DEAR ABBY: I'd like to respond to the recent letter from the woman with three college-age children, all of whom drive. She said she was concerned about their responses should they get pulled over by police.
As a police officer for 15 years, I recommend the following guidelines for anyone who is pulled over by the police:
(1) Shut off the engine and remain inside your car unless the officer requests that you exit.
(2) Have your license, registration and insurance card in a convenient location so they are easily accessible. Fumbling around inside your car for "lost or missing" paperwork should be kept to a minimum.
(3) Keep your hands on the steering wheel and avoid making moves that could be interpreted as sudden or threatening.
(4) In the event other passengers are riding with you, ask them to refrain from making comments.
(5) If the stop is at night and it's possible, pull over in a well-lighted area. Remember, we are humans, and we get nervous, too!
(6) Turn on the interior light and keep it on in order for the officer to see inside your car. It shows that you are concerned for your safety as well as ours.
(7) Do not argue with the officer. If you are treated unfairly, get the officer's name and badge number. You can follow up by notifying the officer's superior and filing a complaint against him or her. -- SGT. GISELLE DOSZPOJ, BRIDGEPORT, CONN.
DEAR SGT. DOSZPOJ: Thank you for your sensible suggestions, which are far more inclusive than mine. You are not the only law enforcement person who responded to that letter. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: As a retired police officer, I assure you that you were right on the money when reminding readers of the danger of law enforcement. There are not many jobs in America where one goes to work every day mentally exercising his or her action if confronted with an armed individual during the shift. Police live with this possibility and repress any fear in order to concentrate on the task at hand. I don't recommend a shift filled with paranoia any more than I recommend complacency.
Nationally, the year 1974 holds the record for the most officer deaths, at 230. The annual average in the 1970s was 222 deaths, the 1980s about 187 deaths and the 1990s at 153 deaths per year. A fair estimate of the intentional murder of officers is about 55 percent of the figures you see above. A large percentage of them occurred on America's roadways. There is no acceptable number of police fatalities, as there is none for civilian fatalities. -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT IN TENNESSEE
DEAR BEEN THERE: I have tremendous respect for those who put on their uniforms every day, kiss their husbands or wives and children goodbye, and live with the reality that it could be for the last time. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: While I agree that law enforcement is a thankless and often hazardous occupation, the fact remains that police officers are professionals and should be held to professional standards of behavior. All citizens, including the young, have a right to expect courteous and professional treatment from the police -- and it certainly is unprofessional for a police officer to "yell at and ridicule" a teen-age girl for trembling in his presence.
We should never simply accept such conduct as the way things are. It is up to us to demand higher standards, better training and higher salaries for our police officers, and to report discourteous officers to the appropriate authorities. It is an uphill battle, but one worth fighting if we want to remain in a free society. -- M.B., TRAVELERS REST, S.C.
DEAR M.B.: I agree wholeheartedly.