Letters to the Editor
... input from forum participants


Overzealous MTA Sheriffs - how to behave during a traffic stop

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following email was sent in response to a community member complaining on the Northeast LA e-group about the fear of being "harassed" by "overzealous" MTA Sheriffs, new to the area. We thought the answer contained a lot of useful information.

March 30th

I don't know what your problem is with law enforcement but allow me to give you some advice.

I am 51 years old and grew up in East L.A. During my lifetime I have been stopped by L.A.P.D., L.A.S.D., CHP and a few other law enforcement agencies. I have never had a bad experience with any of them in all the times I have been pulled over.

Here is why.

Whenever I saw the red lights in my rear view mirror I would

1) immediately pull over to the right and stop,
2) turn off my engine,
3) roll down my side window all the way down,
4) place my hands on the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 o'clock positions,
4) face forward looking straight ahead.

When the officer approaches the side of my vehicle I don't turn to him (or her) until the officer speaks to me. I then turn my head to the officer and make eye to eye contact. The officer will usually ask for drivers license, registration and proof of insurance.

I continue to keep my hands on the steering wheel and inform the officer that the requested documents are in my glove compartment, wallet or wherever they happen to be. I then ask permission to retrieve the documents and wait for the okay from the officer.

I then, very slowly, retrieve the documents and hand them to the officer always keeping both my hands visible to the officer.

If the officer asks me questions or makes statements I don't become argumentative. I just answer all his or her questions very clearly and follow each response with yes sir, no sir, yes ma'am or no ma'am.

When the officer tells me the reason I was stopped it is usually for something I did or due to something that may be wrong with my vehicle. I have been issued citations from time to time over my lifetime but more times than not the officer usually just gave me a warning due to my calm, polite and cooperative demeanor.

Law enforcement people are also human (contrary to popular belief) and like going home after their shift to be with their families and loved ones.

Now I know there are a very small percentage of abusive police officers but every police agency has a form and procedure that citizen can file that the police agency will investigate and take the appropriate action against the offending officers.

They don't like the bad apples any more than we do and actually welcome citizen complaints.

I hope this information helps you in the future if you ever get pulled over again.

Here's a final hint to prevent getting pulled over. Obey all the traffic laws while operating a motor vehicle and make sure your vehicle is street legal with up-to-date tags on your license plate, have properly operating brake lights, signal lights and head lights. And make sure your tires are not severely worn.

If all these items are abided by it makes it very difficult for an officer to have probable cause to pull you over.

Good luck and happy motoring.


Joe Sandoval

Northeast LA