“This officer is a danger to society. Nobody should have a gun pulled to their head in a routine traffic stop.”


“Dear PoPville,

The story starts in Harrisonburg, VA today. I was out riding my motorcycle in West Virginia all weekend and I load it up onto my trailer. I pull out onto the interstate and looked in my rear view mirror. I notice the license plate zip tied to my trailer barely holding on. I pullover and notice that all the zip ties have failed except for one. When I left from DC on Saturday, they were fine. I guess this trip was the moment they decided to get brittle and fail. I cut the remaining zip tie and bring the plate inside my truck for safe keeping, with plans to reattach when I get home since I don’t have any zip ties with me.

I drive back to DC and enter the District and am on Constitution Ave. I’m in the middle lane and there’s traffic on all sides of me. All of a sudden I notice an officer from the U.S. Park Police put his lights on as to motion for me to pull over. I can’t pull over because of traffic. So I stop and stay put. As soon as traffic clears around me, I pull over immediately to the right.

Officer from Park Police pulls over and immediately pulls in front of me as if to block me in. He gets out and immediately begins to accuse me of trying to “run” from him. Apparently when I was pulled over in the middle lane of Constitution he had gotten out of his car and was approaching me. I don’t know, I didn’t see him, it was 8:30 PM at night, and that part of Constitution is not well lit. He accuses me of making “eye contact” with him in my left hand rear view mirror, but I have no idea what he’s talking about and I tell him so.

Anyways, I ask him why he’s pulled me over, and he says he can’t see the license plate on my trailer. I say to him, “I have it right here, it almost fell off earlier today so I brought it in, I’m about to go home and reattach it”. I reach over to grab it and he pulls a gun to my head. Fortunately he doesn’t fire it. After wasting 20 minutes of my time, he comes back with a ticket for “improper display of license plate”.

This officer was completely unprofessional. When he came back with my license and registration, he gave both back to me, along with a ticket. While I was trying to put my license and registration back in my wallet, he grew impatient and simply threw the ticket on my lap. Completely unprofessional.

This officer is a danger to society. Nobody should have a gun pulled to their head in a routine traffic stop.

I can’t quite make out his name on the ticket, but his badge number is 976.

As soon as I got home tonight, I reattached the plate to my trailer.

This most likely won’t even go to court. The ticket is a standard DC MPD ticket, which will be adjudicated through the DMV. For these kinds of tickets, if anything is fishy, the examiner usually dismisses them without a court appearance, I plan to submit the above story along with a photo of my tag mounted properly on my trailer. I give it a 90% chance of being dropped. I still plan on going down to Hains Point today to file a complaint with the Chief. I’m not concerned about the fine, just the complete lack of professionalism exhibited on the part of the Park Police.”

118 Comment

  • washington20009

    Sudden movements–like reaching over to grab your plate–probably aren’t the best way to proceed. He doesn’t know what you’re leaning over to grab. License plate? Gun? Tell the officer what you’re doing.

    • Did you read the story? He did tell him what he was doing.

      • Actually not true. He said I have it right here. He didn’t say he was grabbing it although it was implied.

        • I know that this won’t be a popular opinion in the current climate, however, I was always taught that when you are pulled over, you should immediately turn your car off, turn the radio off, and leave your hands on the wheel until you are instructed by the police officer to give him your license and registration. Also, one should always put their blinker and or hazards on to indicate to the officer that they know they are there and pulling them over if they cannot do so immediately. I have no clue if the OP did this or not, but if he or she had, then I could understand being pissed about this. Then, it’s good to vocalize “I’m just getting my license, it’s in my purse” or whatever, and all action should be within plain view of the officer. While I understand that this may be going above an beyond and fall completely into the category of giving up a certain amount of power to the cop, I prefer to look at is as “how not to get shot on my way home from work”. I have also found that this tactic leads to quick, easy traffic stops that on been warnings versus tickets.
          Looking at this from the cop’s perspective, you have a motorist who doesn’t have a license plate, who has potentially just attempt to either evade me or just completely ignore me, and then we get a sudden movement? Plus we are days away from a couple police ambush killings? I’m definitely not a pro-cop person, but I get it.

