Police Research: 1,000 Cops Address Non-Compliance During Traffic Stops

By Nancy Perry, Editor-in-Chief of Police1 and Corrections1

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. 

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.

To view the complete results of this survey, visit the website and fill out the form.

 

State Your Case: Should Law Enforcement Agencies Use Unmarked Vehicles for Traffic Enforcement?

One of the unexpected consequences of the COVID-19 lockdowns that occurred during the initial months of the coronavirus pandemic was an increase in speeding violations. With usually busy freeways and streets near empty, drivers seemed to forget all the rules of the road. Law enforcement agencies frequently shared on social media photos of tickets issued for speeds in excess of 100 mph. Despite a 13% reduction in the number of miles traveled in 2020, traffic deaths grew by about 7% to 38,680 making it the deadliest year on highways since 2007, according to NHTSA estimates.

Even as the country has opened up again, aggressive driving has continued. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) recently announced the creation of new specialized Area Coordinated Enforcement (ACE) Teams teams to help curb this trend. The teams feature a mix of marked and unmarked police cars, including the newest additions to the Highway Patrol’s fleet of a group of unmarked, striped Dodge Chargers. 

“During the past year, South Carolina has followed national trends of increased highway collisions, injuries, and fatalities,” SCDPS Director Robert Woods, IV said. “We also have seen a disturbing increase in aggressive driving behaviors, including speeds of over 100 mph, tailgating, drunken or drugged driving and road rage – all of which are unacceptable.”

Are unmarked police cars the best approach to the problem of aggressive driving? Read our columnists’ take on this topic and share your thoughts.

The ground rules: As in an actual debate, the pro and con sides are assigned randomly as an exercise in critical thinking and analyzing problems from different perspectives.

Our debaters: Jim Dudley, a 32-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department where he retired as deputy chief of the Patrol Bureau, and Chief Joel Shults, EdD, who retired as chief of police in Colorado.

Jim Dudley: The South Carolina Department of Public Safety has announced the creation of new specialized teams using unmarked, striped Dodge Chargers to help curb increasing trends of aggressive driving.

Despite the COVID-related effects of fewer cars on the road, the national trend has been higher incidents of traffic collisions, sideshows, speeding and fatalities. Traffic-related fatalities are often the primary or secondary cause of deaths of law enforcement officers every year.

Over the past year, while driving in my personal vehicle, I’ve witnessed cars zoom past on the freeways going well over 100 miles per hour. I immediately check the rearview mirror looking for our heroes in blue (or khaki) in pursuit. I’m often disappointed with no light bars in sight. 

In my home state of California, as in other states, using unmarked cars for traffic enforcement is prohibited, but I think it’s high time we took back control of the roads. Using unmarked cruisers or “ghost marked” radio cars is a great idea.

Joel Shults: Every hunter knows about camouflage to sneak up on their prey but does the violator-seeking traffic cop need to blend in with the crowd? The answer may not be simply the question of whether unmarked cars are effective compared to the preventive value of a marked car.

Stealth can be important, but public confidence, absent solid data showing unmarked enforcement saves lives, is especially important in the current season of fear and skepticism.

The age-old problem of police impersonators is another concern that must not be ignored. 

Many might be surprised that this issue is the subject of many states’ laws, such as the California prohibition. Laws vary, but some allow unmarked cars for routine traffic stops if the driver is in full uniform or there is a uniformed officer present. Some limit unmarked cars for patrol during daylight hours only. Many allow low profile markings such as inside-mounted emergency lighting (which, I believe, is the best compromise in this argument since speeders are watching for that light bar) or subdued emblems.

The fact that the issue is addressed by law in many states points to the controversy that has existed especially since the inception of state police agencies in the late 1920s. We all know that ending up in pursuit in an unmarked car is unthinkable (at least to chiefs and risk managers), so why catch what you can’t reel in?  

Jim Dudley: I understand your points, Joel. But, things are pretty awful on the road and the sideshow behavior shows just how “Mad Max” the situation is becoming.

