Police officers make countless traffic stops in their careers for offenses large and small. But never tell them they’re routine, says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. East Washington, Pa., police Officer John Dryer’s death at the hands of a gunman with expired license plates underscores the danger that lies in every stop, fellow officers said. Dryer, 46, apparently stopped Eli Myers, 58, on Interstate 70 late Sunday because he could tell from the sticker on his filthy license plate that his registration was expired.
The officer followed protocol. He told 911 dispatchers to run the plate to see if the driver had any wants or warrants. He asked them to send a backup when, in his words, the driver started “getting mouthy.” “He was doing the right things,” said Officer David Wright, an instructor at the Pittsburgh police training academy, where recruits are told that vigilance is key when stopping a vehicle. A driver’s “mouthy” tone, his furtive glance and fidgeting hands are subtle signs of trouble that officers must train to recognize. Fifty-seven of the 305 police officers killed in the line of duty between 2005 and 2010 died while conducting traffic stops, say FBI data.