Local News

Traffic Stop Training Not Fool-Proof Protection

Posted September 24, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— They're called "routine" traffic stops, but officers will tell you, there's really no such thing. Everyday on the road, officers make split second decisions that can mean the difference between life and death.

In traffic stop training, officers learn how to calm situations with words, when to call for back up, and when to use deadly force. They need all those skills when making traffic stops. Troopers say sending a car to the side of the road is risky business.

"Anything can happen anytime of the day and it does," says Trooper W.B. Vaughn. "History has certainly proven that."

It was proven Tuesday when at midday the unthinkable happened. It also forces officers to think about how unpredictable and dangerous traffic stops can be.

Vaughn says it can be anything from a routine stop with no problems to somebody fleeing, to an all out fight to a fatal assault.

That's why some cruisers are equipped with cameras. They record trouble and can be used for evidence or to look back, critique and address training needs and revise training if need be.

Lieutenant Fletcher Clay says NC troopers undergo extensive traffic stop training during the academy and that includes officer survival.

"We hope that they would employ some of those tactics to make that stop as safe as it could be," Fletcher says.

But even with the training, officers admit there's no way to make stops 100% safe.

Vaughn admits there's a job to be done. He and many other officers just do it and hope for the best.

Troopers say these stops can be so volatile because they might pull a car over for speeding, but the driver may have just committed a crime, could have weapons or drugs in the car. Officers just don't know.