          • HaileUnlikely

            Agreed 100%

          • No. Officer are supposed to and are trained to react better. Possibly unholster the weapon and order the driver not to move, if he was making all the assumptions you suggest. But point a gun at someone’s head. Just no.

          • Oops–hard to tell from the timing, but my +1 is to the initial comment, not the comment mine was under.

          • Do we hire mentally challenged police? Why are we splitting hairs? There are 1000 ways to say something in the English language. What’s the difference in saying, “I got it right here” and “I am reaching for my license and registration?” Criminals don’t normally announce when they’re going to start shooting especially if said criminal is crazy enough to shoot/hurt/kill a cop.

            I don’t understand why WE (Taxpayers) are treated like criminals from the jump. And when the officer talks to his boss, he gets to say: “Well, he said he had it ‘right here.’ And the not the correct phrase: “I am reaching for my registration and license so I had to shoot him.” Truly, what is the damn difference?!

          • HaileUnlikely

            An officer would have to be mentally challenged to fail to comprehend that a person who is driving around at night without license plates and declares that they are reaching for X as they take their hands out of view miiight actually be reaching for something other than what he said he was reaching for. I could be mistaken, but suspect that most criminals do not tell the police that they are reaching for a gun when that is what they are doing.

        • Hard to take sides without being there. I would generally recommend asking “I have the plate right here. Is it okay if I reach for it?” or “Would you like to see it?” though.

          • Hard yes, but taken in the light most favorable to the motorist, the cop was justified in pulling his gun. Had the person said would you like to see it etc the cop would have likely shown his light on it to verify.
            The stopped in the middle biz is murky as it could be hard to see with lowlight & a trailer.

        • @Ashley
          Do you really not understand the difference between saying something (either) as you reach for it, vs. asking and waiting for acknowledgement from the police officer? It’s just a matter of being predictable.
          You should learn this before you get pulled over.

    • The officer *pointed a gun at his head.* That’s crazy beyond what the possible risk could call for. And definitely in violation of the officer’s training.

  • Hmm…I can easily buy the officer’s side as well. He imagined a worse case scenario: you were carrying a bomb in your trailer. You almost ran him over. You were trying to play the nice, charming, clueless person, and you reached w/o being cleared to do so.

    I think, in all, you both had the best of intentions, but things didn’t played out smoothly. Just thank your stars you are not like so many other that have been killed by the police for much less.

    • clevelanddave

      Of the frequent activities conducted by police officers, the most dangerous is this moment, so they are trained to be extra cautious. Suspect that the officer pulled the gun from his holster, but didn’t put it to the suspects head. Dude was driving without a license plate on his car. Bad idea.

  • Not displaying a license plate is telltale sign of a “sovereign citizen”. The police officer knew exactly what he was doing. Smart Cop.


    Sorry if he made you nervous, but he was not being unprofessional.

    • The TRAILER was missing a license plate, the truck pulling it had one. No excuse for pulling a gun on someone, this cop was clearly already ticked off about something and took it out on this guy.

      • Bro, have you seen a trailer before? You do realize the trailer is attached to the truck no? And that the attachment is at the back of the truck? And that it would obscure the truck’s plate? Hence the need for the trailer plate.

  • Sorry, I don’t think you have much of a complaint. Even assuming everything you recounted happened exactly as you said (and we all know the human tendency to describe events in a manner most favorable to us), you reached off to the side to grab something in the dark before you were given permission. Not smart.

    • You don’t need the officer’s permission to reach for things. That is just a crazy idea. As long as you are acting reasonable and polite, the officer should not take reaching for something in the car (especially with a verbal indication of what you are reaching for) as a threatening act. Pulling a gun on someone who isn’t yelling, flighty, irrational, etc is WAY over the top.

      Citizens should not have to treat police officers as if they are always on the verge of killing somebody. “May I reach for this” “Do I have permission to grab my wallet” That is being treated like a prisoner. Free people should not be treated this way. They should not have guns pointed at them. The officer should be punished for pulling his gun and threatening a person’s life when he did not need to.

