The Internet is alight with discussion of a police stop involving a person with a concealed carry permit and a weapon on his person. Everyone is, of course, deriding and attacking the cop without once considering that things could have come out differently. They’re calling for the cop to be fired without putting themselves in the officer’s shoes.
No one seems to want to consider that the driver being pulled over may have actually done something wrong. Oh no, he’s in the clear. The cop is entirely at fault. Okay, let’s look at this.
WJHG7, an NBC affiliate out of Florida, describes the situation:
17 seconds after getting out of the car, he is asked for his registration and insurance.
As he turns, something is slightly visible in his back pocket.
“Why do you carry a gun for?” asked Deputy Cox.
Ten seconds later, he is being held at gun point.
The driver’s name is Joel Smith, and the officer is Deputy Alan Cox. To anyone familiar with police stops and how a person should conduct themselves when detained, it should be clear that Joel Smith set himself up for problems from the get go.
First off, when you are pulled over by an officer, never leave your vehicle unless you are ordered to do so or you have received permission to do so. A lot of people who get out of their vehicles when pulled over by the cops do one of two things: run or hostilely engage the officer. When Joel left his vehicle, he already upped the officer’s alert level because Deputy Cox is not sure what Joel is going to do, and cooperation is now lower on the list of things to expect.
Second, if you have a concealed carry permit and you are also armed, you must inform the officer up front. Now I know a lot of people will come back and say “well the law says…” and I couldn’t care less. The last thing you want to do during what should be a routine traffic stop is surprise the officer as it could easily become the last thing you ever do.
And when Deputy Cox sees the weapon that Joel did not voluntarily disclose existed, how is Deputy Cox supposed to react? Remember the fact that Joel left his vehicle at the start of the encounter has already heightened Cox’s alert level. Seeing the weapon only raised it even higher.
So when you are pulled over by an officer, turn on all the lights, get and keep your hands completely visible and let the officer do the initial talking. When he or she is done, inform the officer that you have a concealed carry permit and that you have a weapon in that order. Again this is about removing surprises from the picture. If you inform the officer up front about the weapon and give the officer the opportunity to secure it, things will go much smoother than if you fail to disclose you have a weapon and the officer discovers it.
After you inform the officer that you have a permit and a weapon, again in that order, the officer will give you a series of instructions to follow. The officer’s intent at that point is to secure the weapon for their own safety. Every instruction should be followed to the letter. If you cannot follow a particular instruction, say so. Remember, you’ve just now informed a law enforcement officer that you are armed. Cooperation is your only option at that point.
So what immediately set things on a bad path for Joel was simply leaving the vehicle without being ordered out or given permission to exit. Then what upped the ante was failing to disclose up front that he had the weapon. Had he disclosed that he had the weapon and cooperated when the officer attempted to secure it, things would have turned out much better for Joel.
There’s a saying you’ve probably seen on Facebook and in other venues: “That police officer that you just called a jerk for writing you a ticket, just spent three hours on the scene of a wreck where a drunk driver killed a family of four.” I’ve seen variations on it, such as: “He delivered two death notices that morning.”
Unless you are former law enforcement, it is often difficult to put yourself in the shoes of a police officer. I think a lot of people forget that the person who pulled them over is someone who treats every encounter as if it could be their last. It isn’t asking much that you do everything in your power to make their encounter with you as smooth and nonchalant as possible. And that starts with eliminating any possibility of surprise as quickly as possible.
This means that, regardless of the laws of your State, treat every police encounter as a “must inform” situation if you are carrying. Things will go smoother for you if you do.