What to do when you’re stopped by a cop.

It was late. I was tired. And I was driving home from visiting my girlfriend. A little distracted, I was thinking about bed more so that my driving. As I crossed the last major road before I got to my neighborhood, I heard a siren and saw the flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. Understand, it’s probably been thirty years since I’ve had a moving violation. I’m a very careful driver. I try to obey all the traffic laws, and I’m usually a very attentive driver…

I really had no idea what I’d done, to be honest. I’m not saying I did nothing wrong. I just didn’t realize that I’d broken any traffic laws. Now keep in mind, I have a valid license and a CHL, issued in the state of Texas. That night, I was not carrying.

As the officer approached the vehicle, I opened the door of my Jeep (with half-doors, unzipping the windows is problematic at best). The officer said “license and registration, please.”

My reply? “Yes sir, officer,” and I handed over both my license and my permit, as is required by law.

“Are you carrying this evening?” he asked.

“No sir.”

“Please step out of the vehicle so I can pat you down,” he instructed. I complied. At that point, I mentioned that I carry a tactical knife in my right front pocket. He relieved me of the knife and told me I’d get it back after the traffic stop.

“What did I do wrong, officer?” I inquired.

“You were speeding in a residential neighborhood, and didn’t come to a complete stop at that stop sign,” he told me. “I’m gonna go run your license. Just have a seat, and I’ll have you out of here as soon as possible.”

As I waited, I thought, “Gee, this might be an opportunity to get to hear the police officer’s side of making a traffic stop with someone that has a concealed weapon permit.” I started to go for my wallet, then thought, “I don’t want to make any sudden moves or do anything that would make the officer question my actions,” so I extended my hands out of the car, where he could see them, found the business card, and then put my hands back in the car.

True to his word, the stop didn’t take too long. He approached the vehicle and handed me my license, permit, and knife. “Mr. Kozak, because you were so polite and cooperative, I’m not going to ticket you for the speeding infraction. I do have to write you up for the stop sign. Just be more careful next time, okay?”

After that, I told him about TTAG, and asked if he would call me when he’s off-duty, so I could interview him about his experiences (without naming names, of course) in dealing with people that are licensed to carry concealed weapons. He agreed to call, and we both went about our lives. (Haven’t heard from him yet. If/when, I’ll write it up.

From my point of view, a couple of observations. I really hadn’t done anything wrong, other than the moving violations. But I noted that my adrenal glands had kicked in, and I was slightly nervous, with an accelerated heartbeat and slightly faster respiration. If that’s what happens on a routine traffic stop, imagine what it would have been like, had I been carrying concealed. Adrenalin is a factor you really don’t wanna discount when dealing with a stress-inducing situation.

Had I been carrying, or had I neglected/forgotten to hand over my concealed permit, this situation could have gone south, quickly. If I were a cop, and I was confronted with someone who looked as if they were being evasive about a permit or a gun, I would automatically assume the worst and act accordingly. That’s human nature.

I’m also aware that politeness counts for a lot in such situations. The best way to diffuse a situation is to be unfailingly polite, even if the other party isn’t. As luck would have it, the officer in question was a pro – very polite and efficient. But again, I’m sure his reactions would have been different had I been surly, uncooperative, or sarcastic. (Those that know me might assume I’d be my usual sarcastic self around a police officer. Not gonna happen.)

My position from the start is that policemen have a dirty, thankless job. They aren’t paid nearly enough to put their lives in danger. And they don’t need any lip from me to make things worse. On the other hand, I’ve found that if you show them respect, cooperate, and are as polite as possible (without being overly-solicitous or snarky) it can go a long way towards making a difficult situation less difficult.

In my college days I had a roommate who was pulled over a couple of times for traffic violations. He has the same kind of smart-mouth that I’m known for. Only he doesn’t share my belief that being unfailingly polite to police officers is a life rule. Let me share with you a few of the things he’s said during traffic stops, and the outcome of same:

  • “What’s the matter…haven’t made your ticket quote yet?”
    (He got a ticket. A big one.)
  • “Shouldn’t you be at a Donut Shop right now?”
    (Ditto.)
  • “What’s wrong – out of chocolate sprinkles?”
    (THAT one cost him.)
  • “Can we get this over with…I’m in a hurry.”
    (NOT smart.)

and my personal favorite:

  • “What…you couldn’t catch the fast guys so you settled for me?”
    (He had a death wish. Seriously.)

Would I do anything differently if there’s a next time? Well, other than having my gun on me, nope. It’s a rare occurrence that I’m not carrying. This just happened to be one of those times. And in a way, carrying a gun makes me a better, more attentive driver (a little paranoia about getting stopped with a gun – even when you’re licensed – can be a good thing). But regardless of my carry status, if and when I’m pulled over again, you can bet that I’ll be as polite as I can be. It’s safer for everybody.