Studies have shown that random saturation enforcement operations keep offenders off balance and looking over their shoulders over mere constant presence. If drivers thought twice about flying by that car ahead of them, mission accomplished.

A driver’s license is a privilege, not a right, and on the road, there is no expectation of privacy. Clearly, a segment of the mobile population has not been able to self-regulate. Drivers who do follow the rules of the road needn’t worry. Agencies may build allies and supporters who see the egregious offenders removed from the road.

To your point that the units may be seen as invasive, unmarked traffic units should be used wisely, for serious violations, rather than for minor offenses such as equipment violations and turn signals.

Is “fairness” an element in the eyes of a public we are reluctant to necessarily offend? Does compliance with traffic law caused by fear of apprehension really increase with unmarked enforcement? Should the public be advised of the strategy with signs like the ones used to warn “enforcement by aircraft”? Should the public be specially educated on how to respond to being stopped by an unmarked vehicle to avoid impersonators victimizing motorists? Do unmarked cars lose their value for other traffic operations like accident investigations? Do unmarked cars pose an extra hazard to officers on car stops with reduced rear warning lighting?

The easiest answer to all these questions is simply to keep marked cars in service and leave stealth to the detectives. 

Jim Dudley: Good points Joel. And “yes” to most of your questions. Certainly, we do post signs that say “unmarked traffic enforcement in use” just as we tell motorists that aircraft are monitoring, that red light cameras are present and radar is enforcing speed laws. Most agencies already tell the public when and where DUI operations will be in use, and still, arrests are made. 

The devil is in the details. A well-thought policy should address which violations are priorities of the operations, when and where to use unmarked vehicles, and an accompanying media campaign. 

To answer your previous question about capturing fleeing offenders, plans should be prepared in advance detailing the best geographic areas to use strategies involving choke points, boxing in and spike strips. It is time to stop the worst offenders rather than shrug our shoulders and allow the heinous behavior to fester. 

Joel Shults: I think the key is getting data on both the effectiveness of covert traffic operations and on public opinion. In an era of demands for transparency, we need to know if unmarked cars enforcing non-violent offenses meet the test for openness or builds a wall of resentment. Meanwhile, buckle up!

SHOULD UNMARKED CARS BE USED FOR TRAFFIC ENFORCEMENT? POLICE1 READERS RESPOND

  • It is my opinion that if citizens knew the police were patrolling the streets, but that these patrols were being done in unmarked vehicles, then it would be reasonable to think that more compliance to traffic laws would result. If the traffic units could be on any street at any time unseen then common sense would say drivers should be more aware of possibly getting stopped at any time and by any vehicle they pass. I also see the unmarked vehicles, in general, helping to put a stop to the increase in police being ambushed while in the marked units. Officer safety should be first with the agencies across the country, but unfortunately, this is not the case many times. As a retired officer, I believe a combination of both marked and unmarked police cars increases the effectiveness of traffic enforcement. 

  • As traffic fatalities outnumber gun violence deaths effective traffic enforcement will save lives. Unmarked can be useful for observation and responses.

  • Absolutely not. Marked only. The whole point is to keep the roads safe. People drive better when they see a police car.

  • Marked units only. Too many impersonators in unmarked vehicles.

