Good Advice

Greg Ellifritz, of Active Response Training, and a police officer, has some advice for both cops and carriers that’s worth reading:

Look at this shooting. The reason for contact (only one functioning brake light) is valid legally, but what do people think about cops pulling people over for minor infractions like that?  They don’t like it.  Following the logic, they will like it even less when someone gets shot as a result of a “bullshit” stop.

I know what the cop was doing, he was likely hunting for criminals and people who have warrants. I see it pretty regularly. Cops pull over crappy cars for equipment violations, hunting for an arrest. Poor people who can’t afford to fix busted tail lights often can’t afford to pay their tickets, their child support, or their court fees. Their driver’s licenses are frequently suspended and they regularly have warrants.

So, aggressive cop looking to arrest “bad guys” pulls over a beater car and runs everyone inside for warrants. About 25% of the time he gets lucky and gets an arrest or a bunch of tickets. Every once in awhile, bad shit happens, innocent people die and the cop ends up in the national media spotlight.  Is it worth it to take the chance of such a negative outcome to enforce a relatively inconsequential  traffic violation ?

Read the whole thing.

18 thoughts on “Good Advice”

  1. The cop was clearly afraid although there was no rational reason. He should have turned and run 20 feet. The driver could not draw fast enough to be a threat at 20 feet and the other officer would have shot him. Bad training and panic leads to disaster.

  2. This is why I am so against DUI checkpoints being legal. It does NOT get drunks off the road, it catches people who have weak outstanding issues. (Un paid parking tickets, suspended license, expired inspection, registration.) The majority of these are grant money that the town has to use to get free cash.
    Then you add these “hunting tactics”? I get it. I still hear people bitching about stop and frisk, for Gods sake. It is rousting, plain and simple.
    What incentive does the police chief offer for these “contacts?” That is the unknown in this.

    1. What incentive does the police chief offer for these “contacts?” That is the unknown in this.

      Money, of course. Any fines are often used to support the police department, and police departments in many states get to keep most or all of any assets they seize through asset forfeiture. It’s a perverse incentive that has, in some cases, caused police to act more like a gang of highway robbers than law enforcement.

      1. This is a major reason why I concluded several years ago that government should never benefit from the fines and assets of convicted people. The funds should go, if possible, directly to the victim, or (in the case of parking violations) to some general fund for supporting the victims of something related, such as victims of drunk driving accidents.

        It’s not clear that there’s temptation for both police and cities to line their pockets on the wrong-doing of others — and thus, to both make more things “wrong”, and also to do questionable things to push up the numbers — but there’s just enough conflict of interest that it shouldn’t be allowed at all.

        1. Back in ’05, the NJ State Police ceased stopping vehicles, due to a legal conflict involving the ACLU, IIRC. This constituted nearly the first half of the year.

          Turns out the various types of municipalities that share revenue from the NJSP’s tickets were going bankrupt, without those funds.

          This revenue stream is a significant portion of their budgets. I don’t recall the actual numbers cited in the news reports, but I think it ranged from 30% to over 50%.

          Once it became known they were not writing tickets, the accident rate fell. AS IT ALWAYS DOES IN THIS SITUATION. (the .gov tracks this sort of data)

          As soon as they returned to writing tickets, that rate returned to normal.

  3. And why couldn’t they say what Colion Noir did? “We don’t think he set out to kill someone that day, but this shows the dangers all gun owners face when dealing with the police, particularly those who have a history of being discriminated against.

  4. They’re not serving their police membership through silence either. Does anyone think Officer Yanez was well served by his training? Isn’t it obvious that officers benefit as well from handling these situations appropriately?

    This cop may not be going to prison, but he’s unemployable as a police officer, and will probably have a hard time other work. Better training should be an NRA priority.

    1. “This cop may not be going to prison, but he’s unemployable as a police officer…”

      Why? He has no convictions, and could probably get past most application processes undetected. Add to that, that he’s probably established himself a reputation for being exactly what many PDs are looking for.

      But if you are right about him being unemployable as a police officer, there are still plenty of people who are going to hire him for doing exactly what they wish they could do.

      (Bad analogy, I guess, but Oliver North beat a felony conviction on grounds that almost everyone would agree were “just a technicality,” though there was no disputing that he committed the crime. And yet at least half the country loves him all to pieces, and the he was elected to the NRA Board.)

      1. I think that after a high profile shooting like this, with a name easily found online after receiving national attention, that yes, he will at the least have trouble getting employment as a police officer.
        Despite him having not been convicted, I’m sure there will be a large civil settlement involved, at least against the department and maybe against him personally – THAT will concern potential employers; while many police departments like an officer who brings in money through citations, warrants, etc, very few will like an officer who caused a department to pay out a large sum of money!

