Right moves: What to do when stopped by police

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Do you know what to do when stopped by police? It’s in the Pennsylvania’s driver’s manual. Still, when people get pulled over, police say some are making all the wrong moves.

Susquehanna Township police Lt. Francia Doñe offers this refresher:

“The very first thing you should do is, once you acknowledge a police officer is attempting to pull you over, is to pull over to the right side of the roadway to a safe location as quickly as possible. I want make sure I’m safe. The people in the vehicle I’m stopping are safe,” Doñe said.

So, you’ve pulled over and the first thing you would probably do is search the glove compartment or scramble to find identification in your wallet or purse, but not so fast.

“To me, that immediately raises red flags if I can’t see what’s going on and I don’t know what that person is looking for,” Doñe said.

What should you do? Doñe says keep your hands on the steering wheel and wait until the officer approaches to tell you why you are being stopped.

“That requires you putting your window down and allowing me to see inside the vehicle – making your hands visible, keeping your hands on the steering wheel or in that area of the steering wheel,” Doñe said.

Wait for instruction to get your identification.

“Having your registration and insurance together, also your driver’s license accessible, not tucked away, difficult to get,” Doñe said.

As for teens:

“Most teenagers are going to be very nervous when they are stopped by police, much more so than adults. So, they are probably going to be fidgety, moving around and moving their hands, and those are all warning signs to police officers. That’s a potential threat,” Swatara Township police Chief Jason Umberger said.

Swatara and Susquehanna Townships are expanding their educational student outreach programs by going into their respective high schools this fall and teaching soon-to-be drivers about stops.

As for those permitted to carry a concealed gun, firearms instructor Alan Bernardi says you don’t have to let police know that you’re legally carrying unless you’re asked to get out of the vehicle, but it’s best to be up front.

“Never use the word gun or firearm. My recommendation is to tell the officer yes, I will be glad to show you my driver’s license and my concealed carry permit. Let him tell you what to do next,” Bernardi said.

“At the end of the day, officers just want to go home and be safe,” Doñe said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has a list on its website to alert drivers to their rights while being stopped. There’s also a link to PennDOT’s driver’s manual.

If you have reason to believe an officer may be an impersonator, call 911 and tell the dispatcher you are being stopped. He or she will be able to confirm if the officer is legit.


On the Web:

ACLU’s Know Your Rights pamphlet

PennDOT Driver’s Manual

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