I should preface this by saying I am not often stopped by the police, for anything. My last traffic ticket was only the second in 19 years, despite having a somewhat lead foot. However I’ve also been stopped a handful of times for speeding, then let go with only a friendly warning.
But the Pit thread about a black guy being shot by a cop for no apparent reason, plus a conversation today with a friend about the last time I got stopped for a speeding ticket in November 2012*, got me wondering again.
There seems to be a script that police officers follow. At least for middle-aged white women who do not step out of the vehicle when stopped.
Where are you coming from?
What were you doing there?
Where are you headed?
[shining flashlight in back seat] Are you alone in the vehicle?
Do you know why I pulled you over/how fast you were going?
Is the dog OK? (Last time, I had my rather large and overly-friendly Rottweiler with me, which clearly made the cop nervous.)
I don’t see how any of these questions are relevant - either I am getting a ticket for speeding, or I am not. They’re not just being friendly and chatty. So my theory is that cops will ask questions like this just to engage the driver, hear your responses, watch your body language, get a whiff of your breath - basically a tactic to determine if the driver is drunk or drugged, or is being evasive or acting squirrely. Am I right? Or are there other reasons behind these fairly innocuous and seemingly pointless questions?
*48 in a 35 on an almost-deserted, wide commercial road at 11 pm on a Saturday. He didn’t have much of a sense of humor but at least wrote the ticket for 44/35, so I had minimal points and a fine.
When you get pulled over, especially if you are guilty, it is always best to be really polite and answer the questions. One that people have trouble with is "Do you know why I pulled you over/how fast you were going?". If you were speeding do not say you were doing 30/40 whatever, and don’t make up some cock and bull story about racing to an emergency. Effectively you are challenging the cop and that is not a good idea. Admit it and say how sorry you are and you don’t normally.
Or the other version of that which is “I was doing x, but I obviously wasn’t right about the speed limit being x.” They can’t know what you know, and you aren’t bullshitting them about how fast you were going (although I admit that when I say I’m going x, that means I was usually clocking x+5 or so. I’ll fudge a little.)
They want to see if you act jittery, or get really nasty for no good reason, or blow booze breath in their face, or have red pot eyes, or keep sneaking glances at the glove compartment.
It sucks, but at the same time, it isn’t a walk in the park for the cop either, especially after dark. If I were a cop, I’d WANT a personal cam, so that when someone freaks out and starts a COPS! re-enactment when they get pulled over, I have some hope of being avenged after I got run over by their lifted mudrunner with truck balls.
No doubt! Any time I’ve been pulled over, I am cooperative, friendly, do not give bullshit excuses and do all the “keep hands on the wheel and don’t act weird” stuff I’ve read to do. I think my demeanor and good driving record is the reason I’ve been pulled over and let go with a warning quite a few times, instead of getting a ticket. I’m also not willing to be bullied or played with, however.
I realise cops have a tough and sometimes dangerous job. So I am also interested in what their training is, hence my OP.`
I think it kind of depends on whether their primary goal is writing tickets or if they are actually trawling for bigger fish, so to speak. The last ticket I got was on a very rural interstate and the whole of the conversation was: “I clocked you at 87 (or whatever it was). License, registration, and insurance please” “Here you go” “okay, I’ll be back with your ticket and have you back on the road in about 5 minutes.” He didn’t even give me the usual “slow it down” talk.
I agree with the advice about being polite, but if at all possible you should try not to admit how fast you were going or say anything like “I didn’t know how fast I was going” or “I didn’t know what the speed limit is.” If you say those things, the officer will note it (and the dash cam may be recording it) and that will make it a lot harder if you do want to go back and fight the ticket. Don’t try to bullshit them, but don’t volunteer any more information than you have to either.
I don’t know how universal this is, but the question I really dislike is:
“Where do you work?”
“Whats your position there?”
There is no legit reason for the cop to ask this, perhaps as someone said it is part of the “are you hauling drugs” thing, I’ve always suspected the cop wants to see how likely it is they can get away with messing with you. Criminal defense lawyer probably gets treated differently than janitor at McDonalds.
I know perceptions are different around the country. Traffic violations are not crimes. Here the word crime has a very specific legal meaning (synonymous with felony). Except for a very few statutes intent is not an element of traffic violations. I don’t care if you admit to it. I already know what you did since I saw it.
It would seem to me that saying you didn’t know how fast you were going, if you were doing, say, 90 mph on the freeway, would indicate either a lie, or reckless inattention. Any time (except for one, which was some some sort of weird fishing expedition; they never did tell me why I was pulled over but I was eventually let loose without a ticket) I’ve known exactly why I was getting pulled over. As Loach says, the cop clearly knows as well, so I don’t see the problem with saying “I guess I was speeding, sorry.”
Personal choice I guess. After so many years each person comes up with their own script for a MV stop. And yes, sometimes you borrow things from TV and movies. I personally think that “Do you know how fast you were going?” is a stupid question. I have found myself using “Do you know why I stopped you?” as a conversation starter and not to fish for a confession I don’t need. But I found that was a verbal crutch that I try to get away from. (Full disclosure, I haven’t written a ticket in years. They took away my ticket book when I moved over to detective. I’ll be back on the road some time.)
I couldn’t tell you for certain. It depends on how the stop is going. Could be any number of reasons.
I think that this really depends on your situation. I’ve been told by people that go down into the hood to pick up their drugs that sometimes it’s just better to admit to the cop that you were down there to buy drugs; especially if you have a record and they are going to search you anyway. I’ve been told by more than one person that the cops merely took there drugs and told them not to come back here again.
After midnight on Saturday in a high crime area the cops are normally too busy to deal with small time buyers and may just be pulling over people to ask them questions like who was in the building you just came out of? Do you think they are armed? Tell me the truth and the information I need right now or you are going downtown.
[hijack]Question: if you’re out on the road, on duty or not, and you see something a “black and white” would normally pull someone over for, what do you do? Does it depend on the egregiousness of the offense? Do you just call someone else to deal with it?[/hijack]