  • I say go to license plate recognition both stationary and mobile. This will only target the vehicle in question leaving all other “offender” data out. After a nice collection of speeding tickets, the vehicle will not be eligible for renewed registration, then it could be impounded. Anyone driving that at the time could be identified and cited personally. Having a mobile unmarked license plate reader patrol vehicle would definitely slow down the crowds. Having a few chase vehicles ahead on the route could be used for gross negligent violations. I would volunteer to drive up and down my state’s highways with an LPR vehicle all day long. I would guess that after one day of automated citation issuing, the program would have paid my salary for the month.
  • In the time I was a police officer, I wrote many more citations with a fully marked vehicle than I ever did with an unmarked car. In many situations, depending on the traffic situation at the place you have stopped the offender, it’s much safer with a fully marked car. I would also point out that the natural reaction of almost all motorists is to lift the foot of the gas pedal when seeing a fully marked police vehicle. I don’t feel our main purpose is writing citations, but rather preventing bad driving by our presence.
  • Too many people rely on the visible presence of LEOs or marked vehicles to determine if an area is “safe” to be in. Criminals also use the absence of a visible police presence as a sign they are free to victimize others since there is no one around to stop them. While I am a strong proponent of marked, uniformed and highly visible patrol activities to build public trust and for crime prevention purposes, I firmly believe that low profile and/or unmarked vehicles have a place in both traffic enforcement, as well as general patrol activities. Since the criminals do not wear uniforms or other indicators of their intent to break the law, I do not think LEOs should be restricted to only full uniform and marked vehicles when performing their duties.
  • I believe a mix of marked and unmarked vehicles can be a deterrent to violators. Any tool that gives law enforcement an advantage should be used.

Join the Upcoming Free Indicators of Impairment Webinar

Although the indicators of impairment from alcohol are familiar and well know, impairment by other drugs may be harder to detect and describe. 

A webinar set for 2 to 3:30 p.m. August 12 will discuss the indicators of impairment officers can expect to see with drivers who are suspected to be under the influence of drugs other than alcohol, especially with respect to the SFSTs.  This session will also discuss the validation of the SFSTs for drug impaired driving cases.

This session will be presented by Joseph Jones, System Director, from the North Louisiana Criminalistics Laboratory.

There is no charge to attend this webinar, but you must register in advance by clicking here:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1251773510470275854

This webinar will be worth 1.8 hours of CLE, Missouri Bar Course Number 681493.  It is also worth 1.5 hours of POST credit in the area of Technical Studies.  

Officers who wish to receive POST credit should pay special attention to the instructions below.  Be advised that there will be polls conducted during this webinar to ensure your attentiveness.  You MUST respond to EVERY poll (and your response must be recorded by the system) in order to receive POST credit—NO EXCEPTIONS.

To ensure a smooth registration process, please register at least 4 hours in advance of the webinar.  You will receive a confirmation email with a link to join the webinar after your registration is approved.  If you do not receive this email, please contact me ASAP.  I will not be able to help you join if you contact me right before the webinar or after the webinar is already in session.  

Also, if you cannot attend this webinar at the scheduled time but want to watch it, please go ahead and register and you will automatically receive a link to a recording two days after the presentation.

Instructions Concerning POST Credit for Webinars

POST requires that law enforcement attendance at webinars be monitored during the course of the webinar. This monitoring will occur in several ways. First, poll questions will pop up periodically during the webinar which law enforcement officers will be required to answer. Law enforcement officers will need to respond to these questions promptly after the poll is sent out. The poll will remain open for only a short time to minimize interruption to the presentation. If the system does not record a response from you for all of the poll question(s), you will NOT receive POST credit for the webinar. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Also, the webinar program monitors and rates all attendees’ level of attentiveness during the webinar. It tracks whether your screen is minimized, how often your mouse is moved, whether you submitted questions to the presenter, and whether you responded to the poll(s). Based on all of these factors, the program rates your level of attentiveness. An exceptionally low rating may affect your ability to receive POST credit. To ensure that you do receive credit, please keep the webinar screen maximized, occasionally move your mouse during the session, and respond to all poll questions.

Law enforcement officers who receive an adequate attentiveness score will receive a POST certificate for the webinar via the email address used to register for the webinar. Please note that only one officer per email address may receive POST credit. Only the person registered to view the webinar through a specific email address may receive credit.

Please also note that if you wish to receive POST credit for attending this webinar, you MUST enter your POST license number when registering. We will not be able to issue a certificate unless this number is provided.

Finally, be advised that watching this webinar on a phone or other mobile device may prevent you from responding to the polls as required. If you are not able to respond to the polls, you will not be awarded credit—no exceptions. Also, if you attend via telephone only, i.e. you call in and can hear the discussion but not see the presentation, there will be no record of your attendance and credit will not be awarded—no exceptions.

