was doing before the pandemic. He also continues to offset his patrol vehicle.

“I’m hoping that the patrol vehicle will be pushed away from me so it doesn’t hit me, if that makes sense,” he says.

One of the biggest safety assets during the pandemic, however, has been Alexander’s fellow officers.

“As coworkers, we all back each other up if we can,” he says. “ Let’s say my beat partner made a stop, and I’m not doing anything and I hear him make a stop, I’ll go assist him. I’ll go there and help him out with scene safety or just an extra set of eyes to make sure everything goes according to plan.”

In Texas, the Department of Safety is arming its officers with one of the best weapons they can have: information. Intelligence is gathered and used to schedule troopers not only to high crime areas, but also high traffic areas.

“We’ve actually hired analysts and made it very clear we need targeted data that helps us determine where resources need to be placed,” Cummings says.

“We’re consistently trying to deploy our resources and use our resources in an effective way that relies on the intelligence we’ve gathered so we can better serve our communities,” he adds.

The department also has put together task forces in order to reduce move over accidents in certain parts of the state. Troopers also work closely with the department’s partners throughout Texas as a “force multiplier.”

It’s a practice that the Illinois State Police also employs. Officers works with the Illinois Department of Transportation and local police and fire departments to help with safety concerns, whether that means providing more lights, vehicles or personnel for traffic control, says Polistina.

While the increased danger of reckless driving during the pandemic can create additional stress for troopers, it can also be a motivator for officers to follow their safety procedures and pull over dangerous violators.

“We’re really going to try to do our best to make it known that this isn’t going to be a tolerated driving behavior,” says Polistina.

Spreading the word

Along with stopping traffic violators, citations can be effective ways of raising awareness about driving safety and move over laws. In 2020, Illinois strengthened the penalties for violations to Scott’s Law, while California recently allowed points to be added to license for multiple distracted driving offenses.

“I’d rather issue a citation to remind you this is dangerous versus you getting into an accident because you were on a cellphone and you hurt yourself or someone else,” says Alexander.

The onus of staying safe isn’t simply being placed on law enforcement. Departments around the country continue to blanket the public with messages concerning safe driving. In Texas, videos dealing with tire pressure and other issues have been put online, and in California, digital billboards and social media remind drivers about traffic laws and safe driving behavior.

Although Alexander doesn’t know the official effectiveness of such campaigns, he says he’s personally noticed motorists are beginning to become more aware of the need to move over and slow down around traffic stops and accident scenes.

“People get comfortable driving in their vehicles. They travel the same route, day in and day out. They maybe see a patrol car making a traffic stop along that route,” says Cummings. “And if we’re not consistently pushing that message out—slow down and move over—then someone may not realize… as they’re approaching that traffic stop, they have no idea if this is someone being issued a warning for a minor traffic violation or this is someone who has a warrant for murder and is intent on not going back to prison.”

Even though traffic numbers have increased during the pandemic, that hasn’t changed the key element to handling a roadside call. It comes down to one word, according to Alexander.

“It’s safety, safety, safety,” he says. “At the end of the day, when I take off this uniform, I’m a person and there’s someone back at home who loves me… I want to make it home. So I’m going to do everything possible so that I make it home safe and the person I’ve stopped makes it home safe. So that’s what goes through my head when I make a traffic stop.”

“What I would tell another officer: Keep safety in mind. Do what ever you need to do to get home safely,” he adds. 

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During COVID-19, Road Fatalities Increased, Transit Ridership Dipped

Empty streets, highways, and transit systems were a visible effect of the pandemic on our daily lives. Despite how quiet our roads got at the onset of the pandemic, they also became more dangerous.

Ths WatchBlog post looks at recent data on traffic safety, and our recent reports on the pandemic’s effects on public transportation and how the federal government has responded to these impacts.

After a long period of decline, traffic fatalities have increased even as many switched to working from home

If you’ve been driving around during the pandemic, you have probably noticed that there have been far fewer cars on the road over the past 18 months. While that might seem like a good thing for safety (fewer cars means fewer crashes, right?), traffic fatalities have increased since the pandemic started.

The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that traffic fatalities during the first half of 2021 increased 18.4% since the first half of 2020. The estimated 20,160 fatalities during the first half of last year is the highest since 2006.

Why might this be happening? It’s not clear yet why there have been more fatalities on the road over the past two years. According to preliminary research by NHTSA, people who continued to drive during the pandemic may have engaged in riskier behavior including speeding, failure to wear seat belts, and driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.

Historically, these are some of the most frequently cited causes of traffic fatalities. For example, NHTSA estimated 47% of passengers killed in 2018 were not wearing a seat belt, and the CDC reported that drugs other than alcohol are involved in 16% of motor vehicle crashes.

To help the federal government see the big picture, GAO has done work on traffic safety over the past two decades, from the causes of crashes (drug-impaired drivinggrade crossingstruck underrides), to the effectiveness of preventative measures (pedestrian crash avoidance technologiesalcohol ignition interlocksguardrails), and more.

Public transit ridership and revenue fell dramatically at the onset of the pandemic and have yet to fully recover

Rail has been one of the hardest hit transit modes—which include buses, subways, light rail, commuter rail, trolleys, and ferries—as pandemic-related restrictions and workplace flexibilities resulted in steep declines in ridership. Commuter rail agencies reported a 79% decline in ridership, on average, from September 2019 to September 2020. While ridership has improved a little, it remained 59% below pre-pandemic levels as of September 2021.

