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Professionalism under pressure: Managing high-profile non-compliance in traffic stops

When Monroe County DA Sandra Doorley resisted commands during a traffic stop, the responding officer demonstrated essential tactics for upholding professionalism


Monroe County DA Sandra Doorley is pictured in her garage after refusing to stop for police.

On April 22, a police officer with the Webster (New York) Police Department observed a vehicle being driven at 55 mph in a 35-mph zone. The officer activated his lights and then his siren to induce the driver to pull over, but instead the driver refused to do so and continued driving to her home and pulling into her garage.

The officer discovered that the driver was Monroe County DA Sandra Doorley and she was on her cellphone talking to his chief of police. The chief told the officer to have a sergeant come to the scene.

Doorley — who remained non-compliant during the entire exchange — at one point can be heard telling the officer he was being a “f–ing a–hole,” after he asked why she was being hostile.

The sergeant arrived, listened to the officer, then listened to the district attorney and then told the officer that as it was his traffic stop, it was his decision how to handle the call.

The officer issued a speeding ticket.

After observing the body camera recording of this contact, I would like to turn this into a learning opportunity to help others who might be placed in the same situation.

The chief

The chief missed an opportunity here. The district attorney was listening to him and they were on a first name basis so he could have simply told the district attorney, “Comply with my officer. He is my representative on the street. If you are cited, then you can go to court and plead your case.”

By telling the officer to call and standby for the sergeant, the chief prolonged the situation.

The sergeant

The sergeant arrived at the scene, gathered information and ultimately said to the officer what the chief should have said: “It’s your traffic stop. It’s your decision.” Good job, sarge!

For district attorneys and others who feel they have “unlimited professional courtesy”

I would like to share a true example that might help anyone who believes they are entitled to special treatment to behave better during a traffic stop.

There was a situation I am aware of where a district attorney was stopped for speeding. He was identified on sight by the officer when that officer made his approach. The district attorney stayed seated behind the wheel throughout the stop and gave the officer his driver’s license. He told the officer when he heard the reason for the stop, “Well, at that speed, you better give me a ticket, or it will look bad for both of us.I am sorry I put you in this position.”

The officer issued the citation, explained it, and sent the district attorney off with a “Thank you for your courtesy.”

The stop was covered by the local media and both the district attorney and the officer both gained a great deal of respect for their conduct, during this contact.

The district attorney in this incident eventually became a judge.

I predict the district attorney involved in this Town of Webster “legal traffic stop” will never be a judge.

Observations of the officer’s actions

This situation in the Town of Webster may have been handled by different officers differently. Some officers, given the same set of circumstances, may have chosen to:

1. Not make the stop, thereby avoiding the grief.

2. Make the stop, issue a warning to the district attorney and, in this way, avoid grief.

3. Make the stop and upon being met with non-compliance, physically arrested the district attorney using whatever level of force was required to overcome the district attorney’s resistance. The charges would be “knowingly fleeing and obstructing/resisting an officer,” and issuing a ticket for speeding at 55 mph in a 35-mph zone. A special prosecutor would have then been appointed to handle the case.

This officer chose a different option, which as the sergeant says, was his call. He chose to:

1. Make contact, maintaining a proper distance.

2. Make certain the dog was friendly as he approached.

3. Advised the driver of the reason for the “legal traffic stop,” as well his name and authority.

4. Deliberately keep his body camera focused on the district attorney capturing clearly her non-compliance and abusive language.

5. Followed his chief’s orders to wait until his sergeant arrived.

6. Kept the camera recording until the sergeant arrived, while carefully avoiding being the cause for any escalation.

7. Took a step back and allowed the sergeant to handle the problem, which in this case remained the district attorney throughout the contact.

8. When the sergeant turned the stop back over to the officer saying, “This is your call,” this officer cited and released the driver.

A case of career survival

If one was to critique this stop from a physical survival point of view there is much to critique.

However, I strongly believe this officer assessed the totality of the circumstances, made his choice and behaved accordingly. He correctly and instantly assessed that this stop presented a higher risk to his career survival rather than his physical survival. This led him to allow this driver much more leeway of movement than allowed in most “legal traffic stops.” While doing so he gathered evidence of her misbehavior with his well-focused body camera.

Throughout the stop the officer maintained a professional and calm demeanor while making an excellent permanent record of everything that transpired.

Because of the officer’s actions, the district attorney’s subsequent sanitized statement to the media will not be the final word in this matter. The body camera recording revealed that the officers were the true, and only, public safety professionals at this scene. They were the persons at this scene whose career will survive unscathed because they all behaved professionally and patiently.

This incident presented a unique and difficult challenge. The officers met the challenge and this was a job well done!

How would you have handled this traffic stop? Email your thoughts to

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.