If you have questions or concerns about receiving POST credit for a webinar, please feel free to contact me at Susan.Glass@prosecutors.mo.gov or at 573-301-2630.

Susan Glass, Deputy Director/Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor

Missouri Office of Prosecution Services

How Non-Compliance During Traffic Stops Impacts Officer Safety

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.

Nancy Perry is editor-in-chief of Police1 and Corrections1, responsible for defining original editorial content, tracking industry trends, managing expert contributors and leading execution of special coverage efforts.

Prior to joining Lexipol in 2017, she served as an editor for emergency medical services publications and communities for 22 years, during which she received a Jesse H. Neal award. She has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Sussex in England and a master’s degree in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California. She is based out of Santa Clarita, California. Ask questions or submit ideas by e-mailing nperry@lexipol.com.

Sick of Dangerous City Traffic? Remove Left Turns

Left turns are responsible for 61% of all car accidents at intersections. studiodr/iStock via Getty Images Plus



​By Beth Daley for The Conversation

To reduce travel times, fuel consumption and carbon emissions, in 2004, UPS changed delivery routes to minimize the left-hand turns drivers made. Although this seems like a rather modest change, the results are anything but: UPS claims that per year, eliminating left turns – specifically the time drivers sit waiting to cut across traffic – saves 10 million gallons of fuel, 20,000 tons of carbon emissions and allows them to deliver 350,000 additional packages.

If it works so well for UPS, should cities seek to eliminate left-hand turns at intersections too? My research suggests the answer is a resounding yes.

As a transportation engineering professor at Penn State, I have studied traffic flow on urban streets and transportation safety for nearly a decade. Part of my work focuses on how city streets should be organized and managed. It turns out, restricting left turns at intersections with traffic signals lets traffic move more efficiently and is safer for the public. In a recent paper, my research team and I developed a way to determine which intersections should restrict left turns to improve traffic.

Why are left-hand turns so bad?

Intersections are dangerous because they are where cars, often moving very fast and in different directions, must cross paths. Approximately 40% of all crashes occur at intersections, including 50% of crashes involving serious injuries and 20% of those involving fatalities. Traffic signals make things safer by giving vehicles instructions on when they can move. If left turns did not exist, the instructions could be very simple: For example, a north-south direction could move while the east-west direction was stopped and vice versa. When drivers make left turns, they must cross oncoming traffic, which makes intersections much more complicated.

One way to accommodate left turns is to have vehicles wait until a gap appears in oncoming traffic. However, this can be dangerous as it relies entirely on the driver to make the left turn safely. And everyone knows how frustrating it is to be stuck behind a car waiting to make a left turn on a busy road.

Another way to allow left-hand turns is to stop oncoming traffic and give cars turning left their own green arrow. This is much safer, but it shuts down the entire intersection to let left-turning vehicles go, which slows traffic considerably.

In either case, left turns are dangerous. Approximately 61% of all crashes that occur at intersections involve a left-hand turn.

How would eliminating left turns improve traffic?

Traffic researchers have proposed a variety of innovative signal strategies and complex intersection configurations to make left turns safer and more efficient. But a simpler solution might be the best: Restrict left-hand turns at intersections.

Some cities have already started limiting left turns to improve safety and traffic flow. San Francisco; Salt Lake City; Birmingham, Alabama; Wilmington, Delaware; Tuscon, Arizona; numerous locations in Michigan; and dozens of other cities in the U.S. and around the world all limit left turns in some way. It’s typically done at isolated locations to solve specific traffic and safety problems.

Of course, there is a downside. Eliminating left turns would require some vehicles to travel longer distances. For example, if you wanted to turn left off a busy street to get to your house, you might instead have to take three consecutive right turns. However, research I published in 2012 using mathematical models and in 2017 using traffic simulations showed that eliminating left turns on grid-like street networks would, on average, require people to drive only one additional block. This would be more than offset by the smoother traffic flow.

