Why I decided the passenger-side approach was right for me

Just because one officer doesn't like a certain tactic doesn't mean it's not feasible


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Submitted by Lt. Georgiana Cleverley

What happened?

Early in my career as a police officer I conducted a traffic stop on a highway on the eastern edge of our town. As I had been taught, I positioned my patrol car partially blocking the traffic lane closest to the stopped vehicle, approached and contacted the violator on the driver's side. The driver had not pulled very far off the roadway, so I was standing just off the white line very close to the vehicle speaking with the driver.

During my training, one of my FTOs had discouraged the use of passenger-side approaches.
During my training, one of my FTOs had discouraged the use of passenger-side approaches. (Getty Images)

A vehicle passed us at a high speed swerving around my patrol car and passing me so closely I felt the swoosh on my backside. I later looked at my patrol car video and saw the vehicle had actually crossed over the white line missing me by possibly an inch. I am a small officer and if I had weighed 10 lbs more or hadn't been as close to the stopped vehicle as I was I would have been hit.

How did you handle the situation?

I finished the traffic stop and then reviewed my car video observing how close the vehicle had come to striking me. I decided then that I would make most if not all traffic stop approaches from the passenger side in order to be out of the traffic flow.

Looking back, was there anything would you have done differently?

I would have switched to a passenger-side approach earlier in my career.

What lesson did you identify from this situation?

During my training, one of my FTOs had addressed passenger-side approaches but discouraged the use because of having to either walk through your own headlights between vehicles or around the rear of the patrol car to reach the passenger side. Just because one officer doesn't like a certain tactic doesn't mean it's not feasible. Passenger-side approaches actually work better for me because I am short. I can see more of the driver and his hands when I stand at the passenger door.

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