In an email sent out on Feb. 16 by Vice President for Student and Campus Affairs and Dean of Students Kory Vitangeli, the University of Indianapolis will start holding traffic stop training beginning in March. Sgt. Dallas Gaines Jr. said these traffic stop training sessions discuss what happens during a traffic stop, or when someone is pulled over. The training began on March 3 and will continue through the month of April, according to the email.
Workshop instructor Lt. Brandon Pate said that this training was originally taken by criminal justice students, where they would go through traffic stop scenarios. However, he said he spoke with Vice President and Chief Inclusion and Equity Officer Amber Smith about expanding the workshop.
“… We had talked about, ‘Is there something that you can do to bring more students in that have questions about traffic stops and how they should go?’” Pate said. “And the more you see in the media traffic stops going bad, the more it raises questions about, ‘What should we do? What is legal, what’s okay? What can we ask?’ So just kind of a natural progression from something we were already kind of doing with a certain group to something that we can do with everybody.”
The training begins with laying out one of a couple different pre-built scenarios, Pate said, and they will go through the scenario and follow it with a debriefing. After this portion, people will have the opportunity to ask questions.
“It’s a chance for students to look at an officer directly and say, ‘Hey, why are there four cars on a traffic stop sometimes?’ Or ‘Why does it seem like there’s always one officer standing there watching the car while the other one’s talking to somebody?’” Pate said. “Or ‘Do I have to get out of the car? Does the passenger have to show their ID?’ So it’s a chance for students to interact, ask us those questions that they’ve been wondering, or maybe some of the questions that they’ve heard of a bad scenario, and they want to ask, ‘Hey, how can we prevent that from happening?’ Or ‘Why did it go that way?’ And it’s just for us to get together and talk it out.”
The training features a relaxed environment, Pate said, and while each training session features the same content, each session is designed to have a different group attending. While these groups are invited to come, they are open to anyone, Pate said.
“The first one is Greyhound Village, [University] Lofts and College Crossing. That’s who we’re inviting to that,” Pate said. “Then we have northside residence halls, southside, RSOs [Registered Student Organizations], commuters and then some of the equity and inclusion groups. So it’ll be the same kind of structured scenario that will lead up to open conversation.”
Gaines said attendees can expect to learn how to conduct themselves at a traffic stop. He said that the traffic stop training sessions feature a low-stress environment and gives police officers a chance to engage with students.
“… It’s kind of giving the perspective from being in a traffic stop from the officer’s view and what we would like to see and what we’re kind of looking for, and the person that’s being stopped, what they see and what they should do during a traffic stop,” Gaines said. “But it’s a controlled environment; it’s safe. It takes the whole stress level out, and it’s kind of a learning tool between the community and the police department where we can have a Q and A session afterwards where they can ask us questions where you typically wouldn’t be able to ask when you’re on a traffic stop.”
Pate said the traffic stop training not only gives opportunities for community interactions, but it can also help make attendees less nervous when getting pulled over. He said that being anxious during a traffic stop can factor into someone’s reaction and an officer can notice this reaction.
“If we can kind of bridge some of that unknown, maybe on a traffic stop we won’t be as nervous. We won’t be as worried,” Pate said. “It’s important to know what your rights are on a traffic stop. It’s important to know what you can and can’t do. I think the biggest thing you can take away is just a little more comfortability. Learn the agency, learn the officers and know your rights.”
Gaines said this training can create a plan in attendees’ minds for what happens if they get pulled over. He said that for young drivers, this experience can be traumatizing, so he believes people should attend for the experience and knowledge.
“Sometimes people react differently when they’re nervous or when they’re scared, but if you have a plan ahead of time, it kind of eases that tension,” Gaines said. “When officers train, and you train for the unexpected or you train for different scenarios and stuff like that, if it’s nothing brand new, then you have some framework and some groundwork to kind of work from. But I think everybody should go through something like this too.”
The next traffic stop training will take place on April 6 from 12 p.m. – 2 p.m. at the University Police Department, according to Vitangeli’s email. Attendees will meet at noon in the parking lot or inside in the case of bad weather,