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Ask a Cop: Has police work changed you?

Ask a Cop: Has police work changed you?

Estimated read time: 9-10 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Has police work changed me?

Yes it has, and anyone who tells you different is not being honest with you or themselves. Even I started to noticed that I was more aware of my surroundings. I was looking for exits, always seeing who was coming into the area I was in, and going through scenarios in my mind if an armed man entered the store I was in.

No, I am not Jason Bourne.

This may sound nutty, but it's how they train you. One of a police officer’s biggest fears is to be caught off guard or taken advantage of. That’s why we are no fun at surprise parties, diving through the living room window screaming "freeze" kills the mood. We also tend to think we are always right. This is true of me, as sadly I am always right, which is a burden to my wife, who is more right … and patient.

Ask a Cop:

Our gestures change, along with the way we talk. If you have ever met or spoken with a cop on the SWAT team, they will always point to things with both hands as if they are holding some type of imaginary rifle (there are significant other SWAT officers laughing hysterically over this.)

We are always questioning information given to us on any topic. I feel it my duty for some reason to get to the bottom of every problem I am confronted with. This is problematic when most women just want us to listen and my daughter doesn’t really want me to go arrest Timmy at day care for pulling her hair. I catch myself verifying whether the Girl Scout at my front door is indeed a Girl Scout and not the neighborhood identity thief.

You may be thinking that all of this change is bad, but I would disagree. My family has never been the victim of identity fraud or any theft. We have always had a plan if someone was lost, there was a fire or any other situation that may arise for a family. The cynicism does increase, but so does the confidence and situational awareness. My sense of humor seems to be intact, and my strong love for my family remains.

I am looking for funny stories, either from officers or from the public who have a funny police-related story. I'm compiling some of my own, but I know there are some good ones out there. If you have one, email it to

QUESTION: Are radar detectors and laser detectors or jammers legal? If I were to have one installed on my car and an officer pulled me over after realizing his equipment didn't work on me, notwithstanding that he observed that I was clearly speeding, how should I expect him to react and what sort of penalty could I expect, if any?

Ask a Cop: Has police work changed you?

— Dayum

To Dayum:

Radar and laser detectors are not illegal, mostly because they do not work in a way that would prevent you from getting a ticket. By the time a laser detector goes off, it's already too late. I would save your money, unless you are faster than the speed of light. As far as the laser and radar jammers, they are illegal and you can be cited for it. However, the device must be operating at the time. If it is in a box in your trunk or not readily accessible, then you don't have to worry.

QUESTION: I pulled up next to a cop the other day at a red light and when I looked over he was playing solitaire on his dash-mounted laptop computer. What do you think of that? Also, can you address what I think are the biggest lapses in traffic control: 1) People continuing left turns after the light has turned red so the lanes with a green light have to wait for them to clear the intersection before proceeding. 2) Distracted drivers on cellphones trying to text message or just plain can't talk and drive at the same time (I'd seriously rather drive with drunk drivers on the road than these people). 3) Enforcing the "slower traffic keep to right" rule. Most people just plain suck at keeping to the right so faster drivers can go by.

Also, this is just a hypothetical question because I'd never do it, but what would you do if you were just driving along in your police cruiser and someone flipped you off?

— Wakejumper

To Wakejumper:

No police officer should be playing solitaire while driving or any other game. I always felt I should do my best to lead by example, and playing a game while driving is just asking for problems.

No police officer should be playing solitaire while driving or any other game. I always felt I should do my best to lead by example, and playing a game while driving is just asking for problems.

People turning left against the light are mostly doing that to be selfish. They are obviously in much more of a hurry than anyone else so they are going to turn no matter how red that light is. Those accidents can also be pretty severe when a person turns left in front of oncoming traffic. If you are already in the intersection, then go ahead and turn, you have to clear the intersection. If you aren't, just wait.