Transit agencies rely on a mix of funding sources including federal, state, and local funds, as well as rider fares and other agency-generated revenues. Congress approved nearly $70 billion to help public transit agencies remain operational for the millions of Americans that continued to rely on public transportation.

However, transit agencies we’ve spoken to generally expressed concerns that the shifts in commuting and increased telework could continue long after the immediate effects of the pandemic are over. This could continue to impact transit ridership and revenues in the years to come.

New infrastructure bill increases funding for both safety and transit

In November 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was signed into law. The bill includes $5 billion for a new program to support local initiatives to prevent death and serious injuries on roads and streets, and approximately $39 billion in new funding to modernize the nation’s public transit system.

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Road to Zero Grants Program Now Accepting Applications

The Road to Zero Coalition is once again launching applications to fund innovative efforts to improve traffic safety through programming and research. In previous years, the Road to Zero Community Traffic Safety Grants supported 26 grants totaling over $3 million. These new funds, once again provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will be awarded over three years to organizations and institutions committed to finding proven ways to reduce traffic fatalities.
 
Applications for the first year of funds, ranging from $50,000 to $250,000, close on Jan 7. Applicants must be a Road to Zero Coalition member (join free now) and proposed projects should have measurable objectives and generalizable results.
 
Join the Road to Zero Coalition on December 7th at 2 PM Eastern for a short webinar to learn more about this grant opportunity.
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Police Research: 1,000 Cops Address Non-Compliance During Traffic Stops

By Nancy Perry for Police1

Traffic stops and vehicle contacts put police officers at a tactical disadvantage, with officer safety further compromised when faced with non-compliant drivers. To better understand officers’ experiences, perceptions, training and tactics for non-compliance during traffic stops, Police1 surveyed more than 1,000 patrol officers. 

To view the complete results, fill out the form below to download the survey.

SURVEY METHODOLOGY AND RESPONDENT DEMOGRAPHICS

Police1 developed a 29-question survey, open from April 22, 2021, to May 4, 2021. A total of 1,036 responses were collected using a Microsoft Form. 

Respondents were fairly evenly divided regarding location and years served in law enforcement. Of those surveyed, 24% serve a rural response area, 42% serve a suburban response area and 34% serve an urban response area.

A third of respondents had 10-20 years of law enforcement experience and a quarter had 21-30 years of experience; a third had nine years or less on the job and 10% had more than 30 years on the job.

TRAFFIC STOP ACTIVITY

We asked respondents to rank the most common reason for traffic stops in their jurisdiction. Not surprisingly, especially since COVID-19 lockdowns, speeding was overwhelmingly listed as the number one reason for traffic stops at 43% followed by equipment violations at 24%. Only 13% of respondents rated distracted driving as the number one reason for traffic stops, pretext stops and hazardous driving were rated number one by only 9% and 7% of respondents respectively.

While 2020 saw a huge increase in speeding violations nationwide, in regard to non-speeding traffic violations, 41% of respondents said they had decreased in the past year and 17% had stayed the same. Forty-two percent said they had increased.

We wanted to know if officers had changed their behavior regarding traffic stops since 2019 and nearly two-thirds (59%) of those who responded said they were less likely to stop a vehicle in violation of traffic laws while on patrol than two years ago, while a third (36%) said there was no change. Only 2% were more likely to stop a vehicle.

COMPLIANCE BEHAVIORS

We asked how compliance behaviors during traffic stops had changed over the past year. While half of the respondents said it had stayed the same, 49% said compliance had worsened. 

We asked respondents to select the types of traffic stops most likely to result in non-compliance. Suspicion of criminal intent and impaired driving were selected most often, with 76% and 66% of respondents selecting one or both. Just over a third of respondents said hazardous driving, equipment violations and speeding were likely to result in non-compliance. Just over one in five respondents selected distracted driving and just over 10% selected failure to wear a seatbelt.

The most common non-compliance behavior encountered was a failure to follow commands (42%) followed by a failure to answer questions (24%). Around 10% of respondents said refusal to show a driver’s license and other documents or furtive movements.

We asked respondents to list the actions they did at every traffic stop, whether as a result of personal habits or policies. Nearly all the respondents indicated that they notify dispatch they are on a traffic stop and tell the driver the reason they were stopped. They also request the driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance and scan the vehicle interior for hazards. Two-thirds of the respondents activate their body-worn camera during traffic stops and 57% active the dash camera; 62% percent conduct a license plate check before contact. Half of those surveyed touch the vehicle to leave their prints, while only 4% of the officers who answered this survey call for backup.

We asked respondents if there is a non-compliance red flag – a specific action, behavior, or response – they want every police officer to be aware of. Respondents contributed more than 500 red flag actions and behaviors. We compiled the top responses and themes in this article “Officers identify red flags for non-compliance during traffic stops” for verified officers access only.

TRAFFIC STOP POLICIES

We asked respondents if their department had made changes to their traffic stop policy in the last year. The majority (78%) said no, while a fifth (19%) said yes. 