      • HaileUnlikely

        You can should all over your self all day but that just is not how stuff actually works. And when you’re driving a vehicle without tags at night 2 blocks from the White House and you move your car after the officer has already gotten out of his such that, even if incorrectly, the officer honestly believes that you just tried to run, you’re starting off the encounter with about 8 million strikes against you, in which case reaching for something may reasonably be perceived as a whole lot more threatening than it might under totally different circumstances (e.g., driving car with tags during the day nowhere near the White House and did not just appear to try to flee…)

      • I agree with you. As I said in my initial post, you just need to be clear (ie, “my license is in my purse, I’ll just get it” or “my registration is in my glove box”). Also, I will point out that from the officer’s perspective, this particular motorist was not being reasonable. According to the OP, the officer had already indicated that he had exited his vehicle when the motorist initially stopped, then the motorist took off; even if it was to the other side of the street, it’s a weird move. Yes, I see why the OP did it, but you have to understand things from the police officer’s perspective as well.

  • Moral of this story is secure your license plates on sketchy trailers especially here in Washington where cops are on alert 24/7.

    • ding ding ding! sounds like the guy should be more upset that we live in a world where we have to be worried about sketchy trailers coming into the city than he should be at the cop. and i thought no sudden movements was commonly understand. you should always clearly and calmly spell it out: “now i’m going to grab the license plate. is that ok?” which is different from “I have it right here, it almost fell off earlier today so I brought it in, I’m about to go home and reattach it. I reach over to grab it.”

      • Agreed. I can understand a Park Police officer getting agitated when he’s pulling over a guy (?) driving a sizable plate-less trailer, and then when he’s talking to the driver, the guy reaches for
        the glove compartment, passenger seat, whatever without getting OK’d.
        “I plan to submit the above story along with a photo of my tag mounted properly on my trailer.” I know some tickets can be dismissed if you provide proof that you’ve subsequently remedied the situation (like the one time I’ve ever been pulled over and received a ticket — because my headlight was out). But if the OP drove all the way from WV to DC with no license plate on his trailer — somehow that doesn’t seem like it should be eligible for a “remedied after the fact” dismissal.

  • So you’re in a truck with a trailer, no plates, and driving near a number of high profile government buildings at night. You are pulled over and stop for a minute, then start again with no warning forcing an officer to chase you. And you’re the one who thinks they’re in the right?
    I wish there were some way for the judge to fine you more if you appeal this citation. You’ve wasted everyone’s time by not attaching your plate, and now would like to do so again by appealing the ticket?

    • Agreed. I would never drive all the way from West Virginia to DC without the plate attached. You didn’t have zip ties? Get some zip ties. Grab some duct tape or clips or something to make it home; it’s not that big a deal.

    • Completely agree with this.

  • Wow, 4 of 5 comments defending the cop here. There’s a difference between unholstering your weapon and preparing to defend yourself and *PUTTING A GUN TO SOMEONE’S HEAD.* Don’t actually point your gun at someone you aren’t planning to shoot. US infantrymen apply this principle; you’d think cops would know it by now too.

    • Make this the 5th “defending” the cop. Don’t make sudden movements without getting the police officer’s acknowledgement first. Maybe the officer was intending to shoot if the OP pulled out something other than a license plate.

      • 6th! Agreed.

      • WTF? This is exactly why cops have no business carrying guns – and how absurd it’s become for our society to pump them full of these notions of meta-obedience. This cop — Park “Police”, even — wasn’t protecting anything except his own fragile ego.

        • Or he was protecting his life. You know, the cops can’t tell if you’re law abiding or a criminal. Unless you expected to be stereotyped as law abiding based on something like the color of your skin…? The park police and MPD have been in shoot outs with DC criminals. It happens.

          You call it “meta-obedience” (WTF paranoid website cult did that come from?) – I call it being polite / considerate to someone who is putting his life on the line protecting us.

          • Proportionality. Middle steps.

          • Please, walk me through what you would have done based on your police training and experience.