I agree with you, I think drivers who are texting and updating their Facebook on what Becky just said about Suzy are on par with drunk drivers. I have observed them swerving on the road and thought for sure the person was drunk. However, I noticed the eerie glow of a cellphone illuminating their face. When I pulled up along side, they were engrossed in whatever the tiny screen was telling them, completely unaware of my “judging” facial expression.

I do think people do not realize that the left lane, or the number one lane, not the car-pool lane, is for passing, or at least going faster than other traffic. The car-pool lane is also for driving faster than the rest of the herd, thus the benefit of car-pooling. It blows my mind why people feel that the longer the trip the further left they have to be regardless if they are going so slow that their minivan needs a walker.

What would I do if someone flipped me off? Nothing. Probably laugh. A finger does not upset me unless its poked in my eye. I have better things to do than bother myself with someone's finger Tourettes.

QUESTION: Officer Anon, what are the traffic regulations pertaining to riding in the back of a pickup? I won't let my kids do it, but I see others doing this quite often during summer months.

— Serling

To Serling:

This is covered under a few codes. There is the seat belt code. There is also another code that states you are not allowed to ride on any part of a motor vehicle not designed to carry passengers. These are not applicable to private property and private roads, however you are opening yourself up to civil liability regardless.

QUESTON: Officer Anonymous, I think this is a really great article and thanks for taking the time to answer questions. There are a lot of things officers do that I would like an explanation for, but I think my biggest question is this: Why do I get pulled over for going five over the speed limit on the freeway while four or five cars speed past me going well over the speed limit? I'm young and I drive a sports car. Am I being picked on because of this?

— Thanks, Mustang Sally

To Mustang Sally:

I would think that if an officer pulled you over for doing five over, unless it's a school zone, he is really bored or you are really attractive. That or maybe you were hanging out the window and shooting a gun in the air.

QUESTION: Officer Anonymous, when I hear about the (rare) occurrence of someone impersonating an officer and attacking women, I worry about how to keep myself safe. I especially worry about being pulled over when I am alone and driving at night. What can I do to keep myself safe in that situation and not seem disrespectful to the officer?

— Jennajensen1

To Jennajensen1:

Most officers are trained to make stops in areas that are beneficial to them. That means well lit, if at night. Sometimes that is hard to do depending on the location. You should get a feeling if the officer and the stop is legitimate. The last guy that was arrested for impersonating an officer had tattoos on his face! No officer will have that.

In almost all the impersonating circumstances, the individual was doing and asking for ridiculous things. They were also not in a full police uniform and their police car was their own vehicle with a small emergency light.

Use your common sense. If you are being stopped for a traffic offense, there is no need for you to exit the vehicle unless the officer is performing field sobriety tests, but you would have to be intoxicated. We need to establish the reasons why we feel you would be intoxicated (driving pattern, glassy bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol).

If you don't feel right, the “officer” is in regular clothes with a phony looking badge, call police dispatch and verify if a traffic stop is occurring at your location.

QUESTION: Officer Anonymous, I was recently pulled over in Orem and was told I could be taken to jail and my car could be towed because I had a warrant for $180 for an unpaid parking ticket. My fault completely, and I understood. Another police car showed up, and the officer that pulled me over told me that I could give him the $180 in cash and they'd let me go. I said I didn't have cash, but I could go to the ATM and get it and he could follow me there. He said he wasn't going to do that, but he would let me go if I immediately went to the station and paid it. Which I did. (He actually called while I was there to make sure I was paying it off.)

I am not totally familiar with the warrant process, as I had never had one before … is it customary to pay the officer the amount owed in cash instead of paying it at the police station or mailing it in? It seemed weird to me.

— Pickle!

To Pickle!:

An officer is never allowed to take money from a citizen nor should they ever ask. If an agency actually allows that, I see nothing but problems. You can always find out by calling that specific police agency or courts and verifying their procedure. I personally would not waste my time on the stop unless your license was suspended or there was something else going on. If it was just the $180 for a parking ticket, I would warn you and be on my way.

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