For the 24% of respondents whose agencies had implemented policy changes, many indicated those changes were due to social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. A summary of additional changes is listed here:

  • Mandatory camera and mandatory paperwork to track driver race.
  • Only make stops if the violations are hazardous to other drivers. Not allowed to stop for any type of license plate or registration offenses.
  • Colorado House Bill requires a list of information to be provided for every stop. Agency policy mirrors this and requires that we provide the info we have prior to the stop in addition to the info collected while in contact with the driver, including the “perceived race” of the driver prior to the stop. Officers, in general, are afraid of stopping violators of certain races for fear of lawsuits or civil action.
  • Chemical agents and pepper ball deployment are now allowed for non-compliant drivers. We are no longer allowed to pursue for traffic violations.
  • Unless the violation is one in which the violator has done something so unsafe that it places public safety in jeopardy, i.e., a very dangerous or egregious act, we are not to ignore it, but rather re-evaluate the risks in making the traffic stop and weigh assigned primary responsibilities against the need to deal with a minor traffic law infringement.
  • No more “performance standard” (20 stops a month).
  • No more custodial in most situations.
  • No longer can give a verbal warning. You must write a citation or written warning.
  • Reduced stops on minor infractions.
  • Became policy to issue stop receipts to motorists stopped.
  • Changes made to what we do when in contact with firearms during a traffic stop.
  • No pretext stops unless there is an abundance of reasonable suspicion or probable cause.
  • Patrol vehicles now have video cameras.
  • We must now include the race of the vehicle operator for all stops and have bodycams activated. We also have a new stricter pursuit policy.
  • Can’t make someone exit the vehicle unless you have PC.
  • No vehicle (or pedestrian) contacts unless witnessing a violent crime.
  • Force not to be used to get a person out of the vehicle for the sole purpose of towing the vehicle.
  • The policy changed from a “should” activate body-worn cameras during traffic stops to a “shall” activate body-worn cameras when you know you are going to stop a vehicle.
  • Some arrestable offenses such as driving on a suspended license are now prohibited in most cases. Policy requires us to consider the least intrusive or financially impactful course of action was also implemented. It basically says to ticket drivers less or not at all.
  • The Sandra Bland Act tightens racial profile reporting resulting in more data gathering and reporting.
  • Call in to dispatch with all traffic stops.
  • Beginning July 1, 2020, Virginia House Bill 1250, commonly known as the Community Policing Act, became law. It requires local law enforcement agencies to collect and report certain data pertaining to drivers to the Virginia State Police during a motor vehicle (traffic) stop.
  • Can no longer tell someone to not make phone calls during traffic stops.
  • About a year or two ago, they started requiring us to introduce ourselves by name and department and the reason for the stop at the initial contact.
  • Must attempt to deescalate and talk before using force, but there is no definition of how long you need to talk and deescalate before you can step up force. 
  • Reduced pursuit of fleeing vehicles to violent felonies only.
  • Pit maneuver made a use of deadly force.
  • We only request licenses from operators as registration and insurance information can be obtained via DMV now.
  • A demographic form required on any self-initiated stop that states race, gender, age, the reason for stop and action taken.
  • Non-enforcement of suspended driving violations.
  • If the subject doesn’t pull over for the traffic stop and continues to drive on, but you don’t have an exigent circumstance to continue into a vehicle pursuit, then the officer must shut down his equipment and let the vehicle go.
  • No longer able to ask if there are drugs or weapons in the car unless that was the reason we stop them.
  • Explain the reason for the stop prior to getting ID.
  • Equipment violations have become a secondary violation only by law, can no longer arrest the driver for refusal to sign the traffic ticket. A requirement to issue warning cards where we previously just verbally warned the driver.
  • Discourage officers from making stops purely for equipment and non-safety-related violations believing this will reduce negative contacts with violators.
  • The list of primary offenses we can stop for has gotten considerably smaller. Required use of bodycams (new to department) and in-car video. More of an emphasis on issuing warnings unless it’s for offenses that are “hot button” like texting while driving or driving without a seatbelt.
  • Addresses signing or not signing the citation, and now involves a supervisor to decide if the party can be booked for the charge.

Only 16% of respondents said their department’s traffic stop policy specifically addresses driver non-compliance; 68% said their policy does not address non-compliance and 14% were unsure.

If the department’s traffic stop policy specifically addresses driver non-compliance, responders were asked to explain how the policy addresses non-compliance. Reasons listed include: 

  • Supervisors must respond to the scene before a refusal to sign can be taken into custody.
  • Call for a cover unit.
  • It encourages officers to consider the overall circumstances and make a decision on whether the non-compliance is a critical matter requiring immediate action such as an arrest or can be ignored or worked through to complete the task without undue hazard to the officer or traffic offender.
  • Chemical agents can be used for drivers refusing to exit the vehicle and we can now use glass breaker rounds from a pepper ball gun to break windows.
  • If you can issue the citation, issue it. Don’t escalate the stop.
  • Request supervisor and additional unit.
  • Immediately call for backup. Stall and attempt to talk to the person and diffuse if possible or maintain status quo conversation until backup arrives. Then escalate as needed to identify and detain the driver to permit further investigation into the reason behind non-compliance.
  • If someone refuses to identify themselves and refuses to step out of the vehicle we are to call a supervisor before we can break a window out. If the driver takes off in the vehicle we are not allowed to pursue unless they have committed a violent felony.
  • We have a process of verbal cues we make before going hands-on, the last being, “Is there anything I can do or say to get you to comply?” When that’s said, everyone knows hands-on is coming immediately.
  • If the driver refuses to sign a summons our policy requires a supervisor (or uninvolved officer if a supervisor is unavailable) to respond and attempt to communicate to the recipient of the summons the requirement by law.
  • If the driver fails to comply with any directives they are informed of the law authorizing officers to use reasonable force to remove them from the vehicle and they are given time to comply after they have been educated on the law. If they continue to remain non-compliant they are forcibly removed and arrested.

