Traffic stop safety program nearly ready for public in DuPage
Police relationships with minority communities have been discussed in general terms across DuPage County for years, but police chiefs say it's now time to get specific.
Starting with the topic of traffic stops -- how officers approach a stop and how drivers can stay safe -- the chiefs are nearly ready to roll out a series of educational presentations that explain and examine interactions between officers and residents.
"There's been town halls, and that's all good, but this is actually delving into a specific issue where we're seeing negative incidents happen across the country. This is more specific," Lisle Chief David Anderson said about the traffic stops program, which is ready for a trial run this weekend before an invited audience. "I hear from my community members, 'I'm concerned if I get stopped.' This is hopefully going to alleviate some of that concern."
Anderson has worked with Darien Chief Greg Thomas, formerly chief in Aurora, and with a community group called Unity Partnership to develop a two-hour presentation with videos showing examples of good and bad traffic stops, and time for discussion.
"It will be how to conduct yourself as a citizen during traffic stops," said Regina Brent of Aurora, president and founder of Unity Partnership. "What to do to stay safe when it comes to being stopped on the road regarding traffic violations or inquiries or investigations, for that matter. How to file complaints if you feel that you have experienced a disservice by an officer or even what your rights are."
The program will teach best practices for drivers responding to traffic stops, with tips based on the Illinois Secretary of State's Rules of the Road, Anderson said.
• Don't slam on the brakes, but pull to the right and stop; stay in your car unless asked to exit.
• Put both hands on the steering wheel and stay calm.
• Comply with the officer's requests to see a driver's license and proof of insurance.
• Narrate all movements and get permission to move to gather your license and insurance.
• Do not argue.
• Acknowledge a violation, if one occurred, and apologize for behavior as appropriate.
• If you're unhappy with the officer's behavior, file a complaint with the police department later.
Paul Scott, a Unity Partnership member, predicts the DuPage African Methodist Episcopal Church members who will hear the test presentation Saturday will have much to say about the tip of acknowledging a violation. He said it feels like admitting guilt, although Anderson and Thomas said officers don't see it that way.
"What police are looking for when they make a stop is to change behavior," Anderson said. "We're looking for voluntary compliance."
That's why more than 75 percent of traffic stops in Lisle end in warnings, Anderson said. In Darien, 58 percent of drivers stopped are given warnings, and in Aurora, 47 percent of those stopped receive warnings, Thomas said.
Once police present the program to the DuPage AME audience, they plan to enhance it to address any new questions. Then the presentation will be available to other police chiefs to discuss during educational sessions with their communities.
Thomas and Anderson said future presentations might address topics such as use of force or racial profiling.
"I see it as one in a series," Thomas said.
Unity Partnership also plans to continue addressing those issues.
"We continue to meet with law enforcement," Brent said, "in order to eradicate the stereotypes and the racial profiling and to address implicit bias."