What to do if You're Pulled Over by a Cop | Street Savvy

Pull over!

Ever wish you could hear what those cops at the donut shop are talking about? As long as you can remember we’re talking about personal opinion, not public policy, pull up a chair. I’ve been riding motorcycles for 18 years and have been a police officer for six. Certain riders and certain kinds of riding tend to get my attention, followed shortly by red and blue lights and an expensive roadside conversation. Interested in signing on the dotted line? It’s easy...

Movement captures my eye. If you’re jack-assing across all four lanes, I’ll notice. Defensive riding is great; riding like an idiot is not. Treat every other person on the road as if they’re someone you care about. If you don’t like the idea of someone pulling a sketchy move on your mom, don’t pull it on someone else’s.

Riding around in a tank top and board shorts? Short of indecent exposure, I won’t stop you because of what you’re not wearing. But that outfit says you don’t value your own skin, let alone anyone else’s. You have no respect for what happens if/when you crash. And if you don’t understand that, it’s likely you don’t understand the limits of your bike. Either way, you now have my attention as a wreck looking for a place to happen.

A friend once told me at the scene of a fatal motorcycle accident that he wished more riders wore a suit like my two-piece Aerostich: It would keep all the parts together after they crash. Ouch. The recently deceased’s helmet was bungeed to the pillion; we found it 150 yards away. It’s interesting: I’ve never seen an ATGATT (military shorthand for All The Gear All The Time) rider ride like an idiot. Maybe there’s a corollary between what you wear and how you ride.

If I want to talk to you, I’ll find a legal reason. It may be a chicken-sh*t reason, and it may not be ticketable, but we’ll talk. That altered license-plate mount gives me legal authority to get a boot deep in your businessdon’t do it unless you like visiting with me. It’s really not that cool anyway. And why would you jack with it except to keep me from seeing your plate? It makes me think you’re more likely to run if I light you up, which means our roadside conversation may not get off to the friendly start we both might have hoped for.

A traffic stop is one of the most stressful things a police officer does. Most violators are just good people in brain-fart moments, but there are vicious criminals and psychopaths out there, too. There wouldn’t be TV shows like Cops if there weren’t. I don’t know you, so don’t do anything that might heighten my tension level. Turn off your bike. Stay seated. Take your hands off the bars. Give me the space to figure out what’s going on. And please don’t wait until I’m on foot and then gas itI’ll be forced to call my friends on the radio and then we’ll all talk! Instead of a ticket and an ass-chewing, you’ll be looking at felony evasion charges and jail time. You can’t outrun the Motorola...

I have some idea about the circumstances surrounding any particular offense; we’re trained to keep an open mind. Just give me a calm, reasoned explanation. We’re lied to constantly, which makes just talking to someone an absolute delight. If you were a little out of control, honesty goes a lot farther than bullsh*t. I’ve downgraded tickets to warnings because the rider (or driver) made it clear he understood what had happened and convinced me it wouldn’t happen again.

I’m not here to write tickets; I’m here to gain your voluntary compliance. We don’t need your moneynot my state anyway. I understand your bike’s physical disadvantage. I’ll make an allowance for your safety, but don’t abuse it. Be honest with me and you’ll be surprised at how well things turn out.

Officer Friendly isn’t our friend’s real name, but he is a real cop, offering a little friendly advice. We left his name out to prevent personal opinion from conflicting with professional policy.