Have an 'exit' strategy on vehicle stops

There is one moment when every officer should couple the knowledge and experience of the veteran with the hyper-vigilance of the rookie just out of the academy. That oft-repeated moment is when a driver or occupant exits the vehicle — expectedly or unexpectedly — during a vehicle contact.

The vigilant officer will not miss:

1. Furtive movements (reaching for or disposing of something.)
2. Whispered (or foreign language) discussion with other occupants.
3. A suspect who reaches for gears instead of door handle.
4. A wallet tossed back into the vehicle.
5. Any hands suddenly disappearing from view during the process.
6. A suspect scanning the area for witnesses or an avenue of escape.
7. Readjusting clothing to conceal a weapon.
8. A tap lightly to an area to make sure the weapon or contraband is still there and concealed.
9. An unsteady step possibly caused by impairment.
10. A delayed exit on command.
11. An unsolicited exit.
12. “I might kill you,” body language.
13. The initiation of a sudden assault!
14. Feel free to add more in comments.

Every time the door opens (yours or theirs) on a vehicle contact it should have the same effect on a street officer as the bell has on a prize fighter. You may not get up swinging, but should be alert, in a defensible position, on guard and fully prepared to defend yourself.

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