Roadside Policing

Jonathan Make
3 min readApr 25, 2023

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Imagine you have just been pulled over by the police for a traffic infraction. A typical law-abiding citizen, you are unaware of the safety tactics officers may use in these situations.

As we learned during a recent class of the Cheyenne Citizens’ Police Academy, an officer may temporarily blind you with their vehicle’s spotlight or confuse you by walking up to the passenger side of your own automobile. If the officer does come to the driver’s side window, he or she probably won’t come all the way up to be parallel to you. The two of you might not be able to see each other clearly.

Understandably, officer and public safety is the focus at traffic stops. This sometimes means keeping the motoring public guessing, so those with criminal intent will be less likely to figure out how they can hurt or even kill a cop. Plus, the fewer physical confrontations on the side of the road, the less likely the authorities are to have to use force against you.

This rationale may leave you, the motorist, in a nerve-wracking situation. And people who are under stress can do weird — even illegal or stupid — things, which in turn can escalate tensions during the very same encounter the police are trying to keep from getting out of control.

Through the citizen’s academy, the Cheyenne Police Department offers the public a thorough and transparent look at how policing is done these days. Much of what CPD personnel demonstrated made abundant sense, and the officers and their supervisors took the time to explain why they do what they do.

I wonder if there isn’t a way to keep everyone safe while also de-escalating what is already a stressful situation. Maybe once an officer determines a motorist has no criminal record and their automobile is legitimate, the whole situation becomes more mellow.

I worry that the excellent work the officers at CPD and many other agencies do can be lost on the average motorist. Given the CPD’s traffic unit aims to educate the public about how to drive safely, I am concerned the effectiveness of this message may be somewhat diluted by the fear that travelers may face when they are pulled over.

I wish I had answers about how to calm people’s nerves without sacrificing any aspect of anyone’s safety. Maybe this is not practical.

What I can recommend is that you contact your local police station or department to see about how you can get involved. Perhaps they, too, have a citizens class. Almost certainly they offer a ride-along program. There are police advisory boards, citizens commissions, public meetings and more.

There may be other ways to learn how cops do the things they do. In turn, you might find yourself less surprised whenever you encounter contemporary policing tactics. At the very least, this should reduce everyone’s stress level when you get pulled over roadside.

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Jonathan Make

I work at USPTO but my views only here. Buff about good journalism, writing, art & culture. Heart my wife, son & pets.