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Welch: Citizens Police Academy week 2 - Unknown risk traffic stops

Week two of the Covington Police Department’s citizen’s academy was interesting, educational and painful. Interesting and educational because we learned about the patrol division, the use of intelligence in policing and why cops act the way they do on traffic stops. It was painful because I got tased.

Captain Phillip Bradford, commander of the patrol division at CPD explained that the patrol division is the most visible branch of the department. Every officer wears the exact same uniform, carries the same equipment and drives a vehicle with the exact same markings.

The patrol division is the largest branch of CPD and could be considered the “first responders” of the department. They respond first to calls for service. In the event of a serious crime, they secure the scene and conduct the initial investigation.

In addition to their uniforms and shoes, patrol officers wear equipment that can weigh between 25 and 35 pounds. Sometimes they have to chase down and catch perpetrators wearing considerably less.

The CPD patrol division performs response-based policing, responding to 911 calls for service and proactive policing, investigating suspicious people they come across, checking buildings and because crime moves in cars, conducting traffic stops.

Bradford told us something I had never considered – there is really no such thing as a routine traffic stop. He explained that traffic stops can be fraught with danger and should be considered “unknown risk” traffic stops.

A scenario goes like this. Let’s say I just shot somebody and I’m in the process of making my escape. Along the way, I run a red light and a police officer or deputy sees me. He or she initiates a traffic stop for the red light violation not knowing I just shot somebody.  In my mind I’m thinking he or she is stopping me because they know I just shot somebody.

They approach my car thinking all I’ve done is run that red light. I know I shot somebody.

How will I react?

That’s a danger that officers and deputies are faced with every time they conduct a traffic stop. Who are they stopping and what have they done besides running that red light?

Bradford explained that’s why cops approach stopped vehicles with their hand on their weapon. It’s also why they sometimes approach from the passenger side of a vehicle away from the traffic.

Without trying to sound too maudlin, it seems like cops always have to be on guard because they don’t know who they’ve stopped or what’s going to happen next.

The patrol division also performs service-based policing providing services to enhance the quality of life, public safety and security in Covington.  Bradford said CPD tries to build relationships with the people they serve before they need the police.

“You can’t build relationships in crisis,” he said.

Officer Allan Seebaran told us how the department’s intelligence-led policing is used to reduce crime through analysis and intelligence.

He explained how the department uses intelligence and crime analysis to spot trends and patterns in order to place officers where they need to be to prevent a crime from occurring or in position to quickly apprehend the perpetrators if a crime is committed.

Seebaran also serves as the advisor for the department’s explorer program. He explained that the purpose of the program is to give students hands-on knowledge and training in policing. The CPD currently has 27 explorers in the program.

Finally, we learned about tasers. The taser is an electric shock tool that uses electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles.

Some of my favorite “Cops” episodes are entitled “Tased and Confused.” In those episodes, the arrestees resist to an extreme that usually ends with them being tased.

We’ve all seen stories vilifying law enforcement when tasers are used and somebody unfortunately dies. I’ve written stories about arrests where tasers were used. To know more about it, I got tased.

I hate to say it was painful because that might send the wrong message. It was not pleasant and it affected my ability to pull away from retired Assistant Chief Almond Turner and Officer Seebaran who were holding me.  It would have taken the fight out of me on the side of the road at 3 a.m.

Lt. Mike Tinsley explained that the taser causes neuromuscular incapacitation. It is a less lethal way for an officer or deputy to gain control of somebody who is fighting them.

From what I heard about people who have been tased, most don’t want to be again. I know I don’t.  Tinsley explained that the proper use of tasers reduces the risk of injury to both the cop and the perp. that can happen during a fight. I’m thinking any tool that helps prevent injury to those who protect us when it’s used properly is a good tool.

And if some cops use it wrong, they deserve the consequences for their actions.

Tuesday, we’re going to get to experience something else that causes second-guessing of law enforcement by my profession – use of force and shoot or don’t shoot scenarios. I’ll tell you all about it.

Darryl Welch is a staff writer for The Covington News. He can be reached at or 770-728-1438.