Don Heinzman column: Stopped by a cop? Stay safe with these experts’ tips

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Don Heinzman

Don Heinzman

Drivers who have been pulled over by a police officer know it is a tense time for the motorist and the officer.

Questions about the proper way to react to a traffic stop have been in the news ever since a St. Anthony Police officer stopped a car driven by Philando Castile.

For some reason yet to be determined by investigators, officer Jeronimo Yanez shot and killed Castile.

Castile allegedly told Yanez he had a permit to carry a gun, but what transpired during their brief encounter and led to the fatal shooting still is unclear.

It does make many motorists wonder what they should do to reduce any potential stress during a traffic stop.

Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts, who has considerable experience in traffic law enforcement, offers these suggestions for drivers who may also be legally carrying a weapon:

–When you see a squad car with blue and red lights flashing, immediately pull over to the side of the road, leaving room for the officer. Roll down the window, wait and place both hands on the steering wheel at 2 and 10.

–Immediately tell the officer you have a permit to carry a handgun. You are not legally obligated to reveal if you have a gun in the car, but Potts advised to do just that, and also where it is located, while keeping both hands on the wheel.

–The officer may advise you to tell where the weapon is located. Do not reach for the glove compartment or a purse, for example, in the car. Rather, carefully follow the officer’s instructions to the letter.

Kevin Michalowski, a part-time police officer and editor of Concealed Carry Magazine, has other suggestions if you have a weapon with you.

He says shut off your engine and turn on your hazard lights if it is dark. Also, turn on the lights inside the car and keep your hands on the wheel.

Like Potts, he said if you have a weapon in the car, calmly alert the officer you are legally armed and follow his instructions, slowly narrating what you are doing.

Michael Briggs, a firearms instructor in Anoka, told The Christian Science Monitor that if your firearm is on your hip and your identification is in your back pocket, let them know: “I have a firearm on me. What would you like me to do next?”

What if you are stopped for having a burned out taillight?

Most officers will give you a “fix it” warning. Some will just tell you to have it repaired, after checking your identification. If you have several defects on the car, the officer may give you a ticket.

A traffic stop can be eased for the motorist and the officer. Make it positive by following the officer’s instructions exactly and keeping your hands on the steering wheel.


Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers.


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