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Do you know what you should do if you’re driving and pulled over by a police officer?

Do you know what you should do if you’re driving and pulled over by a police officer?

Representatives from Prince William County police and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) police departments answered the question Sept. 9 at a program called “Safe Passage Home” at the college’s Woodbridge campus. Sgt. Ben Grantham of the county police and Lt. John Weinstein from the NOVA department were in charge of the event.

Grantham explained there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop, and that more police are killed at traffic stops than during any other activity. He added police always are wary at traffic stops, especially at night. Weinstein said there are 51,000 assaults each year against police.

“I have kids and grandkids and want to go home,” Weinstein added. He said the driver at a traffic stop is concerned with his convenience, but a policeman is concerned with his survival.

A driver being pulled over should put on a turn signal, pull safely off the road and come to a complete stop.

“And don’t just stop in the middle of the road,” he advised.

Those attending the informational meeting then went outside while officers used police vehicles to demonstrate a traffic stop.

The officer may not approach the stopped vehicle immediately because he is contacting dispatch to inform them of his location and checking your license plate. The driver should stay in his car unless told differently.

The speaker said the police officer will tap on your car trunk to see if it’s closed and that there is not someone hiding inside. He then will stop at the car behind the driver’s side pillar, which forces the driver to turn and look at him. The driver shouldn’t make any sudden moves and should keep his hands on the top of the steering wheel. Police will ask for your identification, but don’t reach for it before you’re asked.

After asking for license and registration, the officer will go to his vehicle and check with dispatch and see if you have outstanding warrants.

If you have weapons in the car, tell the officer, noting their location. Don’t reach for the weapon to show it to the officer. The driver and passenger should avoid any sudden movements. Sometimes an additional officer may be called to the scene for added safety.

If you’re given a ticket, you can ask the officer for an explanation, but don’t argue, Grantham said. If you dispute a ticket, do it in court, not at roadside. If given a ticket, you will be asked to sign it. This is not an admission of guilt, speakers said. Signing the ticket only means you’ll show up in court.

A driver also can ask the police officer for his name and badge number to make a complaint if you feel you have been treated unfairly. If you refuse to sign a ticket, you can be taken into custody.

Weinstein pointed out NOVA police receive the same training as county police.

“We all are real policemen,” he noted.

A speaker asked if “driving while black” is a local problem. He was assured police are well-trained, and that “policemen screw up less than doctors.”

A driver’s immigration status also is not a police officer’s concern.

“I don’t know your immigration status when I pull you over. I have nothing to do with it,” Grantham said.

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