Making a traffic stop can be tricky

-A A +A
By Sarah Bennett

A News-Enterprise reporter and photographer recently had the opportunity to ride with Officer John Thomas and Officer Reggie Latham. That night, Thomas assisted Latham on a traffic stop off South Wilson Road.

Latham found a half-smoked marijuana joint and rolling papers in the driver’s vehicle and the officers conducted a field sobriety test.

The driver told the officers the joint belonged to someone who wasn’t in the car, Thomas said, but was displaying physical signs of smoking marijuana.

He also gave two different answers when asked where he was going, telling one officer he was going to his brother’s and the other to his mom’s, Thomas said.

Though he wasn’t arrested, Latham ultimately cited the driver for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

A good way to discern if something is going on during a traffic stop, he said, is to ask the driver a lot of questions.

“If they are lying, they’ll give a bunch of different answers without ever really answering the question,” he said.

As they patrol roadways, police are looking for patterns, Thomas said, things that don’t look right, such as no headlights or a noisy vehicle.

When making a stop, especially at night, an officer has no idea who is behind the wheel of a vehicle and what is going to happen, Thomas explained, which is why residents see officers approach a vehicle with a hand on his or her weapon.

“There’s no such thing as a routine stop,” he said.

As an officer interacts with a driver, he may choose to let him or her driver go with a warning, Thomas explained. For many people, this is effective as they find the blue lights and getting pulled over uncomfortable.

However, there are those who have a history of violations, he said, adding it’s somewhat routine to pull a vehicle over for something as simple as not wearing a seatbelt and uncover something more serious at play.

Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or sbennett@thenewsenterprise.com.