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How to stay safe when a police officer stops you

Flashing blue lights in the rearview mirror send everyone's pulses racing. Eyes turn to the speedometer and minds spin with a thousand questions about why the officer has decided to make the stop. The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department has published a brochure to help Tennessee drivers know what to expect if they find themselves in that dreaded position on the shoulder of the road with flashing lights and sirens behind them. 

The MNPD says motorists can anticipate professional, courteous service and an explanation of the traffic stop. If a driver receives a citation, he or she can also expect the officer to explain why and offer direction for the steps to resolve it. Finally, those traveling on Tennessee highways can rest assured law enforcement agencies have trained their officers to maintain safety at all times. 

In exchange, the MNPD asks drivers to do a few things in return when they see blue lights flashing behind them:

  • Begin immediately to look for a place to pull over safely
  • Stay in the car after pulling over
  • Keep hands visible - "preferably on the steering wheel" - as the officer approaches the car
  • Do not reach for anything in the glove compartment, under the seat or elsewhere
  • Follow the officer's instructions for retrieving drivers' license and insurance information 
  • Show the same respect to the officer they expect to receive from the officer

The Public Broadcasting Service offers a few additional tips for all who encounter police in a traffic stop:

  • Do not argue about the stop or the charges
  • Do not move suddenly 
  • Do not put their hands in their pockets
  • "Do not run, even if [they] are afraid of the police"
  • "Do not resist arrest...even if [they] believe that [they] are innocent"

If anyone believes a police officer has violated his or her rights, he or she should file a formal complaint after the arrest rather than resist or argue during a traffic stop.

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