          • The officer does not need to stereotype you to be able to make a good decision. If you are calm and respectful he or she should not feel threatened. Reaching to the side is not a big enough indication of danger for the officer to believe his life is in danger.

    • Given the entire tone of the post and the general obliviousness demonstrated by OP, I’m pretty disinclined to believe the “gun to head” part of the story.

      • Particularly the “lucky he didn’t shoot” comment. Because cops typically shoot people in the head at point blank range. Ok. The OP sounds like the crazy one.

        • Have you been following the news the past yr or so?

        • Right, there hasn’t been a high profile case of a police officer shooting an unarmed, non-violent man in the head during a routine traffic stop since…. oh, the high-profile incident in July? That officer is currently being charged for murder, by the way.

          Have you not been paying attention? .

          • Do YOU follow the news?
            At least 3 police officers have been shot and killed making routine traffic stops in the last WEEK. And you want to bring up 1 police officer? I’m not excusing him – but that person he stopped was resisting opening his door and then the car was moving forward – not exactly the same situation.
            Whether or not it happened in Ohio – it is EXTREMELY RARE for a police officer to shoot someone point blank range in the head during a traffic stop. For you to act like it happens all the time is the ridiculousness.

  • DC1

    USPP issuing MPD tickets?

    Unrelated, but:
    Makes me wonder their jurisdiction boundaries…. just yesterday while walking up on 16th, I saw a somewhat bad accident at the intersection of 16th & Colorado Ave NW (right in front of the Carter Barron Amphitheater), I saw a USPP car parked on 16th & Kennedy and mentioned the accident and he just said “not my problem”.

    • washington20009

      US Park Police and DC police have concurrent jurisdiction over federal properties and the roads adjoining them.

  • I saw a headline (didn’t actually read the article so not saying this is fact) earlier that stated that fewer cops were shot in 2015 than anytime in the last 35 years. Why are they so jittery?

    • they’ve taken greater measures to be safe, so it’s not an apples to apples comparison to say that fewer cops have been shot in 2015.

    • Because a cop was just gunned down getting gas or because the motorist made a sudden move into the darkness of his car without announcing his intentions. He didn’t get shot which shows a lot of restraint on the cops part.
      Go on a ride along late night. You’ll probably change your perspective.

      • My father and uncles were all fireman and had a lot of cop friends so it’s not like I don’t have any idea of how dangerous the job is. Those guys were super laid back and didn’t seem to have the same chip on their shoulder like today’s cops (seem to) have. Just an opinion.

        P.S. Not getting shot by a cop at a traffic stop isn’t a win.

        • I hear you, I really do. It should not be a win to not get shot by a cop. But the truth is that yeah, a lot of them are self-important pricks with over-inflated egos and sense of self and all the rest. But those people can kill me at a drop of a hat. Call it self-preservation, but I prefer to stay alive with no extra holes in my body that to fight the man when it’s just the man and me. I’d prefer my family not to have to mourn me, and I will teach my children the same thing because I prefer not to mourn my children. I agree the system needs to change. I agree that we need to fight the system. But do it safely.

        • I know lots of cops, and I find them very laid back. Considering the police involved shootings, yes, not getting shot is a “win” as many people would find it justified in this scenario.
          Someone who’s relocated unexpectedly after you’ve gotten out of the car is going to get heightened scrutiny (and I believe he might not have seen the cop). Different location may have had a different outcome, but the motorist looks suspicious to me the innocent bystander.

    • clevelanddave

      That is not true anymore: fatalities were higher in 2014 than 13 and 15 is probably going to be higher than 14. Plus more than 50 000 were assaulted last year alone. http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/year.html

  • Ok, I have sympathy for cops that are shot making traffic stops, but I still believe that someone reaching for something while explaining isn’t grounds to put a gun to someone’s head. I just don’t. Watch carefully. Yell at them to stop moving. But a gun to head? I’m as shocked as the writer. Unpopular view on here, I guess.

    I think the police are all jumpy because they are all being trained like military units now. As if the citizenry is the enemy.

    • I’m much more shocked the motorist thought it prudent to drive so far without the plate displayed. An easily avoidable encounter.

