Getting pulled over by the police can be frightening. Even if you’re a generally law abiding citizen and have no reason to fear an officer, hearing those sirens and seeing those spinning blue and red lights can be nerve wracking. Police are people, after all. They can make big mistakes, just like anyone cane. And we’ve all heard horror stories about out of control officers, whether or not those stories are fair. When you get pulled over, your mind can race in a hundred nervous directions. If you don’t play it cool, you may escalate the situation.
So what should do the next time Johnny Law stops you in the middle of nowhere while you’re unsure exactly of what the problem is? Follow these steps to keep things mellow. This may save you—as well as the officer—a long, hard night and potential disaster.
Review What Exactly You Were Doing
Before jumping straight into outrage mode, think over what you were doing immediately preceding the situation. Is there any chance the officer is in the right, here? If so, what exactly were you doing, and how might it have looked to the officer? After all, they are often there to prevent vehicular injury and maintain a safe traffic flow. You could save yourself some serious trouble by acknowledging a mistake, or at least acknowledging that things looked bad.
No one responds well to belligerence, not even a trained professional. Most officers just want to get their paperwork straight and go home for the night. Even if you think something funny’s going on, be calm. Panic never helps, and your calm disposition could put the officer at ease.
We’ve all the news stories about a cop overreacting to a sudden movement. People react strongly to sudden movements. People in tense situations can snap. Moving slowly will help prevent things from getting too hectic.
Know Your Rights
Educate yourself on what police can and cannot do. Pay attention to any violations and do whatever you can to document them. If you don’t have a digital recorder of any kind handy, write things down as soon as possible to keep your memory accurate.
Document the Proceedings.
As a precaution, record what’s happening. Modern cell phones provide tons of methods for collecting information. Use them. If you can’t get good video, at least record audio. Even leaving a friend on the phone during your encounter could provide you the comfort of not feeling so alone; at the very least, it could provide evidence which may be useful later on.
Good communication can make or break a huge variety of scenarios. When in a stressful situation, it is crucial that all parties speak clearly and carefully. Obviously, you can only control yourself, but at least do that. If you’re about to reach into your glove box, tell the officers ahead of time that you’re about to do so. Warn the officer of any suspicious-looking items which could be mistaken for a weapon. If you have an issue with something the officer does, speak your mind clearly, but avoid shouting or otherwise putting the officer in a defensive frame of mind.
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