Which left turns need to go?

Getting rid of left turns would be difficult to implement across an entire city – and at some intersections, left turns don’t cause problems. But if a city did want to remove left turns from some intersections, how should it choose which ones? To answer this question, my research team and I recently developed algorithms that use traffic simulations of a city to identify where restricting left turns will improve safety and traffic flow the most.

The exact answer for each city depends on how streets are laid out, where vehicles are coming from and going to and how much traffic is on the street during the busiest times. But, according to our models, there is a general theme: Left-turn restrictions are more effective at busier intersections in the centers of towns or cities than at less busy intersections farther from the town center.

This is because the busier the intersection, the more people will benefit from smoother traffic flow. These central intersections also tend to have alternative routes available that minimize any additional distance traveled due to the restrictions. Lastly, fewer cars tend to turn left at these central intersections to begin with so the negative impact of removing left turns is relatively small.

So the next time you are sitting stuck in traffic behind someone waiting to make a left turn, know that your frustration is justified. There is a better way. In this case, the answer is simple – get rid of the left turn.

Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety Urges Young Drivers to Wear a Seat Belt

Through the end of March, law enforcement will be monitoring the roads in Missouri to ensure everyone is wearing a seat belt. (Storyblocks image)

Wearing a seat belt could save your life.

That is the message the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety wants young drivers to understand.

Car crashes continue to be the number one cause for traffic fatalities, but wearing a seat belt can lower the risk of death.

Through the end of March, law enforcement will be monitoring the roads in Missouri to ensure everyone is wearing a seat belt.

According to Missouri Department of Transportation Assistant Highway Safety and Traffic Engineer Jon Nelson, nationally, 91% of all drivers use a seat belt.

The average in Missouri is lower with only 86% wearing one.

It is only 75.5% when it comes to young adults.

Here are some things to keep in mind before hitting the road:

  • Under Missouri’s Graduated License Law, permit drivers and all passengers must wear seat belts.
  • 185 young adults were killed in traffic crashes between 2017 and 2019.
  • 72% of those were not buckled up.
  • Seat belts reduce the risk of fatal injuries by 45% and moderate-to-critical injuries by 50%.

By Matt Gunn | KTVO News

More info on how you can make a difference:

Missouri has a highway safety plan called “Show-Me Zero.”

Through a collaborative effort of diverse stakeholders, Show-Me Zero takes a multi-disciplined approach to achieving safer roads through education, public policy, enforcement, engineering and emergency response. The idea is simple:  no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

How can you help? Visit the site and download the full Show-Me Zero plan to learn more about the actions everyone can take to make Missouri roads safer. Find the ways you can help and start making a difference. From there, invite others to do their part as well.

Together, we can continue moving Missouri toward zero deaths on our roadways.

US Traffic Deaths Spike Even as Pandemic Cuts Miles Traveled

This Nov. 17, 2020, file photo shows where an Oregon man crashed a Tesla while going about 100 mph, destroying the vehicle, a power pole and starting a fire when some of the hundreds of batteries from the vehicle broke windows and landed in residences in Corvallis, Ore. (Corvallis Police Department via AP File)​
 
 

Pandemic lockdowns and stay-at-home orders kept many drivers off U.S. roads and highways last year. But those who did venture out found open lanes that only invited reckless driving, leading to a sharp increase in traffic-crash deaths across the country.

The nonprofit National Safety Council estimates in a report issued ​in March​ that 42,060 people died in vehicle crashes in 2020, an 8% increase over 2019 and the first jump in four years.

Plus, the fatality rate per 100 million miles driven spiked 24%, the largest annual percentage increase since the council began collecting data in 1923.

And even though traffic is now getting close to pre-coronavirus levels, the bad behavior on the roads is continuing, authorities say.

“It’s kind of terrifying what were seeing on our roads,” said Michael Hanson, director of the Minnesota Public Safety Department’s Office of Traffic Safety. “We’re seeing a huge increase in the amount of risk-taking behavior.”

