July 21, 2020

| Whenever a peace officer considers meeting or stopping a person(s), the officer must have an established policing mindset regarding the individual’s possible possession of a weapon and violence potential.  These law enforcement abilities involve a mental process and way of thinking that are developed through personal experiences, real world information, skill practice and repetition, and training.

When encountering or stopping people, the following are suggested law enforcement best practices and considerations:

  • Always consider the person to be possibly armed and potentially a danger to public or officer safety.
  • Never allow a complacent mindset to develop that elderly, female, injured, or juvenile individuals pose no threat due to their age, appearance, gender, sex, or size to maximize safety.
  • Have clear thoughts and various options when you conduct initiated
  • activities – pedestrian stops and vehicle pullovers, and responses to crimes in progress or service calls, that demand different verbal strategies, de-escalation techniques, and use of force options.
  • Take into account the nationwide variety of pullover and stop terminology.  The following categories are offered for reflection:

– Vehicle Enforcement


-High Risk

  • Utilize a backup officer to serve as the cover officer when you are searching someone.
  • Develop a keen sense for recognizing behavioral cues of reading the scene and reaction to police presence before policing actions are initiated. [1]
  • Gather and analyze actionable information to determine the safest tactics prior to contact.
  • Divide weapons into two categories – concealed (on or off the body) and disguised.

-Concealed – hiding and keeping from being seen or secret, etc.

-Disguised – creating a different appearance, making a weapon unrecognizable, and obscuring, etc.

  • Recognize a classification of weapons that include the following broad categories:

-Blunt objects – bat, board, brass knuckles, club, hammer, and pipe, etc.

-Edged weapons – cutting instrument, knife, and penetrating point, etc.

-Explosive devices – booby traps, bomb, and improvised explosive device, etc.

-Firearms – handgun, rifle (semi-automatic or automatic), and shotgun

-Personal weapons – hands, fists, and feet

-Unusual – bow and arrow, fire (Molotov cocktail), and poison (food ordered while in uniform), etc.

-Vehicles [2] [3]

  • Consider the unanticipated places where a weapon could be concealed, i.e. the groin area and inside footwear, etc.
  • Review police equipment catalogues to consider holsters that conceal firearms and other weapons.
  • Determine the position of disadvantage for the person suspected of a crime.
  • Assume a position of advantage and display weapon retention competence.
  • Be proficient in the application of a control hold and handcuffing.
  • Never hesitate as a cover officer to communicate a reminder or warning to emphasize safety or stop an unethical action.
  • Appreciate the law enforcement lesson learned when officers have not exercised the right to handcuff prior to starting a search.
  • Remember it is a common criminal trait to carry more than one weapon – find one weapon, then search for the next dangerous armament.

These suggested best practices are not inclusive for effectively and safely conducting stops and searches. This material is offered for thought, to promote discussion, and a reminder to always be safe and vigilant.

Why should I review this information?

Unfortunately, the history of law enforcement injuries and deaths are littered with too many examples where weapons were not discovered during stops and prisoner transportation.  These tragic incidents demonstrate that the officers involved may have been complacent, used unsafe tactics, or underestimated their attacker.

Potential and in-service law enforcement personnel should constantly review their policing mindset and tactical procedures when they encounter and stop people.  An officer’s awareness and confidence will enhance personal safety.


[1]  Article: Safe Distancing: Adapting to an Invisible Threat, https://www.lawofficer.com/invisible-threat/

[2] Thought of the Week: Ambush Attacks Using Vehicles Upon LEOs, https://leoka.org/2020/06/14/june-14-2020/

[3] FBI Report: Ambushes and Unprovoked Attacks on Law Enforcement Officers, https://publicintelligence.net/fbi-ambushes-unprovoked-attacks/