      • But hardly on a par with putting a gun to someone’s head.

        • You’re correct. Doesn’t change my thought that simply stopping to get ties or tape would have avoided the whole thing.

          • But I guess the question there is how far should you drive to get those things? Either way, you run the risk of getting pulled over (you’re going to stop before getting home to put the plate back on, or it falls off and you don’t realize it and it’s just lost).

          • To the nearest gas station, 7-11. Had this happened in wv, and he was in route to a fix it, I believe he might have gotten a warning. He got very lucky no cops noticed there.
            Wv can be a bit spread out, so it’s unclear how far that may be, but I’m sure you endear yourself more by saying hey, I’m driving to x to get something vs I’ve driven across state lines with no attempt to fix it.

          • Right, but coming from West Virginia? There must have been someplace closer to the start of the trip he could have grabbed ties or something.

    • Your comment that the cop should have commanded him to stop when he reached for the plate were my thoughts exactly. Even if he unholstered his gun in the process of saying “stop, put your hands on the wheel,” there was no need to aim at him. We can question OP’s not reattaching the plate quickly, but it doesn’t sound like he would have resisted an order to stop moving and show his hands. After that, you tell him to turn on the interior lights and go on with checking the plate, starting with “tell me where it is…okay, grab it.” In fact, I wonder why the officer didn’t ask him to turn on the interior lights right away (I haven’t been pulled over many times in my life, but every time I have, that’s been the officer’s first request, even in broad daylight, even when they’re just making a courtesy stop on the couple of occasions I’ve broken down and they’ve stopped to check on me).

      • In fact, I once got pulled over for not having my front plate on the bumper (similar circumstances, it fell off (old car, rusted screws…I was lucky it fell off while parked at home and a kind neighbor saw it sitting in front of my car and put it on the roof so that I would see it) and, while I did have it in the front window awaiting repair AND had a rear plate properly affixed, it *was* a violation and I deserved the stop and warning I got), and a rookie cop apparently was handling the situation. It was nearly dark, and the initial part of the interaction went as I would expect: young cop at my driver’s window asked me if I was aware my front plate was missing. Before I could answer, about 10 seconds in, though, the other cop (probably his trainer, and standing at the passenger window), yelled “GODDAMNIT! YOU FORGOT THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!” Rookie blushes and says “I’m sorry, miss, can you turn on your interior lights?” I obliged, he asked me for my license (proactively saying “is it in your purse?”…my purse was on the front passenger seat), I pointed out that the plate was in the window and that I was going to mount it properly the very next day, and I took my warning/inspection notice and carried on (where I’m from, for things like this (plates not properly mounted; headlight, tail light, blinker out; slightly expired registration; similar items), they don’t really issue “warnings,” they issue “72 hour inspection notices”…you have to fix the problem and turn up at a police station in the next 72 hours to verify that you’ve had the problem fixed. If you fix it and turn up to have that checked, you get off scot free…if you don’t fix it or don’t show for an inspection, it turns into a ticket…at least they *used* to do that, back in the day when I lived there full-time).

  • At night, on Constitution Ave in Washington, DC with a truck and a trailer? Yeah. I’d be a little more cautious. If it were out in Virginia I would think the office would have acted little bit differently.

  • I’m having a hard time mustering up much sympathy for the driver. The entire episode was 100% avoidable (check the zip ties, don’t make sudden movements, etc).

    • We all do stupid things from time to time, but they do not justify disproportional reactions Particularly ones that the professional (the park police officer) is trained not take.

      • I respectfully disagree. The OP brought everything upon themself by making poor choices. They deserve most, if not all, of the blame here.

    • Sudden movements?? Where did those come from. You support the officer so blindly that you have changed the facts given to you from the story. You believe that the OP must have jumped or done something stupid, when the officer could have also been the one to make the mistake.

      Getting pulled over is NOT always 100% avoidable. He could have immediately gone to a gas station for more ties as soon the plate came loose and still been pulled over in the interim. If your headlight goes out you can get a ticket on the way to the mechanic. Getting pulled over alone is not enough reason to pull a gun on someone. The fact that he waited longer to reattach the plate has zero effect on how the officer should act once the interaction has begun.