Last year’s deaths were the most since 2007 when 43,945 people were killed in vehicle crashes. In addition, the safety council estimates that 4.8 million people were injured in crashes last year.

Federal data shows that Americans drove 13% fewer miles last year, or roughly 2.8 trillion miles, said Ken Kolosh, the safety council’s manager of statistics. Yet the number of deaths rose at an alarming rate, he said.

“The pandemic appears to be taking our eyes off the ball when it comes to traffic safety,” Kolosh said.

Of the reckless behaviors, early data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show speed to be the top factor, Kolosh said. Also, tests of trauma center patients involved in traffic crashes show increased use of alcohol, marijuana and opiods, he said.

In Minnesota, traffic volumes fell 60% when stay-home orders were issued early in the pandemic last spring. Hanson said state officials expected a corresponding drop in crashes and deaths, but while crashes declined, deaths increased.

“Almost immediately the fatality rate started to go up, and go up significantly,” Hanson said, adding that his counterparts in other states saw similar increases. “It created less congestion and a lot more lane space for divers to use, and quite honestly, to abuse out there.”

In late March and early April, the number of speed-related fatalities more than doubled over the same period in 2019 in the state, Hanson said. Last year, Minnesota recorded 395 traffic deaths, up nearly 9% from 364 in 2019.

Drivers also used the empty roads to drive extreme speeds. In 2019, the Minnesota State Patrol’s 600 troopers handed out tickets to just over 500 drivers for going over 100 mph (160 kph). That number rose to 1,068 in 2020, Hanson said.

Traveling over 100 mph makes crashes far more severe, the safety council said.

The high number of speeding drivers is continuing even as traffic is starting to return to pre-pandemic levels, according to Hanson.

The safety council is calling for equitable enforcement of traffic laws, infrastructure improvements, mandatory ignition switch locks for convicted drunken drivers, reducing speed limits to match roadway designs, and laws banning cellphone use while driving, among other recommendations to stem the deaths.

The council collects fatal crash data from states on public and private roads. The numbers released on Thursday are preliminary, but every year are only slightly different from the final numbers, Kolosh said.

 
By Tom Krisher​ ​Associated Press | Police1.com​

FMCSA Clearinghouse Records More Than 56,000 Truck Driver Violations in 2020

More than 56,000 drug and alcohol violations were recorded last year in a database intended to track truck drivers’ compliance history and prevent them from job-hopping in the event of a failed drug test.

The number of driver violations reported rose by roughly 10,000 over the final two months of 2020, the first full year of operation for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse.

According to a new summary report, just 1,203 of the total driver violations were alcohol-related. Of those, most were for drivers who tested with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.04 or greater.

Click Clearinghouse Report by Transport Topics on Scribd to see the data.

Of the 45,000 driver violators who lost their jobs due to the violations, 34,000 have not yet completed the return-to-work program — a statistic that has some in the industry concerned that those drivers may be leaving their jobs for good.

The violations overwhelmingly included drivers who tested positive for drug use, but also included those who declined to take a drug test or were suspected of cheating on a test.

“The good news is that the system is working in capturing violations by drivers and allowing employers and enforcement personnel to verify a driver’s status prior to permitting him/her [to drive],” said Duane DeBruyne, an FMCSA spokesman. “Any violation reported is a bad thing; blocking prohibited drivers from endangering themselves and the lives of the motoring public is a good thing.”

DeBruyne said the Clearinghouse is making it more difficult for prohibited drivers to circumvent the required return-to-duty process, thereby preventing them from continuing to operate large commercial motor vehicles and potentially, “endanger themselves and the lives of everyone traveling our nation’s roadways.”

Carriers, state driver licensing agencies and law enforcement officials use the Clearinghouse to check a driver’s violations.

“I believe the 56,000 drivers with violations reiterates the importance of this Clearinghouse, and shines a spotlight on a rather large loophole in the drug and alcohol testing process that has existed for many years,” said Dan Horvath, vice president of safety policy for American Trucking Associations.

