Why fewer HPD traffic stops?

There is a lot of discussion going on about the fact that traffic stops are down around the department.  A recent report showed that very few patrol officers conduct proactive traffic stops or on-view investigations.

I received a call from several within the command staff asking what can be done to improve the traffic stop numbers.  It is well known that traffic stops often lead to arrest for various violations of the law. For a number of years TACT teams and gang units have been using traffic stops for probable cause, that have led to the arrest of crooks.

Over these years, the tactics have changed, so longer investigations are conducted to go after robbery crews, juggers and other violent offenders. This is a big shift in mindset that has allowed our TACT teams to truly thwart crime in their areas and across the city.

With the numbers of stops decreasing among the specialized units, the patrol officers’ numbers are even worse. I believe that there are several reasons for this. The main reason is that there are not enough patrol units. As we sit today, EVERY patrol station is low on active patrol officers. It is hard to call out on traffic when you are going from call to call. Many times, people are afraid to get hung up on an arrest because that takes you out of service, leaving the officers in the district with no back-up in some cases.  Then there is the elephant in the room….discipline!

Let’s face it, officers who are proactive are much more likely to get into trouble while just doing their jobs. Proactive officers draw complaints at a much higher rate, I know because I was one of those officers.

I advised the command staff that the fear of IAD is the main reason why officers do not conduct as many traffic stops. Most in the command level do not believe me or agree with that assumption. I have spoken with patrol officers across the city, and all have said that the main reason is fear of discipline.

With 500 pages of General Orders, chances are that you violate one every day. This is a job in which people are humans, not robots. Mistakes happen, and if they are caught on body camera, or you draw a complaint from a citizen, you can bet there will be an investigation and discipline.

To be fair, I also have to say that the discipline process appears to be changing. More cases are being closed out after confirming that the activity did not happen or was justified, by the body camera videos.

We also are working better with the command staff when we have cases that should not have been filed by a supervisor. All our supervisors should be conferring with their commander before filing any complaint.

Our officers are the best in the nation – a fact we prove that every day with our actions. Each officer must make the determination as to what they do while on patrol. My main concern is that we all stay safe and enjoy doing what most of us love – being an HPD officer.