        1. “he will at the least have trouble getting employment as a police officer.”

          You mean Sherf David Clarke wouldn’t hire him???? ;-)

  5. This comes under the guidelines I suggested in the “How Not To Get Shot In A Traffic Stop” thread yesterday:

    4. Do not drive a car/truck that might suggest you are poor, powerless, or unsophisticated.

    When I learned that, it was in the day when cops were much less able to run warrant checks (etc.) on the spot at a traffic stop; so it was much clearer that if they were “hunting,” what they were hunting for were safe victims they could dick with. I believe that is still a/the primary factor, and the pragmatic excuses like seeking warrant checks are only a matter of, looking for one more excuse to dick with someone who looks powerless.

    BTW, do any PA residents remember when c. 2005 there was a rash of female drivers reporting state cops stopping them and demanding they breathe into, shall we say, Alternative Breathalyzers? There were reports from all over the state, but as soon as they fingered one state cop, who was convicted, the subject went away; though he would have had to have been a busy little bee (with a worn-out stinger) to commit all the incidents that were reported all over the state.

    1. It’s also probably good to remember to generally follow the law, and try to be a good driver — at the very least, not to drive like a maniac.

      I remember a someone explaining that he had a friend who would blame being pulled over numerous times by the cops because he drove a beater pickup truck. One day, he had the opportunity to be a passenger in his friend’s pickup truck, and discovered that his friend was likely pulled over for bad driving habits as well…

      1. “It’s also probably good to remember to generally follow the law, and try to be a good driver — at the very least, not to drive like a maniac.”

        Gee, if someone invents a time machine or maybe a time-telephone, I’ll have to call myself about fifty years ago and tell myself that.

        I’m not sure how it will save me from having been cuffed around by a half-dozen cops who found my old beater truck parked a few feet off a back country road (parking like a maniac in the weeds?) and waited for me to come back to it — they had a busy day, I guess — but it’s an idea that never occurred to me.

        (My apologies; just having fun, since we’re swapping anecdotes based on life-experience.)

  6. Some states have made these minor issues secondary offenses, meaning that officers can’t pull people over for them; it addresses many of the concerns that came up in this traffic stop.
    In other states, departments only get a fraction of money from tickets or warrants they execute, those there is little profit motive to making ‘nuisance’ stops. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that this department gets most of the money resulting from situations like this.
    Another thing that would restore public confidence in police would be to have police shootings investigated by someone other than the department involved; it is too easy for a department investigating itself to appear compromised. I would suggest that the next level up should investigate police shootings, i.e city involved shootings investigated by the County or State, County involved shootings by the State Police (I’m not sure who should investigate State Police involved shootings – maybe the county where it happened, or a federal agency?)

  7. This is only an anecdote but, my wife’s car had a taillight bulb out for months and we never knew it until one day I followed her and saw that it wasn’t working. When I was fixing it a neighbor stopped by and said “Oh, that hasn’t been working since last year. . .” (Thanks, neighbor.)

    The point of the story being, we were never stopped because we didn’t “fit a profile.”

    I also notice when I’m walking, on the street or on a parking lot, cars with inspection stickers that have been expired for 6 – 9 months. Apparently cops are not as concerned about that as when I was a kid living in constant fear of the upcoming state inspection.

    Or is it that I and my cars don’t fit a profile, anymore?

    1. I was stopped once for a broken headlight; he didn’t even write a warning.
      I had the part but hadn’t yet gotten everything apart; on that car, you had to remove the air cleaner and the battery to replace the headlight.

      I have a coworker who recently got a newer car; the old one hadn’t been inspected in 14 YEARS and never got pulled over – given how rough it was, I was surprised. But it all depends on the attitude of the local police. Right now there are so many laws on the books, that a cop can find a way to get you in trouble if he wants to.

      1. I don’t want to give the impression I think every stop is unjustified; I remember a time when I had to drive an old car for a long time after a fender-bender, with one headlight pointing downward at about 75 deg. I kept a good bulb in it, only so that side would be illuminated at night. I was stopped for it a couple times at night, and the cops just warned me verbally and sent me on my way. I had no problems with those stops, at all.

        But, anyone around here remember when PA had TWO inspections per year? They were an ongoing horror if you were a poor family who couldn’t afford anything but old beaters everyone else had given up on. (I had a friend who would buy another $25 inspected beater every six months, and junk it before the next inspection period. Ahh, those were the days!

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