We asked if department policy encourages that, when conditions allow, traffic stop approaches are made at specific locations, such as a well-lit convenience store or near a firehouse, even if it means following a vehicle for a short while. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (59%) said no, just over a third (37%) said yes and 5% were unsure.

REASSIGNING TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT

While there has been a lot of discussion among legislators and community groups about reducing the role of police in enforcing traffic laws, only 7% of survey respondents support such proposals. The majority (87%) do not support such proposals and 6% were unsure.

We asked respondents what traffic enforcement tasks should be reassigned from law enforcement to another agency. Here is a sampling of some of the responses we received: 

  • We should not be stopping vehicles for a broken windshield, distracted driving, broken equipment, expired plates and seatbelt use.
  • Car crashes not involving death or DWI should not be a police matter. Anything regarding abandoned cars and parking complaints. Police should ONLY address specific violations related to unsafe driving that threatens public safety.
  • Speeding, registration.
  • Stop sign violations.
  • Parking.
  • All traffic with the exception of pretext and DUI.
  • Reckless driving when the complainant calls in but not available to interview.
  • Red light camera violations along with speed enforcement cameras where citations are sent to the offenders where no interaction from law enforcement at all.
  • Registration compliance.

IMPROVING OFFICER SAFETY, TRAINING

We wanted to know how much traffic-stop training was provided to respondents. The majority (50%) receive yearly training, while 42% do not receive any training. Only 6% receive monthly training.

Respondents were asked to select the types of training received for traffic stops with non-compliant drivers since 2019. Many respondents selected more than one method, with online training, legal case reviews, roll call briefings and classroom lectures are the most common type of training formats. Hands-on training and simulation are not as frequently encountered.

Nearly half of respondents believe they have not received adequate department-provided training for traffic stops involving non-compliant drivers, while a quarter strongly agrees or agree they had received adequate training.

Despite that lack of training, most respondents (84%) indicated they are confident in their ability to handle a non-compliant driver during a traffic stop. 

We asked a series of questions regarding the type of training respondents had received regarding responding to non-compliant drivers during traffic stops.

Only a quarter (24%) had received hands-on training in removing a non-compliance driver from their vehicle, 35% have completed simulator or hands-on training on using less lethal tools (i.e., pepper spray or an ECW) with a non-compliant driver, and 37% have completed simulation or range training on reacting to a driver or vehicle occupant who shoots from the vehicle.

We asked respondents for their recommendations for other police officers to improve officer safety and reduce liability risks when stopping a non-compliant driver. We compiled the top responses and themes in this article, “Improving officer safety and reducing risk during non-compliant traffic stops” for verified officers only.

ADDITIONAL FINDINGS FROM THE SURVEY

To view the complete results of this survey, fill out the form below to download a PDF report.

DOWNLOAD THE SURVEY RESULTS

By submitting this form, you agree to the Terms of Service and will be signed up to the site.

By submitting this form, you are granting permission to send you periodic informational messages.

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Cannabis Training for Law Enforcement and Green Lab

With legalization, law enforcement officers will contact more drivers who have used a cannabis product.  By using live, legal cannabis consumers, this course trains officers to better understand and recognize cannabis impairment.

Cannabis Training for Law Enforcement and Green Lab is set for 8:15 am December 13 in St. Peters, Missouri.

Enrollment is now open!

This course is $325 per student and is limited to 20 students.

Missouri officers receive 2 technical, and 4 skill development POST hours.
 
 
WHAT TO EXPECT

Attendees will be in seat for the first two hours of this training reviewing the following topics:

Toxicology, chemical tests, and issues with legislating a number for THC in blood.
Marijuana Impairment Indicators (302 Study)
A brief review of Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs)

During lunch, students will be released to tour local legal medical marijuana facilities.

This is a unique opportunity for students to engage cannabis facility personnel and ask questions.  

While students tour these facilities, instructors will be monitoring the legal consumption of cannabis by Missouri Medical Marijuana Qualified Patient Volunteers.  Methods of consumption and product type will be documented and reviewed with the students at the completion of the course.
(All Department of Health and Senior Services Rules and Regulations are strictly adhered to)  

During lunch, students will be released to tour local legal medical marijuana facilities.

This is a unique opportunity for students to engage cannabis facility personnel and ask questions.  

While students tour these facilities, instructors will be monitoring the legal consumption of cannabis by Missouri Medical Marijuana Qualified Patient Volunteers.  Methods of consumption and product type will be documented and reviewed with the students at the completion of the course.

(All Department of Health and Senior Services Rules and Regulations are strictly adhered to)  

Once the consumers are transported to the classroom, students will be broken into groups.  Each volunteer will be assigned an instructor.  Students are able to interact with the volunteer consumers and will administer sobriety tests.  Each time a student administers tests, the results will be recorded and reviewed at the end of the course.

All observations during these tests are documented, kept on record, and used in future training.  (Hence the importance of administering tests correctly).  After the first session (1 hour), the volunteers will be transported back to the consumption location for a second dose.  Students will discuss the first lab session with instructors.

Students will again administer tests on the volunteers, after the second consumption.  All tests and results will once again be documented and reviewed at the end of the course.

Once the second lab is complete, there is a review of how much cannabis each volunteer consumed, how they consumed it, observations of the officers, and if the volunteer was believed to be impaired.  

