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Interacting with a Police Officer

Interacting with a Police Officer

 

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Interacting with a Police Officer (Traffic Stop)


Hello! In this lesson, we will learn the English associated with interacting with a police officer. There are several situations which might warrant interaction with a police officer – reporting a crime, calling for help, or being stopped by a police officer.

People are stopped by police for several reasons: making excessive noise, walking or driving drunk, driving over the speed limit, and fighting or threatening another person. In this lesson, we will show what happens when David is stopped for driving over the speed limit.

Police Officer: Do you know how fast you were going?

David: I think I was going about thirty-five.

Police: I clocked you going forty-five in a thirty-five mile zone.

David: Oh.

Police Officer: I'll need to see your driver's license and registration, please.

David: Here's my license. (handing it over ) (getting registration.) Here's my registration.

Police: Where are you going?

David: I'm going to work.

Police: I'm going to issue you a citation for going ten miles over the limit. Wait here.

David: Okay.

Police: This is a citation for speeding. Sign here. Your signature doesn't indicate agreement.

David: (signs) okay.

Police: You have ten days to pay this amount (pointing) or appeal this citation in court. Do you understand?

David: Yes, I do.

Police: All right. You are free to go. Have a good day, and slow down.

David: Thank you.

In this scenario, the police officer asks David "Do you know how fast you were going?".

David does not think he was speeding, so he answers that he thinks he was going the speed limit of thirty-five miles per hour. He says "I think I was going about thirty-five.".

He is careful not to confront the officer or yell at the officer. He should answer the question as politely as he can. While it is not against the law to use profanity against the officer, David realizes that it will not help him to do so.

The police officer says "I clocked you going 45 in a 35 mile zone.". This means that the officer used radar to establish David's speed, and therefore has evidence against David in case David decides to appeal his citation in court. Going ten miles over the speed is considered a fairly significant amount over the limit.

People can lose their license for going 11 miles over the limit. David responds by saying "Oh.". He does not try to talk the officer out of his statement. He does not argue.

The police officer says "I'll need to see your driver's license and registration.". He might have said "Let me see your driver's license and registration.".

David reaches carefully into his pocket to get his driver's license. He is careful not to show any money which might be construed as offering a bribe to the officer. David takes his driver's license out of his wallet to be sure it does not seem he is offering money to the officer.

David hands over his license and the car's registration. He is sure not to make any sudden moves. The police officer watches David very closely. The police officer is trained to be ready for threats and does not know who David is.

The officer asks David "Where are you going?". The officer is trying to establish whether David might have a good reason for speeding. Some good reasons might be a life-or-death situation, a wife who is in labor in the car, a sick child.

If the police officer finds that any of these situations are happening, he or she might offer to help David get to the hospital or to the emergency service required. But David does not have an emergency situation.

He tells the truth, which is "I'm going to work.". What if David had a real emergency? What if his wife were in labor in the passenger seat next to him? He could say "My wife is having a baby!" or "My wife is in labor!".

What if his nephew James were having an asthma attack in the passenger seat?" He could say "Look! My nephew can't breathe!". David could expect the police officer to help him in any of those circumstances.

The police officer tells David "I'm going to issue you a citation for going ten miles over the speed limit. Wait here.". He could have said "I'm giving you a speeding ticket for going ten miles over the limit.". He is going back to his squad car to check whether David's license is valid, and whether David is wanted for any crimes.

It is important for David to stay in his car during this time. If David gets out of the car and approaches the police officer, or makes any other sudden moves, the officer might take David's movement as a threat.
The police officer says "This is a citation for speeding. Sign here. Your signature doesn't indicate agreement.".

The officer wants David to sign. David signs, even though he does not agree that he was speeding. His signature does not remove his right to appeal this citation later. David does not argue about signing. He treats this stop like any other business transaction. He is not happy, but he knows the officer is doing his job.

The officer says "You have ten days to pay this amount (pointing) or appeal this citation in court. Do you understand?". David does understand, so he says "Yes, I do.". If he did not understand, he would say "No, I do not understand. Can you repeat it more slowly, please?".

If David didn't speak much English, he could say "English is not my native language. Can you repeat that, please?".

The officer then closes the traffic stop by saying "All right. You are free to go. Have a good day, and slow down.". David thanks the officer by saying "Thank you.".

It is important to be polite to police officers in the U.S. and Canada. It is not common to argue with them or to get angry at them. They are trained to be polite in stopping people, but they are capable of as much force as necessary, and they can call for backup if they need assistance from other police officers.

It is also imperative that you never offer anything that could possibly be construed as a bribe to a police officer or make any kind of offer that could be seen as a deal of some sort. Officers might be taping your conversation, so even if you are joking, the evidence against you will be overwhelming, and most police will not take bribes, regardless of what police on TV programs might do.

Great! You are ready to interact with a police officer if you are stopped for speeding. "Slow down!".