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
“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.