This is a unique opportunity for Law Enforcement and Cannabis Industry Personnel to interact.  We encourage positive discussions from both.

Missouri Law Enforcement Officers will receive 6 POST hours, 2 technical, and 4 skill development, on completion of this training.

 
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Impaired Driving

Impaired driving accounts for approximately 20% of the traffic fatalities in Missouri. While the dangers of drunk driving are relatively well known, impaired driving is not limited to alcohol use. It also consists of drugs, including prescription medications, and physical impairments such as drowsy driving, poor vision, or reduced cognitive capabilities.

For the past several decades, significant strides have been made in addressing drunk driving through a combination of public messaging, tougher laws, and increased enforcement. 

While alcohol related fatalities have declined, drug related fatalities have steadily increased over the last five years. Furthermore, new challenges have presented themselves in recent years such as the national opioid crises and increasing usage of marijuana among drivers.

It is important for all Missourians to understand it’s never okay to drive impaired, regardless of the substance.

Substance-Impaired Drivers in Fatal Crashes 2016-2020*
Use the filters in the link below to view by year, district, troop, or county.
 
All charts besides the number of substance-impaired* driver involved fatalities which is outlined in red, reflect the number of Substance-Impaired Drivers in Fatal Crashes.
(Substance-Impaired includes drugs and/or alcohol contributing circumstances)
 
*2020 data is based on preliminary totals.

https://results.mo.gov/t/MoDOT/views/Substance-ImpairedDriversDashboard2016-2020/Dashboard1?:embed_code_version=3&:embed=y&:loadOrderID=0&:display_spinner=no&:showAppBanner=false&:display_count=n&:showVizHome=n&:origin=viz_share_link

Statistics
 
  • 49% Increase in drug-impaired fatalities over the last 10 years
  • 34% Decrease in alcohol-impaired fatalities over the last 10 years.
  • 185 People killed in 2019 crashes involving a substance-impaired driver
  • 21 Hours without sleep has the equivalent effect of a 0.08 BAC

More information on the SUBSTANCE IMPAIRED DRIVING Strategic Plan 

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Paint By the Numbers in Traffic Stops

Story By Ken Wallentine Law Enforcement and the Law Police1

Editor’s Note

This article was featured in Lexipol’s Xiphos newsletter, a monthly legal-focused law enforcement newsletter authored by Ken Wallentine. Subscriptions are free for public safety officers, educators and public attorneys. Subscribe here!

 

COMMONWEALTH V. CLAYBORNE, 2021 WL 4487288 (Ken. 2021)

The United States Supreme Court has held that officers may not extend or prolong traffic stops without reasonable, articulable suspicion to conduct further criminal investigation. (Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. 348 (2015): A stop may “last no longer than is necessary to effectuate the initial purpose of the stop … Authority for the seizure thus ends when tasks tied to the traffic infraction are – or reasonably should have been – completed.” A traffic detention must last no longer than necessary to resolve the suspected traffic violation, either by warning, citation or hearing an explanation from the driver. The detention and investigation must be reasonably related to the initial reason for the stop, unless other factors support additional reasonable suspicion (United States v. Hill, 852 F.3d 377 (4th Cir. 2017); United States v. Gil, 204 F.3d 1347 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 951 (2000)). Any further detention must be supported by reasonable suspicion of more serious criminal activity.

Most courts rigidly apply the Rodriguez rule, and that’s what happened in this case. An officer stopped Ikia Clayborne after a computer check showed a record for a suspended license and a “verify for proof of insurance” associated with the vehicle’s owner. The officer found the driver had a suspended license, and that both the driver and passenger (Clayborne) had records of drug crimes. The officer then requested for a drug detector dog team to come to the scene.

The dog team arrived 10 minutes later, at which point the officer had not yet completed the traffic citation. When the dog team arrived, he quit writing the citation, exited his vehicle and briefed the drug dog detector handler on why he called for a dog. The officer then asked the driver and Clayborne to exit the vehicle and explained the dog sniff procedure to them as they stood by the patrol car. The dog gave a positive response near the passenger door and an officer found a bag of cocaine on the ground underneath the door.

That’s what actually happened. Now consider what could have happened had the traffic stop unfolded with a slight variation. Here’s the hypothetical: The officer learns of the driver and passenger having records for drug crimes, calls for a dog team and writes a citation. The officer asks about finding a licensed driver or decides to impound the car (assuming that is permitted under the agency impound policy). The drug detector dog team arrives. The officer continues to write the citation or perform other permissible tasks and quickly briefs the dog handler on the reason the officer requested a detector dog. The dog handler speaks with the driver and passenger about the sniff, conducts the sniff and finds the cocaine.

In the first situation – what actually happened – the stop was extended by the officer abandoning writing the citation. Rigid application of the Rodriguez ruling leads to suppression, as it did in this case. In the second case – the hypothetical situation – it is very likely the cocaine would be admissible. Score one for the dog!