Dave Osiecki, president of Scopelitis Transportation Consulting, said the return-to-work number is low. “It’s concerning, and it bears watching and tracking,” Osiecki said. “The percentage of drivers with violations who are getting evaluated, and completing the treatment process, has risen slowly over the past several months. This is a good sign, but it’s also clear that many drivers are not entering treatment, which suggests they’ve left the industry.”

Osiecki said that when FMCSA published the final Clearinghouse rule in 2016, the agency used historical industry data to provide an annual violation estimate. “FMCSA’s estimate was 53,500 drug and alcohol violations annually. Their estimate was remarkably close,” he said.

“According to our interpretation of Motor Carrier Management Information System data, there are 5,174,170 truck drivers under the authority of FMCSA,” said Norita Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. “Fifty-six thousand drivers represents 1.1% of the available driver pool.” Other trucking groups have differing estimates of the size of the driver pool.

The leading number of drug test failures — 29,500 — was for marijuana, according to the report, which summarized violations recorded since Jan. 6, 2020, when the Clearinghouse officially went into effect.

There were more than 7,940 failed tests for cocaine use, and 4,953 for amphetamines. Also included in the total were about 1,120 tests described as reasonable suspicion of attempts to cheat on a drug test, the report said.

In 2020, about 1.6 million drivers and 197,000 employers registered in the Clearinghouse. Slightly more than 67,000 of the employers registered have identified themselves as owner-operators, according to FMCSA.

During 2020, there were 136,806 full queries on the Clearinghouse, 1.4 million pre-employment queries and 2.7 million limited queries, according to the report.

Besides making pre-employment checks, employers are required by regulation to make checks on the database annually to ensure none of their employees have any drug violations.

“It’s important to note that having a drug or alcohol testing violation is not an automatic end to a driver’s career,” said ATA’s Horvath. “While there is a significant number of drivers who have not yet completed the return-to-duty testing process, that number continues to grow. With continued education about the drug and alcohol testing program, and consequences for noncompliance, we hope to see violations decrease and the number of drivers who have completed the return-to-duty process increase.”

By Eric Miller | Transport Topics https://www.ttnews.com/

Photo courtneyk/Getty Images

Attorney General William P. Barr Announces Results of Operation Legend

Attorney General William P. Barr announced the results of Operation Legend, which was first launched in Kansas City, Missouri, on July 8, 2020, and then expanded to Chicago and Albuquerque, New Mexico, on July 22, 2020; to Cleveland, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 29, 2020; to St. Louis, Missouri, and Memphis, Tennessee, on August 6, 2020; and to Indianapolis, Indiana, on August 14, 2020. His announcement was made on Tuesday, December 22.

“Operation Legend removed violent criminals, domestic abusers, carjackers and drug traffickers from nine cities which were experiencing stubbornly high crime and took illegal firearms, illegal narcotics and illicit monies off the streets. By most standards, many would consider these results as a resounding success—amid a global pandemic, the results are extraordinary. I commend our federal law enforcement and prosecutors for seamlessly executing this operation in partnership with state and local law enforcement,” said Attorney General Barr. “When we launched Operation Legend, our goal was to disrupt and reduce violent crime, hold violent offenders accountable and give these communities the safety they deserve in memory of LeGend Taliferro, whose young life was claimed by violent crime, undoubtedly, we achieved it.”

Since Operation Legend’s launch on July 8, 2020, over 6,000 arrests – including approximately 467 for homicide – were made; more than 2600 firearms were seized; and more than 32 kilos of heroin, more than 17 kilos of fentanyl, more than 300 kilos of methamphetamine, more than 135 kilos of cocaine, and more than $11 million in drug and other illicit proceeds were seized.

Of the more than 6,000 individuals arrested, approximately 1,500 have been charged with federal offenses. Approximately 815 of those defendants have been charged with firearms offenses, while approximately 566 have been charged with drug-related crimes. The remaining defendants have been charged with various offenses.

