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How to get a "thank you" for giving a ticket

Submitted by Patrolman David Alexander
Columbiana Police, Alabama

We were talking the other day at shift change. The chief was addressing a complaint that had rolled in about a traffic stop. At one point he looked at me and said, "Alexander can get someone to say 'Thank you' when he gives them a ticket."

One of the younger officers was like, "What?!"

Mind you, it takes some work, but the chief was right. Here's how I do it:

Before the stop, I go through all the drills that we practice, like planning a good pull-over location, not turning on the lights until I've called it in (if possible), making right-side approaches, etc. But then the game starts.

When I walk up, even before I see the driver, I say "hello" in as cheerful a voice as I can. Sometimes I say, "how are you doing?" or something like that.

Then I ask them for their driver's license and insurance. When I get those, I always accept them with a "thank you." Then I'll say something like, "Sir, I stopped you for speeding/running stop sign/other offense. Did you realize you did that?" In short, I try to be as nice as I can. A good phrase to keep in mind is, "Act nice and think mean."

When I get ready to walk back to the car, I always say, "I'll be back in a few minutes." I NEVER say something like, "I'm going to write you a ticket."

After I finish the ticket, I walk back up, sometimes apologizing for the delay. I hand them back their license, saying, "Here's your license back, thank you for that. Sir, I'm citing you for speeding, etc. "

Then I hand the ticket to them and say, "Have a good day and drive carefully." The entire time I'm doing this, I try to be as pleasant as I can. Yeah, sometimes I get a very obnoxious driver, and not everyone is going be happy about it...but 60-70% of the time I get a "thank you" at the end.

I know what some of you might be thinking, and I understand this doesn't work all the time. But what I am trying to convey is that this tactic can sometimes be successful. If you are getting a lot of complaints from your contacts, you might want to consider using this tip. 

Think about it. You've got nothing to prove. You're already a cop, and it's the greatest job in the world. Act nice, be pleasant, cultivate relationships through contacts with kids, teens, and adults. Talk to people. Get out and walk around and actually talk to them. You may be surprised what if can do for you.

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