28 January 2015

LE- Why passenger side approaches should be SOP

Yesterday, I posted a video on the MCS Facebook page about an officer being shot during a driver's side approach on a traffic stop.  I began doing passenger side approaches when I was 19, serving as an MP in the Army.  Nobody taught it to me, it just made sense.  Over 20 years and thousands of stops, my SOP was refined to what we now teach in our Total Officer Survival Course.  

In the above video, you can hear the officer tell the driver to pull farther to the right.  Usually done to get the vehicle out of traffic.  Even then, the officer walks up on the driver's side and ends up getting shot in the face.

The primary reason for the passenger side approach is to limit your exposure to vehicles approaching from the rear.  If you you or your squad does get hit, you will be more likely to end up on the shoulder than out in traffic. The odds are you are more likely to be struck on a traffic stop than shot.

Every stop should be a passenger side approach unless you have a compelling reason to approach on the driver's side.  Your vehicle is the cover you bring with you, so use it.

Here is how we teach it, you have stopped a vehicle on the right side of the road. We are taking for granted that you have already called in the tag.

1)  Open your driver's door and put one foot on the ground.  Wait for a minute, since this is when many pursuits start.

2)  Exit the vehicle and close the door, but do not shut it all the way.  This is true especially at night because it helps to mask your movement.  Slamming the door can give the driver a sound to shoot at.  This is the most dangerous position, so don't spend a lot of time here.

3)  Walk around the rear of your vehicle keeping your eyes on the suspect vehicle through your windows and between the roof of your vehicle and your light bar.  When you get to the back passenger quarter panel, wait a few seconds and watch the occupants.  From this position, you have strong cover with both the suspect vehicle and your squad between you.  If he jumps out shooting, you have options.

4)  Make your approach and make contact with the driver at the passenger side window.  If there is a back seat occupant, you can have them open their window so you can maintain cover from all occupants.  Often on the approach you will find the driver looking out their window for you.  A knock on the window will make them jump and put them off guard.  This forces them to put down their passenger side window which creates a breeze making it easier to detect a DWI.

If the vehicle is occupied multiple times or is blacked out, you access your PA from your down passenger side window and have them step back.  Carry out your investigation over your front passenger side quarter panel.  This also provides a good physical barrier against an open hand attack.  If you need to further separate them from other occupants. you can move behind your squad.

When operating as a two man unit, the passenger is the contact officer.  The driver gets out of the car during the stop and takes a position of cover behind his side of the squad.  This prevents potential crossfire situations and puts him in a position to be back in the driver's seat fast in the even of a pursuit.

This is not "the" way, but a way, and the way I would teach it.  Have a reason for everything you do.

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