Study Suggests Strategies for Cops When Traffic Stops Turn Violent

Print has publishing a summary of the findings of a Force Science Institute study of officer safety when a traffic stop turns violent. “Some positions and movements are better than others,” says Bill Lewinski, executive director of the institute, which is affiliated with Minnesota State University-Mankato. “But you can't depend solely on positioning to save your life on a traffic stop.” Field work for the study, the first to systematically evaluate police officer responses to a lethal threat during a traffic stop, was conducted last April with the Hillsboro, Ore., Police Department.

The goal, in part, was to determine if certain positioning during contact with a violator would work best to an officer's advantage. Most important, Lewinski said, are an officer’s “ability to control the suspect's hands as soon as possible after beginning your approach and to verbally and psychologically dominate the interaction through effective communication and tactical maneuvers.” The study concluded that no position “can fully protect an officer from shots fired by a determined driver,” but positioning on the passenger side of a car gave fastest access to safety.

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