The following steps are permitted for every traffic stop made for a valid reason:

  • Require the driver to produce a driver’s license and vehicle registration (United States v. Hollins685 F.3d 703 (8th Cir. 2012)). If the registered owner is not in the car, the driver may be required to show a right to possess and drive the car (United States v. Zabalza346 F.3d 1255 (10th Cir. 2003)).
  • Require proof of insurance for the vehicle (United States v. Brigham, 343 F.3d 490 (5th Cir. 2003): “Officer is authorized to require the driver of the vehicle to produce a valid driver’s license and documentation establishing the ownership of the vehicle and that required public liability insurance coverages are in effect on such vehicle” (rev’d on other grounds, 382 F.3d 500 (5th Cir. 2004)).
  • Check the driver for a valid license and for warrants (United States v. Barragan, 379 F.3d 524 (8th Cir. 2004); United States v. Holt, 264 F.3d 1215 (10th Cir. 2001)).
  • Request a computer check of the driver’s criminal history. The check should be requested at the initial stage of the stop, at the same time the driver’s license and registration checks are requested, and may not unreasonably delay the stop (United States v. Estrada, 459 F.3d 627 (5th Cir. 2006); United States v. Salazar, 454 F.3d 843 (8th Cir. 2006); United States v. Purcell, 236 F.3d 1274 (11th Cir. 2001)).
  • Inspect the VIN (vehicle identification number) in the least intrusive manner and compare it to the VIN shown on registration documents or computer records (New York v. Class, 475 U.S. 106 (1986)). An officer may require the driver to move an item blocking the view of the VIN (United States v. Caro, 248 F.3d 1240 (10th Cir. 2001)); if the VIN on the dashboard is obscured or unreadable, the officer may open the door to check the VIN (Morgan v. State, 906 S.W.2d 620 (Tex. App. 1995), cert. denied, 519 U.S. 865 (1996)).
  • Test vehicle compliance against specific state laws: An officer who opened the door of a rental car to test window tint and check whether the tint violated Florida law did not violate the Fourth Amendment (United States v. Holley, 709 F. Appx. 602 (11th Cir. 2017)).
  • Visually inspect the “plain view” interior of the car (Colorado v. Bannister, 449 U.S. 1 (1980)).
  • Ask about travel plans, particularly if the stop is for suspicion of impairment and the driver’s drowsiness may be an explanation for the driving pattern, and ask questions, whether or not related to the purpose of the stop, so long as they do not prolong the stop (State v. Jimenez, 420 P.3d 464 (Kan. 2018)). Most courts allow routine questions about travel plans (United States v. Martin, 422 F.3d 597 (7th Cir. 2005)): An officer may ask questions unrelated to the initial purpose of the stop, provided the questions do not unreasonably extend the amount of time the subject is detained.
  • Ask about the relationship of the driver to any passengers (United States v. Rivera, 867 F.2d 1261 (10th Cir. 1989)).
  • Ask the driver to sit in the patrol car for questioning and for issuance of a citation (United States v. Ramos, 42 F.3d 1160 (8th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1134 (1995)). Though lawful, bringing the driver back to the car may not be tactically sound.

DWI Investigations: How Officers Can Capitalize on the Driver Interview to Gather Evidence

Story By Corporal James “Zack” Holley for Police1

Editor’s Note:

This is the second article in a series that focuses on tips, techniques and methods front-line officers can use to improve their intoxicated driving interdiction abilities. Click here to read the first article.

 

Personal contact is the phase in DWI investigations when officers will derive most of the evidence of intoxication. Based on my experience, I find most officers tend to spend far too little time and effort during this phase. This phase is the most challenging because it can require an immense amount of patience. To be an effective intoxication investigator you must be patient, charming and sensible.

TAKE IN THE ENTIRE SCENE

While interviewing the violator, always keep your senses keen for other indicators of impairment such as open containers, pill bottles, narcotics or paraphernalia, wristbands and bar receipts. Use your nose. Odors or lack thereof need to be noted.

This phase is the most challenging because it can require an immense amount of patience.
This phase is the most challenging because it can require an immense amount of patience. (Getty Images)

If the person presents with drunk-like behaviors but you do not smell any alcohol, this could be a sign of a medical issue or drug impairment. Do you smell marijuana? Despite what many may think, cannabis is an impairing substance.

Relying on a basic and fundamental policing concept, watch the violator’s hands. Are they fumbling for their information? Do they have difficulty operating the seatbelt mechanism, opening the glovebox or interacting with the environment of the vehicle?

DIVIDE AND CONQUER

When it comes to the interview, one technique I have always employed is borrowing the divided attention concept from standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) and applying it to this phase of the investigation. When violators are asked to produce requested information, sometimes they will dig around for it; this presents a perfect opportunity to begin dividing their attention to see if they can still function effectively.

While they are fetching the requested information, start asking relatively easily answered questions and gauge their responses. Do they stop searching for the items and have to think about their answers? Do they automatically start searching for the items again or do they forget? Continue this type of questioning while dividing their attention.

BUILD RAPPORT WITH QUESTIONS

Don’t be afraid to ask irrelevant questions like “Where do you go to church?” or “Are you a sports fan?” These are questions that people who have the normal use of their mental and physical faculties can answer with relative ease. This also allows you to establish a baseline of response behavior since the questions are seemingly irrelevant and would give them no reason to lie.

A bonus with these kinds of questions is you begin to establish rapport with the individual. Avoid following a script and instead be fluid and dynamic during the conversation. Do not be afraid to make a joke or show your personality a little.

One of the biggest mistakes officers make during this phase is not allowing the violator to speak or shutting them up so the officer can ask the next question. Sometimes the officer will become argumentative and accusatory, which will only cause the violator to shut down. Exercise patience and avoid being these types of officers.

KEEP THEM TALKING

If the violator wants to talk to you, let them. Doing so extends the time you have to detect impairment, gather evidence and capture the signs and symptoms of impairment on video. Good rapport leads to cooperation; the more cooperative a person is the easier your job becomes and the more evidence you will gather.

