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Traffic stops never ‘routine’

Jackson Bell

When stopping cars or approaching them in traffic, Glendale Police

Lt. Don Meredith operates under a three-part rule of thumb.

Meredith, commander of the department’s traffic bureau, says


officers must rely on their training, experience and instincts at all


"[Vehicle] occupants know what they’ve done and if they’re armed

or not, whereas officers have no knowledge of what they may do or


what they’re about,” he said. “That gives occupants a knowledge- able

advantage over officers.”

The slaying of Burbank Police Officer Matthew Pavelka, who was

shot along with Officer Gregory Campbell outside of a Ramada Inn on

Saturday, served to remind area police about the importance of

playing it safe when approaching occupied vehicles.

“There never is a ‘routine’ traffic stop,” said California Highway

Patrol Officer Vince Bell. “What happened Saturday night is actually


what we anticipate and prepare for.”

Among the tactics patrol officers use during traffic stops are

finding safe spots in which to pull over, observing the movements of

the occupants and standing behind the driver’s seat when approaching

the vehicle.

“This allows the officer to watch the person in the rear seat, and

it also forces the driver to turn to look at the officer,” Meredith

said. “This makes it a lot harder [for a potential gunman] to try


something, and it might give the officer an extra second to respond

if they do.”

Another danger Meredith and Bell said officers face when making

stops is traffic rushing by. Bell added that more CHP officers are

injured more frequently from other drivers than anything else.

But no matter how careful, Burbank Police Sgt. William Berry said

police work is dangerous and that the willingness on the part of

Campbell and Pavelka to approach a suspicious vehicle helps keeps the

rest of the public safe.

“It could have been any one of us shot if the officers hadn’t been

there,” Berry said.