      • HaileUnlikely

        Pro tip: If you have knowledge that your license plate has fallen off, and you are unable or unwilling to put it back on, and you are towing a trailer, and it is dark out, stay far away from the White House, and probably the Capitol too.

  • This entire comment section is embarrassing.

    You all demand exacting, precise protocol from a well-meaning (if slightly confused) civilian but see nothing wrong with a trained professional putting a gun to someone’s head over a licence plate infraction.

    • Thank you. My jaw is literally on the floor after reading these comments.

      • That sounds uncomfortable – you’re going to scrape up your chin. And it must be awfully difficult to get any work done . . .

    • You can screw up in a lot of ways without getting a gun drawn. Like not attaching your license plate correctly, forgetting your drivers license, insurance card, etc. The person didn’t get a gun drawn because of that.

      • I agree. This person is expected to conduct himself at all times in a manner that, if deviated from, could result in his head being blown off. My point was that everyone here seems fine with this state of affairs. Living in fear of trigger happy cops.

        • No, I don’t think we agree. I (luckily) don’t live in fear of trigger happy cops.

          • You don’t live in hear of trigger happy cops? Okay, man. Good luck out there.

          • Um, thanks? I try to live my life without undue fear of low probability events. Like being shot by either a police officer or a criminal. I am kind of hesitant about driving on the beltway…

    • PDleftMtP

      Pretty sure the only protocol people are suggesting is not suddenly reaching for anything in a dark car with a cop who thinks you just tried to run. Confused though OP might be, that shouldn’t be beyond him/her. This is up there with “don’t cut through alleys in crappy neighborhoods late at night looking at your iPhone.”

    • What many people seem to be forgetting is that the officer did no immediately pull his gun. He did not pull it because of a tag-less trailer. He pulled it after the driver reached abruptly into the dark. I would also love some clarification on “gun to head” which makes it sound much worse and a bit over dramatic. An officer pulling his gun to firing position on a seated driver will be pointed at the drivers head just based on the position of the standing officer. There is a big difference, at least to me between that and a “gun to the head”. To me that reads as point blank or close to it, in more of a threatening way than a defensive position. Maybe that is what happened…. but i doubt it…

      • I think a gun pointed at the head is very straightforward. I don’t know, however, how you interpreted the OP’s story as containing an “abrupt” movement. He said “I reach over to grab it.” You have changed the facts in OP’s story to better support the officer.

    • +1 Strongly Agree

  • Ridiculous. If you don’t know this, you should know that no one should ever make a sudden move when an officer has pulled you over. My dad always told me to keep my hands in sight and if the officer asked for my license or registration, to can ounce what you were doing and carefully get those things out for him. Especially given the dark, this officer is justified in being more than wary with you- not unprofessional at all.

    • Oops- “to announce” what I was doing. You need to tell the cop what you are doing before you do it. Btw, someone asked why these officers are so jittery: apparently their job is more dangerous than 20 years ago. Homicides for cops have been increasing if you look at overall trends in the past decade or so.

      • actually, they haven’t. they’ve been going down since reagan. check your facts.

      • I saw something on facebook today that said officer deaths were at a 20 year low, while the number of people killed by officer’s was at a 40 year high.

  • I’d love to know what part of Constitution this was on. Given 66 dumps out at 23rd, its probably not a stretch that this happened in close proximity to the White House. I’m no expert but I think the police aren’t fond of untagged trailers driving by.

  • The “gun to the head” comment may have seemed that way to the OP, but from the cop’s perspective, he probably drew his weapon when OP made a sudden movement and there’s only a window through which to aim it. When someone says he “put a gun to my head”, I picture the slow, deliberate movement of a criminal on TV threatening someone’s life. Most likely, it was the swift and practiced move of drawing a weapon and not pointed directly at the OPs temple, as his language seems to portray.