All of this will matter during a trial because jurors will see you as a polite, firm-but-fair and relatable officer instead of an authoritative robot. If the violator likes you and the jury likes you, then you are in good shape.

It is a good idea to ask about medical issues or physical limitations early on in your questioning. If you ask these questions right before you administer SFSTs, the violator may claim every ailment known to man to justify any potential poor performance. By asking the questions early on, you can call them out on it if they claim an ailment later, and the jury will see it for what it is.

Also, if you ask a question and they provide an inadequate answer, repeat the question until they provide an answer (i.e., “Do you have the time?” The answer would either be yes or no).

Another tactic I like to use is to ask the same or similar questions multiple times to see if their answers change; you will be surprised by some people. Normally, I play this off by acting forgetful or distracted, and I usually do this after the first round of questioning but before transitioning to pre-arrest screening. You can also repeat each answer back to the violator to make sure their statements are clearly captured on audio.

THE ULTIMATE QUESTION

One good ending question to ask before starting a pre-arrest screening is “On a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no impairment and 10 being the worst impairment you can imagine, where would you place yourself?” Any answer other than zero means they recognize their own impairment. Most people will downplay their rating, but some will be forthcoming.

Another question you could ask is “Would you let your children ride on a bus if the bus driver was in your current condition?” This is kind of a loaded question, but you would be surprised how many people will say “no,” and it tends to personalize things for them.

DOCUMENT AND BE CREATIVE

It is crucial you document all your observations in your report. Remember, you are building a case based on the totality of the circumstances; the more circumstances or observations you have the better the case becomes.

It can take years of practice to be able to make and retain all your mental notes roadside and then put them into writing later. To help increase your proficiency with this, focus on committing to memory the things your video systems cannot or are unlikely to capture and fill in the rest by reviewing your video when writing your report if your agency’s policy allows.

Think outside the box when interviewing violators and get creative. Use all the tools available to you during this phase of the investigation and take your time. If you have conducted a thorough personal contact, you will have a pretty good idea of whether the violator is impaired or intoxicated. Then you can move on to confirm your suspicions by administering SFSTs in the pre-arrest screening phase.

In the next article of the series, we will look at how officers can avoid field sobriety tests missteps.

DWI investigations: Officers Can Enhance Their Interdiction Skills Starting With ‘Vehicle in Motion’ Observations

If you think you may have an impaired driver, do not be too quick to effect the stop. (Getty Images)

 

This is the first article in a series that focuses on tips, techniques and methods front-line officers can use to improve their intoxicated driving interdiction abilities.

 

Story by Corporal James “Zack” Holley for Police1

Nearly 40 years ago the anti-drunk driving organization known as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) was formed with the goal to stop drunk driving. The organization came about at a time when driving under the influence was spiraling out of control. Over the past four decades, MADD has been profoundly influential in raising awareness, campaigning for stiffer penalties and curbing DUI overall.

Unfortunately, this problem still plagues the United States today. As cops, we know that DWIs/DUIs/OWIs are some of the most viciously defended charges, and there is a large market for defense attorneys in this arena.

In our efforts as law enforcement to recognize and interdict impaired driving, standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are the universal metric used nationwide to determine legal impairment. In my experience, however, I find that officers tend to put too much stock in SFSTs solely and neglect other aspects of the investigation. I hope to counter that with this set of articles.

In this series, I will explore several tips, techniques and methods front-line officers can use to improve their investigative ability regarding intoxication crimes. For simplicity, we will refer to these crimes as DWIs collectively.

Before we get started, I want to highlight something I believe is important, and that is the notion of abandoning “drunk” from your mind and lexicon and replacing it, instead, with “impairment” and/or “intoxication.” The reason for this is because drivers with mono-drug and poly-drug impairment have become increasingly prevalent in modern times.

If you focus your efforts on “drunk,” you may rush to judgment and miss other indicators of impairment. Later in the series, we’ll discuss alcohol versus drug impairment. Impairment in general can have several causes, and in the end, our focus is getting unsafe drivers off the roadway. Let us start with the beginning of any intoxication investigation: vehicle in motion.

NOTICE THE LITTLE THINGS

Found within the SFST Student Manual, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a total of 24 driving cues along with 10 post-stop cues that represent a probability of impairment or intoxication. The listed cues are bread-and-butter stuff but not all-inclusive.

Good detection comes from good observation. Keep your eyes open for any behaviors that stand out or draw your attention – anything that makes you say, “Hmm, that’s odd!” In my experience, small, subtle behaviors pique my curiosity.

For example, imagine you are following a vehicle around a curve in the roadway; watch to see if the vehicle begins to negotiate the curve prematurely or too late, and continue to watch while the vehicle is exiting the curve. This is an example of vigilance problems. This behavior by itself does not automatically mean you have an intoxicated driver, but it is an example of things to look for.

OBSERVE WITH PATIENCE

If you think you may have an impaired driver, do not be too quick to effect the stop. Instead, if it is safe to do so, follow them a bit to observe additional indicators, which allows you to fundamentally begin building the case for DWI.

The more violations or behaviors observed, the more likely your suspicion of impairment is confirmed. Also, the more you can articulate those observations, the less likely any challenge in court regarding your reason for contact will be successful. If your vehicle is equipped with video, begin recording your observations but do not dictate them to the camera. Make note of all observations made from the initial sighting to the moment the vehicle comes to a stop and articulate them in your report.

