North Carolina legislators are going on the offense, protecting those whose job is defense.
Last week, the North Carolina General Assembly and Gov. Roy Cooper passed into law House Bill 21, which takes aim at the relationships between drivers and officers of the law. Entitled “Driver Instruction/Law Enforcement Stops,” the law mandates the Department of Public Instruction incorporate into its driver education curriculum instruction on how to deal with law enforcement officers.
“Very few people go through life without being stopped at some point in time,” said Chief Deputy Larry Guyton with the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office. “Just like you have to know what road signs mean and what they stand for, this is a part of the driving experience that people need to know.”
The new law reads, in part, that potential drivers will learn information “on law enforcement procedures for traffic stops” and “a description of the actions that a motorist should take during a traffic stop, including appropriate interaction with law enforcement officers.”
So what does appropriate interaction look like, according to law officers?
“An officers’ main concern is that they want to be able to see a person’s hands — that’s an officer safety issue — so the advice I give my daughter or anybody else who asks, is to roll the window down,” explained Guyton. “If you’re not sure if they’re wearing a uniform, you don’t have to roll the window all the way down, just far enough to communicate, talk, and pass the drivers’s license through the window.
“If an officer is in plain clothes, you can ask to see his ID — there’s nothing wrong with that, and it’s a good idea to ask if you’re not sure, and an officer should be able to provide identification. But if they’re in a marked car, it’s usually pretty obvious, so when an officer approaches, you should have your hands on the steering wheel in plain view.”
Guyton added that videotaping is “the nature of the beast any more,” and completely legal, and at least it lets officers see the driver’s hands.
While the instinct of most drivers may be to reach for the glove compartment to retrieve a registration card, Guyton suggested an alternative.
“If it’s in the glove box, tell the officer where it is, open it, let him see that there’s no weapon in the glove box, and hand over the documentation he’s asked for,” Guyton suggested. “The officer should tell you his reason for stopping you and what his enforcement action will be.”
“Education is always key to anything,” said Elizabethtown Police Chief Tony Parrish. “Any time people want to put together a program to help educate people, I see that as a good thing.”
The curriculum will be developed in consultation with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, the North Carolina Association of Chiefs of Police, and the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association.
The law will go into effect beginning with the 2017-18 school year.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing email@example.com.