    Like a poster above, I was also taught to put my hands on the wheel when the officer approaches. These guys never know what they’re going to find when they pull someone over and they have to be on their toes for EVERY SINGLE routine stop. That leads to a ton of unnecessary steps. why don’t we all cut them a break and put our hands on the freaking wheel so they can ease up a little?

  • Emmaleigh504

    “Apparently when I was pulled over in the middle lane of Constitution he had gotten out of his car and was approaching me. I don’t know, I didn’t see him, it was 8:30 PM at night, and that part of Constitution is not well lit.” It’s not well lit and you still expect the cop to see what you are doing in the cab when you reach for the plate? I totally think the cop was justified in drawing his weapon.

    And seriously, you ask why you are being pulled over, knowing you don’t have plates on the trailer? That’s mighty white of you.

    • I honestly missed this part before I made my first post. This really reinforces it to me that the OP really did not react correctly. If the officer got out of his car and believed himself to have made eye contact with the driver, then the driver takes off? On Constitution? Then, OP makes a sudden movement in his/her car? Yep. Totally get it.

  • The whole tone of this post sounds kind of privileged. Do you realize that some people deal with this kind of reaction just for walking down the street while “fitting the description of a nearby criminal”? And they sometimes end up with worse than a ticket.

  • I’m with the driver. Yes, he screwed up in reaching for the plate, but there’s nothing hear that would call for an officer to point a gun at his head. Cops make people nervous, and nervousness leads to minor mistakes on driver’s parts. When he saw the driver reaching, can’t the police officer say: “STOP RIGHT THERE” and unholster his gun instead? Pointing a gun at the driver’s head, at least in the circumstances described here, is beyond the pale. Who wants to live in a world where this is acceptable protocol? Something clearly has gone wrong if on a routine traffic stop, you have to fear for your life. I would freak out if an officer pointed a gun at my head over a traffic violation.

    • Not very realistic from the cop’s perspective. It only takes a second or two for someone to reach over and pull out a gun. By the time the cop orders them to stop and gauges their reaction, it could be too late for the cop to draw his open weapon.

      Also, why was the license plate attached with zip ties instead of screws in the first place?

  • Kind of agree with the driver. At night, where was he supposed to suddenly get new zip ties from? Seems like he was very clearing stating that he was about to reach for the license plate, by saying, I HAVE IT RIGHT HERE. I had to chime in because I was surprised to see everyone defending the cop.

    • I’d like to save you some hassle in the future in case you’re ever stopped by a police officer. Instead of announcing what you’re doing as you’re doing it, announce what you intend to do, and wait for acknowledgement from the police officer. And then do it slowly.
      Side point: Where to get zip ties (or tape or whatever) is the driver’s problem. It’s your responsibility to display your license plate. Don’t whine about that being too difficult.

    • “At night, where was he supposed to suddenly get new zip ties from? ”

      –Well, OP says that he took the plate off the trailer near Harrisonburg. There are several Wal-Marts a short distance from I-81 in the stretch between Harrisonburg and I-66. Several of them are open 24 hours–and in any case, if he was on Constitution Ave at 8:30, he was probably in Harrisonburg around 6:30/7 pm.

    • HaileUnlikely

      A bad guy who is reaching for his gun would probably also tell the officer that he is reaching for something else. It would take a brave bad guy to tell the officer, “I’m going to get my gun now.”
      On a related note, I think there should be more public education regarding how citizens should act if they are pulled over. I learned this in driver education class, but it wasn’t a formal part of the curriculum, my instructor just liked to tell stories that occasionally contained little useful nuggets, and one of them was about the time when he was pulled over and, trying to be proactive and save the officer some time, he reached over to get his registration card out of the glove compartment as the officer was walking up to the car, for which he was similarly greeted with a drawn gun shouting at him to put his hands up. I’ll never forget that, but I’m not sure everybody is taught similarly, and it is perfectly understandable that a good citizen who never thought about it from the officer’s perspective or heard a horror story from somebody who did the wrong thing and ended up with gun in his face would not know this.

      • I was absolutely taught these sorts of things when I was learning how to drive 20 years ago.

