KPD Says Drivers Play Important Roles in Traffic Stop Safety
The Kennewick Police Department released information Thursday, designed to help drivers and citizens understand the role they play when pulled over by an officer. It read in part:
"Anytime an officer makes a vehicle stop he or she has limited information and, in order to make everyone safe, has to react to any actions taken by the driver. Therefore, the actions of the driver are very important. We believe education is an important piece to a safe community. If stopped by an officer there are some actions you can take to help make the encounter safer. Some key things remember are; it’s best to roll down your window, always keep your hands visible and stay in your vehicle. If it’s dark outside you may consider turning on your dome light. When people exit their vehicles and start walking toward the officer it causes great alarm to the officer and will escalate the situation. If for some reason, you make a mistake and exit the vehicle please follow the directions of the officer."
They went on to provide a textbook example of what NOT to do during a stop. Last week, 23-year-old Jose Gomez was seen driving recklessly near Kennewick High School. When pulled over by Officer Leander, Gomez exited his vehicle, and began to walk rapidly towards the officer.
Despite continued commands to remain with his vehicle, Gomez continue to walk towards Leander, then placed his hands in his pockets and began yelling. KPD says for his safety, Officer Leander grabbed Gomez and escorted him to the ground, and held him until other officers in the area could arrive.
When asked why he refused to follow commands, the police report indicates Gomez said "I wanted to be a tough ass." When asked why he struggled with Leander and his backups, Gomez said "I wanted to fight with the big boys."
So instead of a 'just' a citation for driving where he might have been able to drive away after the stop was over, Gomez is now facing far more serious charges. The KPD release went on to say:
"Why do we highlight this? Officers never know what is going to occur during a traffic stop. Often enforcement action like a ticket is brief and is designed to address the safety concern. Sometimes education is all that’s needed. The safety of everyone involved becomes a priority once an individual decides to ignore directions and exhibits behavior that raises suspicion of other criminal activity. Many of these dangerous encounters will never occur because in the majority of contacts those stopped are pleasant, follow directions and want to work with us. Unfortunately, your officers don’t know what situation they are walking into and at the end of the day we want everyone to go home safely."
Wise words. We drivers have a shared responsibility, and it's not just for Officer safety, but our own, especially if a driver escalates a situation to the point where it becomes threatening for them as well.
KPD says they make about 11,000 traffic stops each year.