Retrieving dropped items

Submitted by:
Doug Wyllie, PoliceOne Editor in Chief


It’s natural to want to immediately bend over to retrieve something that’s dropped to the ground, like a license or insurance paperwork, during a traffic stop. It’s equally natural to reflexively reach down to grab something that’s fallen out of the hand of (or been intentionally dropped by) someone you’ve stopped on an FI.

Allowing that tendency to dictate your movements during an encounter with someone who could potentially pose a threat to you can have serious consequences.

Bending over to retrieve a dropped item can expose the back of your head and neck, and can put you in a position of potentially-compromised balance, which can be extremely dangerous if traffic is zipping past you on the stop.

Depending on how you bend over, it can also divert your attention away from the subject you’ve engaged.

Make a conscious effort to practice resisting the immediacy of the “pursuit of falling objects” instinct and work instead to maintain focus on the individual you’ve encountered. Take a few moments to consider why the object has been dropped. Was it actually an accident or is he trying to lure you into bending over in front of him so he can hit you in the back of the head or kick you in the face or push you off balance so you stumble in to traffic?

Next, consider whether retrieving whatever has fallen is even necessary or worth it. If on a traffic stop, for example, you have all the paperwork you need to finish your business, and the likelihood that the piece of paper that fell to the ground is harmless and completely irrelevant to your work is high, skip it for now.

Finally, if you feel retrieval is necessary at that moment, consider exactly how you’re going to position yourself to safely pick it up. Don’t just rush in to bending down.

Doug Wyllie is Editor in Chief of PoliceOne, responsible for setting the editorial direction of the website and managing the planned editorial features by our roster of expert writers. An award-winning columnist — he is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner in the category of Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column — Doug has authored more than 900 feature articles and tactical tips on a wide range of topics and trends that affect the law enforcement community.

On a daily basis, Doug is in close personal contact with some of the top subject-matter experts in law enforcement, regularly tapping into the world-class knowledge of officers and trainers from around the United States, and working to help spread that information and insight to the hundreds of thousands of officers who visit PoliceOne every month.

Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

Even in his "spare" time, he is active in his support for the law enforcement community, contributing his time and talents toward police-related charitable events as well as participating in force-on-force training, search-and-rescue training, and other scenario-based training designed to prepare cops for the fight they face every day on the street.

Contact Doug Wyllie

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