Many drivers may have preconceived expectations for how law enforcement conduct traffic stops, and what they should or should not do during the interaction with the officer. According to WUFT, a Florida NPR station, Florida has 40 police academies that teach recruits techniques for conducting vehicle stops.
Across the state, law enforcement agencies may have their own policies, but for the most part, the choice is up to the officer. The officer approaches a vehicle in one of the following three ways based on what he or she feels most comfortable doing in that situation.
1. Approaching the driver’s side
The driver’s side approach may be the one most people expect from an officer. According to the curriculum from the Florida Law Enforcement Academy, the officer uses the approach to assess the exterior and interior of the vehicle. If there is a passenger, the officer may ask the driver and passenger to roll their windows down. This gives the officer the opportunity to scan the entire vehicle for illegal items.
2. Approaching the passenger’s side
Officers understand that most vehicle occupants expect them to approach from the driver’s side. Approaching from the opposite side gives them extra time to observe, and provides a view of the driver’s right side. The officer may be watching to see if the driver tries to hide something such as weapons or drugs.
3. Calling for the driver to exit the vehicle
The no-approach tactic may be the officer’s preference if the vehicle has darkly tinted windows, a number of people are in the vehicle or some other obstruction makes it difficult for the officer to see the interior. When an officer calls out or gestures for the driver to exit the vehicle, the driver should obey, keeping the hands visible.
The officer may be using the driver’s approach to watch for a weapon or some other indication that the driver is dangerous. Some law enforcement agencies in the state prefer the no-approach tactic for most situations.