Imagine — you’re driving through a local neighborhood when you glance in your rearview mirror and— “Oh my gosh” — there’s the red and blue flashing lights of an Ardmore police car right behind you. What should be your response? Most everyone knows to pull over and stop. The question is where, when and how?
“State law says merge to the right regardless if it’s police, fire or an ambulance. If there’s a shoulder use it. If you’re on a street, like Commerce Street, then pull onto the grassy right-of-way. In both cases pull far enough off the road to be out of traffic,” says APD Deputy Chief Kevin Norris.
Where shouldn’t you stop, even if it’s on the right?
“Don’t pull into the entrances or exits of parking lots,” Norris cautioned. “If you choose to pull into a parking lot, find an empty parking space and use it.”
OK that’s sounds simple enough. It’s what comes next that can cause confusion and even concern a driver.
“I’m only speaking for APD. But what a driver should do next is nothing. Don’t open the door and attempt to get out. Don’t begin to reach into glove compartments or center consoles for insurance verifications or into purses or pockets for driver’s licenses,” Norris says. “Unless you hear the officer giving instructions over their public address system or vocally, just roll down the window and sit still. Keep your hands visible — on the steering wheel or in plain sight. Wait for the officer to approach.”
APD patrol officers will approach a stopped vehicle, usually standing slightly behind the driver’s door.
“The officer is going to tell you why you’ve been stopped. He or she will ask for your license and insurance. That’s your cue to tell the officer where those things are located and ask to retrieve them,” Norris explained.
That’s also the time to inform the officer if you have a concealed or open carry permit. The law requires all permit holders to immediately inform officers of their status.
“The officer will ask to see the permit and will ask if you have the gun in the car and where it’s located,” Norris said.
Driver’s should not be surprised if officers use a spotlight during nighttime stops.
“Officers are going to light up the area at night as a safety precaution,” Norris explained adding, “Those driving vehicles with dark tinted windows can assist officers by rolling down all windows and turning on interior lights.”
APD Chief Ken Grace says officers understand for many driver’s being pulled over is stressful.
“The officer is going to do everything he or she can to relieve stress for themselves and everyone in the vehicle,” Grace says. “The officer is also looking out for the safety of everyone in the vehicle as well as themselves.”
All APD Patrol Division and Motor Unit (motorcyle) officers wear the APD uniform and badge. Their vehicles are clearly marked as police units.
“The only time a driver should encounter an officer out of uniform would be officers assigned to special details. In which case, they may be in plain clothes, but will have their badge and may be wearing a vest that identifies them as an APD officer,” Grace said. “However, at any time if a driver is concerned about whether the person who has stopped them is, in fact, an officer, all they have to do is call 911. Tell the dispatcher they’ve been stopped and their location and ask for confirmation the person who stopped them is an officer.”