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Side-mounted lights in low-light and no-light traffic stops

Something has caught my attention with the addition of the side-mounted (on mirror) warning lights to most of the patrol and traffic vehicles in my department. As officers, we are taught to disguise our approach to a stopped vehicle of a traffic offender or criminally suspicious vehicle by not allowing our cruiser doors to slam or close loudly. This is very good practice, as any person wishing to harm the approaching officer would be alerted to their approach.

Needless to say, anyone wishing to harm the officer would be paying close attention to the cruiser and actions of the officer. In low-light and no-light conditions, the sound of the door closing is still very important to be aware of. However, with the addition of the mirror mounted lights, the opening of the cruiser door can be given away by the light from the mirror lights passing across the offender’s vehicle and back again. This occurs because the mirror lights are attached to the door and as the door is opened and closed, the movement is transmitted to the beam of light cast by the warning light. If the offender is paying attention and wishes to do you harm, he or she will recognize this as their chance to do so.

The one method that I have used to combat this is to flood the vehicle interior with light through the use of take downs and spotlight and shut off all forward facing warning lights (they are all switched together) after the vehicle has come to a complete stop. This will eliminate the mirror mounted lights from casting their light across the offender vehicle as the officer’s door is opened. Another added benefit is that if the stop develops suspicion of DUI, the forward facing warning lights are already off and your attention can stay with the suspect.