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Retrieving dropped items

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.

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