The Attorney General launched the operation as a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime. Operation Legend is named in honor of four-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed while he slept early in the morning of June 29 in Kansas City.

The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) provided a total of $60 million to fund 290 officers as part of Operation Legend and related efforts. Additionally, the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) awarded nearly $9 million in grant funding to support Operation Legend.

Breakdown of Operation Legend charges:

Kansas City, MO.

196 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 75 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 107 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 14 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Chicago, Ill.

176 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 40 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 130 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • Six defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Albuquerque, NM.

167 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 60 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 85 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 22 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Cleveland, OH.

119 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 60 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 55 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • Four defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Detroit, MI.

100 defendants have been charged with federal offenses outlined below.

  • 33 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 64 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • Three defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Milwaukee, WI.

74 defendants have been charged with federal crimes, broken down as follows:

  • 34 defendants have been charged with firearm related offenses;
  • 32 defendants have been charged with narcotic related offenses;
  • Eight defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

St. Louis, MO.

450 defendants have been charged with federal crimes.

  • 193 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 231 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 26 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Memphis, Tenn.

124 defendants have been charged with federal offenses outlined below:

  • 53 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 47 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 24 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

Indianapolis, IN.

94 defendants have been charged with federal crimes outlined below.

  • 18 defendants have been charged with narcotics-related offenses;
  • 64 defendants have been charged with firearms-related offenses; and
  • 12 defendants have been charged with other violent crimes.

 The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice.  Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.

Opening Car Door Invalidates Stop and Leads to Suppression

Opening the door and entering the vehicle exposes more of the vehicle to view and impermissibly intrudes on the driver’s privacy expectation

UNITED STATES V. NGUMEZI, 2020 WL 6814674 (9TH CIR. 2020)

An officer saw Malik Ngumezi’s car parked at a gas station with Ngumezi in the driver’s seat. The car had no license plates. The officer approached the car from the passenger side because a gas pump blocked the driver side.

According to Ngumezi, the officer opened the passenger door, leaned into the car, and asked him for his license and registration. The officer confirmed he asked for Ngumezi’s license and registration but testified he did not remember whether he opened the door, or whether he instead spoke to Ngumezi through an open window.

Ngumezi had an identification card but not a driver’s license; he admitted his license was suspended. A backup officer ran a check and confirmed Ngumezi’s license was suspended and that he had three prior citations for driving with a suspended license.

The department policy required officers to inventory and tow a vehicle when a driver lacks a valid license and has at least one prior citation for driving without a valid license. Conducting the inventory search prior to the tow, the officers found a loaded .45 caliber handgun under Ngumezi’s seat. The officers then ran a background check and discovered Ngumezi was a convicted felon.

The trial court denied Ngumezi’s motion to suppress the firearm and the appellate court reversed. The appellate court held that officers who lack probable cause or any other particularized reasonable belief the driver poses a danger may not open the vehicle door and lean inside. Even though an officer can require vehicle occupants to get out of a vehicle during a traffic stop, opening the door and entering the vehicle exposes more of the vehicle to view and impermissibly intrudes on the driver’s privacy expectation.

Though the evidence was suppressed in this case, the court noted other decisions where officers were justified in opening vehicle doors. For example, dark tinted windows and furtive movement might justify opening a door. A truck that is raised up so that the officer cannot view the driver and occupants might justify opening the door (why not ask first?).

One might wonder about the attenuation doctrine here. Wouldn’t the officer have discovered Ngumezi’s license was suspended in the ordinary course of the traffic stop? And that he had three prior citations for the same offense? Probably so. Nonetheless, the court noted the prosecution didn’t raise that argument.

About the author

Ken Wallentine is the chief of the West Jordan (Utah) Police Department and former chief of law enforcement for the Utah Attorney General. He has served over three decades in public safety, is a legal expert and editor of Xiphos, a monthly national c​​riminal procedure newsletter. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Death and serves as a use of force consultant in state and federal criminal and civil litigation across the nation.

 
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!