Defense attorneys will attempt to dismantle your case fact by fact, piece by piece to convince a jury. Meanwhile, you are trying to convince the jury that based on the totality of the circumstances, the opinion you formed regarding intoxication was correct. There is no such thing as having too many facts or too much ammunition for your case, and it starts with the vehicle in motion.

PROBABLE CAUSE VS. REASONABLE SUSPICION

Try to avoid falling into the trap of “probable cause only.” The burden of proof needed to conduct a stop and investigate further is reasonable suspicion, not probable cause. When it comes to being dispatched to a possible intoxicated driver that was called in, I often hear about officers who get behind the vehicle and “look for a violation.”

If this is you, stop doing it! There is well-established law regarding these situations. As a general rule-of-thumb, if a layperson believes someone may be intoxicated and they call the police, then reasonable suspicion has been established by that fact alone.

In these cases, make sure, though, to have dispatch adequately identify the caller because you will probably need them to testify in court about their observations. Now, as previously mentioned, it is never a bad idea to follow and monitor if it is safe to do so. I encourage you to get with your local prosecutors and discuss the contents of this paragraph with them.

WAYS TO “WHEEL THE DRIVER”

Sometimes we are unable to see the vehicle in motion and must rely on other methods to “wheel the driver.” For example, you may respond to a vehicle crash and your suspect may deny having driven and no other witness can place him behind the wheel of the vehicle. Use what you have and try to build the case by checking things like the position of the driver seat. Is it too long or short compared to your suspect’s height?

Does the suspect have any injuries that you may find evidence of on the steering wheel, dashboard or windshield? Is the driver seatbelt locked in place and, if so, does your suspect have imprints or markings on their clothing or skin from the tensioned seatbelt? Think outside the box, get creative and remember to articulate all of it later.

In the next article of the series, we will look at different methods to further enhance your investigation during the “personal contact” phase.

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IACP Quick Take: Analysis-Driven Operations for Small Agencies

Story By Kathleen Dias for Police1.com | Photo by Lucian Alexe

 

Even the smallest departments can conduct basic crime analysis and evaluation of the impact of police operations.

Modern law enforcement leaders must constantly balance the safety of their communities and the best use of their scarce resources. In smaller agencies, limited staff and budgets intensify this balancing act.

Through an agency-wide commitment to quality police report-writing and accurate data collection, even the smallest departments can conduct basic crime analysis and evaluation of the impact of police operations.

Two police chiefs and a senior crime analyst participated in an IACP 2021 presentation on the uses of DDACTS (Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety) for reducing crime and traffic collisions, and also as a tool for engaging community stakeholders.

The presenters were Chief Lance Arnold of the Weatherford (Texas) Police Department, Chief Brett Railey (ret.) of Winter Park, Florida and Senior Crime Analyst Debra Piehl of IADLEST (International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training).

MEMORABLE QUOTES

“DDACTS is a long-term approach to a historical problem. Where you’ve had long-term crime, long-term crashes, we can go in with enforcement. It can be the deployment of a single vehicle, a single person into that area doing high-visibility traffic engagement, and it can impact positively on both (crashes and felony crime).” — Chief Railey

“Even though we predominantly were proactive throughout our three DDACTS zones, overall throughout the entire city (even) in our non-DDACTS zones, we still saw a reduction (in motor vehicle burglaries). That culture of being more visible, more engaged with traffic, with our community, really flowed over into the rest of the city.” — Chief Arnold

“Threshold analysis allows you to identify those incidents that are occurring at a greater or lesser rate than would be expected based on historical data. So, anyone with some basic analytical skills can dig into the crimes a little more specifically…to get right at the details of what you’re seeking to address, and thereby drive your operations.” — Senior Analyst Piehl

TOP TAKEAWAYS

The panelists identified several takeaways for small agencies: 

  • Parkinson’s Law – the adage that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion” – applies to law enforcement as well as business. In order to use resources well, you have to know how they’re being expended now.
  • Existing processes and “best practices” can have unintended consequences. One is the drive to document at length every interaction officers have with the public; more reports equals less proactive policing. Focus on traffic stops, not on citations.
  • Data analysis allows departments to prioritize types of incidents to allocate scarce resources more efficiently and effectively. All intersections don’t need the same level of attention. All business addresses don’t run the same risk for burglaries or vandalism. Focus on trouble spots and the rest get safer too.
  • One analyst is enough for a small department (70 officers or less). You don’t necessarily have to hire a professional crime analyst; there might already be someone on staff, sworn or civilian, with the interest, intellect, basic computer skills and time to do the job.
  • Use analysis to make the most impact with existing resources. Data analysis helps to discover when and where crime and crashes are occurring, how work hours are being expended and to identify problems to be addressed. 
  • Making traffic stops in the right places at the right times can decrease traffic fatalities and residential burglaries even when warnings are issued rather than citations.
  • Involve the community in changes and decision-making. Make use of news sources, press conferences, community meetings and social media so people know what to expect and why changes are being made.
  • Most importantly: ensure that operations in response to analysis don’t cause unintended harm.

DDACTS is an operational, location-based model that may seem overwhelming for a small law enforcement agency. After all, new approaches are often met with some resistance by both officers and the public. Change is hard. Nevertheless, analysis of data that’s likely already available and waiting to be organized, with the participation of community partners and stakeholders, can benefit both the community and law enforcement agencies as traffic patterns become safer, crime levels fall and pressure is reduced on staff and supervisors.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON DDACTS