        • HaileUnlikely

          Good. I just checked the DC Driver’s Manual, and it isn’t covered in there, nor is it in the NY Driver’s Manual (checked that one because that’s where I learned to drive). Driver’s ed is no longer required in about half of all states and has been privatized and watered down to the point of meaninglessness (e.g., “What does the red octagon-shaped sign with white letters on it mean?”) in many. It is definitely not the case that every driver is formally taught this sort of thing.

        • I don’t remember “What to do if a cop pulls you over” being part of the driver’s ed curriculum in my home state.
          On a side note, the part of driver’s ed that made the strongest impression on me was the short film(s?) about how you shouldn’t follow trucks too closely, because if they stop and you can’t stop behind them in time, you risk being decapitated yourself because of the way the back of the truck is elevated.)

          • HaileUnlikely

            That was way up there for me as well.

          • There was definitely other content in the driver’s ed class, but that was the thing that really stayed with me — every time I see a big truck ahead of me, I think about the prospect of decapitation.

  • I used to screen police candidates and I know that because the pool of good candidates is not always matched with when law enforcement can hire, I have no automatic bias toward the police. This bias is probably reasonable in the DC area where we have lots of police departments, plus private security firms and probably no better pool than most places.

    FWIW, my last two traffic stops led to warnings (they were for speeding–one in rural West Virginia, the other on the Ohio Turnpike which is heavily patrolled)—my pretty unremarkable behavior (like not worrying about whether my hands are on the wheel until told otherwise) must be what cops expect.

    A license plate offense is is hardly in the same league as driving erratically, for example.

    • HaileUnlikely

      I wouldn’t say “isn’t in the same league as…,” I’d just say “is totally different than…” I’m sure you know that the police run your plates to check if the car is stolen or associated with a warrant or an Amber alert or anything before the officer walks up to the car, and that’s hard to do when the plate isn’t there. Thus, even if a “license plate offense” isn’t conceptualized as a serious violation, the officer being unable to run your plates before approaching the car already starts things off with the officer unable to check some basic info that in most cases would be favorable to the driver (car not reported stolen, car not registered to a fugitive, etc)

      • Emmaleigh504

        Is that why it takes so long for them to approach the car they pulled over? Totally makes sense but it never occurred to me.

  • So no one is going to mention how asinine it is for cops to pull people over in the middle of the street like in this situation? I don’t care if we have had a dozen officer related shootings in the DC area in the last week alone that is no excuse for a cop to be that damn jumpy. Plainly I am so sick of the onus always being on the citizen – it is almost a defacto police state environment.
    Law enforcement has a responsibility to not only protect themselves but all people- including this person. This officer apparently does not have common sense to show better judgement and restraint. Or if they do they had a lapse last night and need to be taken to task for it.

  • He’s lucky he wasn’t driving by the University of Cincinnati. You all talk about police having the right to be jittery and unprofessional like people shooting cops at traffic stops is a thing and not the other way around.

    • That said, seriously dude. Don’t drive near the Capitol with a trailer or a box truck, or anything else. I can think of a dozen Pilot and Sheetz stations between WV and here that have zip ties.

  • “Park Police” that alone would be enough for me to find in your favor if this want to court. They are so overly aggressive that it’s criminal. Not sure why but the culture of that organization is constantly putting people in unnecessary danger. Of all the brushes with the law I’ve had in three decades in DC, about 6 total, 5 of them were Park Police freaking out over such things as walking across a pocket park at night! Really? your going to go full rambo with me for walking on what is essentially the side walk? It’s as though they have no filter, it’s the letter of the law, logic be damned and they are always dicks about it. If you treat normal people like criminals your whole profession looses respect, remember that.

  • When I got to the part about him pulling in front of you to block you in, I realized the context of the photo on the post.

    You’re lucky he wasn’t looking at you when you took that photo. Pointing anything toward a policeman while he’s pulling you over is taking your life into your hands. Maybe he saw you squirming and got nervous.

    I’m no fan of traffic tickets, but if your plate was not displayed properly, pay the ticket. “I don’t have an extra zip tie” doesn’t change the fact that your tag was not displayed properly.

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