Traffic stops have become a hot topic in recent years, as law enforcement agencies nationwide have been considering a number of factors when evaluating this aspect of their regular duties. Input from the public is sometimes shaping when and why officers should pull over a driver, as reflected in a recent survey conducted by Safer Cities.
They found that while citizens support officers intervening during certain situations like suspected drunk driving and speeding more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit, they were less inclined to elect a traffic stop as the ideal way to handle a cracked windshield or excessive window tinting.
While the public’s perception of traffic stops has played a role in shaping some agency policies, other, larger issues have forced some departments to take drastic action. In May 2023, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) was finally able to reinstate its traffic division after reassigning every non-investigative traffic officer in February 2021 due to budget constraints.
Funding may have led to the complete, albeit somewhat temporary, dissolution of the PPB traffic division, but elsewhere, staffing issues are what’s largely driving a lack of traffic enforcement.
Police1’s 2023 State of the Industry survey highlighted just how severely short staffing is impacting this critical duty. Approximately 46% of survey respondents strongly agreed or agreed with the statement: “Due to short staffing, I am less likely to conduct traffic stops due to reduced officer backup.”
Although so much is in flux when it comes to modifying or even eliminating traffic stops, what about the agencies that still make these interceptions a priority? Or the ones that have placed traffic stops as a low priority in the past but want to start once again bolstering their efforts in this area? Whether fully staffed or not, agencies can ease the burden of traffic stops by modernizing the tools they use.
TOOLS FOR EVERY SITUATION
Seasoned officers know any given traffic stop has the potential to turn into more. What starts as a simple citation for a broken tail light may result in a full vehicle search or could even end with a hostile driver who ends up being taken into custody.
No matter how benign a traffic stop might be, officers can have confidence in their ability to report what happened easily and efficiently using tools from SOMA Global. By recording traffic stop data using this intuitive technology suite, officers can cut down on the time it takes to fill out reports and get back to their patrol duties that much faster.
SOMA Global’s tools are designed to track all aspects of any incident from start to finish and make it easy to recall data at a later time. The Incident Management Suite is a core part of the platform and is built for incident reporting, documenting use-of-force situations and tracking community policing and engagement efforts. The Incident Management Suite provides officers with mobile functionality and easy-to-complete incident reporting no matter what unfolds at a traffic stop.
COMPLETING REPORTS WITH EASE
Within the Incident Management Suite is SOMA Records, an ideal way for officers to collect traffic stop data simply and accurately. Instead of completing traffic stop reports at a later time, officers can use this cloud-native tool to capture data in real time. Every detail entered into SOMA Records is processed using its built-in analytics engine which helps officers determine if further investigation is needed.
Aside from helping streamline traffic stops as they occur, SOMA Records also features scheduling systems that help with personnel, even if your agency isn’t fully staffed. By knowing ahead of time whether an officer will be on patrol alone or with a partner, he or she can approach traffic stops more intentionally.
Should a traffic stop progress into something more, investigators can seamlessly integrate an officer’s stop data into their case records. Custom tasks and notes can be generated for investigators and the platform allows all data to be viewed within one system.
WHEN HELP IS NEEDED, YOU’RE NOT ALONE
Conducting traffic stops alone has become a concerning issue for law enforcement, leading some departments to significantly limit the probability of these occurrences. However, with the robust CAD system that’s part of the SOMA Global suite of tools, officers can rest assured that if they need help, it’s only moments away.
If a traffic stop turns south, officers can access SOMA Dispatch from their MDT or Android or iOS smartphone to self-initiate a call for service. As part of the larger SOMA Critical Response suite, SOMA Dispatch allows dispatchers to quickly access real-time data that’s accurate and secure, ensuring officers get the help they need when and where they need it.
This ability to provide seamless communication with pinpoint precision is thanks to SOMA Global’s partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS). This cloud-native, serverless technology promises 99.999% reliability and ensures officers can access all of SOMA Global’s tools during any traffic stop.
Modernization doesn’t just bring new technology to an agency – in today’s ever-shifting law enforcement climate, tools like those from SOMA Global help boost officer safety and efficiency while overcoming traffic stop challenges.
This article originally appeared in the Police1 Digital Edition: Guide to traffic enforcement.