Earlier this year, Oklahoma had some pretty scary and disturbing incidents involving law enforcement officers who overstepped the boundaries of the law.
In August, an Oklahoma City officer was accused and charged with numerous sexual assault offenses against several black women in Oklahoma City.
Also in August, a Tulsa County deputy was arrested on accusations that he sexually assaulted two women while on duty, and authorities said he admitted to coercing six other women into sexual acts.
In the same month, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol arrested a state trooper on complaints that he kidnapped and sexually assaulted three women while on duty.
These incidents have some people worried for their safety during traffic stops. Although the majority of law enforcement officials are honest and hardworking, there are bad apples in every profession.
Citizens should know what their rights are and what to do during a traffic stop, especially ones that make warning bells ring.
Being pulled over at night in a lonely area that’s too dark or looks unsafe can be nerve-wracking. Instead of pulling over immediately, drive to a well-lit spot instead.
When you see those flashing lights, turn your flashers on, reduce speed and give the officer an indication that you are looking for a place to pull over that’s well-lit and safe.
Be careful of how far you go, however. Traveling several miles without pulling over puts you in danger of being charged with “eluding a police officer,” a charge much worse than your normal speeding ticket. In all things, use common sense.
If you suspect something, say something
Oklahoma City police say if you are ever scared, worried or uncomfortable while being stopped by an officer, call 911.
City Police Captain Dexter Nelson said you as a citizen can even inform the officer that you are on the phone with 911, and most will be fine with that.
Even better, 911 dispatchers can listen in on the traffic stop or confirm that a legitimate officer has pulled you over. Citizens also have the right to request a supervisor be present.
Play by the rules
No one likes being pulled over or receiving a ticket, but law enforcement officers have more than just tickets to worry about.
They have no idea if you are a dangerous criminal when they pull you over, so tensions can be high. Officers are trained to treat every traffic stop as a potential threat because they don’t know who they are stopping.
In order to protect yourself from being treated as high-risk, safety experts recommend:
Lastly, don’t bother arguing with an officer about why he pulled you over.
Save that for the courtroom, because you won’t win that debate during a traffic stop.