Two Letters Re: Plan B: Key Phrases to Memorize for Citizens’ Reservation of Rights

I am a 14-year veteran of one of the “top 10 by size” police departments in the US. My whole career has been within this department so my perception of this issue is only that of a large urban city department.

I want to comment on your article “Plan B: Key Phrases to Memorize for Citizens’ Reservation of Rights.” In my earlier days I can unfortunately admit I probably may have been one of these officers that would try to find something to turn a civil violation traffic stop into a felony arrest. I will add though that I have never violated anyone’s civil rights during my career. But I can see myself trying to find my way into someone’s car that I believed was in violation of a greater crime than just the petty violation I stopped them for.

I have never attempted or detained any motorists for the length of time described in this article. I have seen officers do it and usually found ways to help the motorist out by redirecting my fellow officer, or some similar tactic.

I would like to add though that officers who conduct themselves in this manner are outside the norm. I will also add they almost  cannot be stopped once they get it set in their minds they are going to “find something”.

Your comments on how to act around officers will work well with the majority of officers. But there will be a few who I can see that will not be deterred. I would say to those using this defense to also be prepared to have the officer become upset. Why some of them do I have no idea but they will.

If at all possible try to video or audio record the stop. Most smart phones have video recorders now. Using this might keep the officer on the right side of things if he sees you are recording him. This is more overt though and may be tough to do in all occasions. It is pretty easy to turn on an audio recording app though and stick your phone on the dashboard during the whole stop. Just make sure that such recording is not a crime in your state.

Another thing to think about in these situations is the officer may ask you to step out of the car. This will change the scenario up a bit. Not that I agree with it but per case law officers can order drivers and occupants out of the vehicle with nothing more than reasonable suspicion or “officer safety”.

Don’t feel afraid to file a complaint against them. We serve you! Many of us peace officers have forgotten this. I no longer write traffic citations to generate income. Dangerous driving and similar are the exceptions. 

I get a lot of strange looks from people when I thank them for carrying their CCW and open carried weapons and supporting the Constitution. But it is necessary!

I hope many more of my fellow peace officers will change and realize how badly they treat Citizens. I am glad I woke up and changed. – Jeff J.

Dear James:
Regarding what to do in response to being pulled over by the state or local Gestapo, err, I mean the police who then attempt a fishing expedition may I suggest a dash cam like the police have.  After watching Breakfast in Collinsville and Lodging in Collinsville in which the officer claimed the motorist violated the law by drifting over the white lane markers while the motorist stated it was the officer who had drifted over the lane markers while following the motorist I decided to take a page from Chairman Mao and get a personal dash camera.

My quest brought me to which is a clearinghouse of sorts for Chinese retailer/wholesalers to sell their products to the world market.  They withhold payment from the vendor until they receive the return post card showing the merchandise has been received.  I received my dash cam two weeks ago but the purchase still has not been posted to my credit card account. (Ebay is another option.)
After a little searching (use the phrase “Car DVR” in the search box) I jumped and purchased this dash cam that records not only the front view but with the remote camera records the rear view as well.  (I did jump too fast and overspent as I’ll explain.) 

After waiting two weeks the package arrived on a Saturday afternoon.  After a quick trip to the big box electronic store for a micro SD memory card I had a fully functional personal dash camera.  Now I feel the tables will be turned if I happen to be unfortunate enough to be seen as a possible milk cow by a law enforcement agency.
Consider the following exchange, after pulling over for the police:

Officer:  “The reason I pulled you over is because you crossed over the lane dividers several times while I happened to be behind you.”
Me:  “I crossed over the lane dividers???  Can I see your dash cam video officer so I can see for myself?
Officer:  “No, the dash cam only turns on when I activate my police lights.”
Me:  “Well officer, today’s your lucky day.  See that (pointing to my dash camera).  That is my dash cam.  It automatically starts recording three seconds after I start my car and has been recording since I left home this morning.  And see that wire, it leads to the rear camera that records motorists behind me.  Now if you give me a moment I’ll be happy to pull up the files and play them for you.  You will see that while I maintained my lane as you followed me it was you who crossed over the lane lines multiple times.  May I ask, are you under the influence of alcohol or some other drug, legal or illegal, that would cause you to drive so careless and reckless manner?”

That should end the conservation. 
Some notes on personal dash cams:
1.)  All units plug into you vehicle’s power outlet, powering up and down with the vehicle.  Some like mine comes with an extra power cord that can be wired directly into the vehicle’s fuse box. 

2.)  Most need the user to buy a micro SD card (TF card).  The bigger the memory the more of your driving is recorded.  Be sure to buy the proper “class” of card.  Most require at least a “class 6” card or better.  If the wrong class of memory card is used expect skips and jumps on the recorded video files as the result.  I have a 16 GB class 10 card.  I figure it will record 4 plus hours of continuous driving.

3.)  With mine files are saved in either 1, 2, or 5 minutes blocks of time.  The user can select the file size.  When the memory card is full the oldest files are overwritten first.  Other units record can record up to 15 minute files. 

4.)  Depending on the unit video quality can be set by the user (1080, 720, 640 x 480, etc.).  I suggest using the lowest video quality setting since it allows for more recording time.

5.)  The video files can be replayed on the camera’s video screen or transferred to a computer and played through the computer’s video player.  

6.)  There are units that have 3-axis G-force sensors that will automatically save crash event files and protect the files from being overwritten (usually 10 seconds before and 20 seconds after the crash). And there are units that allow the user to hit a button to do the same thing (Such as when you are not involved in a crash but would like to save and protect an incident.)

7.)  There are units that have GPS receivers recording the GPS location as well as the video file (example).  These units come with their own computer program that merges all the data into one viewing program using internet available maps (Google Maps).

8.)  Most units record the vehicle’s interior sound.  So no more talking to yourself as you drive! 

9.)  Most units have an internal battery and can be powered up independent of the vehicle’s power.  I would suggest if possible after being pulled over and giving the officer your driver’s license, etc. unplug the unit and power up the dash cam using the internal battery so if the officer tells you to shut off the car the camera will continue to record. 

10.)  Units can be purchased for under twenty-five dollars to hundreds of dollars (example). But for under $60 dash cams can be purchased with front and rear view cameras and a GPS receiver.  (This will be my next purchase.)

11.)  My dash cam came with instructions written in Chinese-English and the printing was so small that I had to photo-copy the instructions several times enlarging the print-out each time so I could read it – and I have 20/20 vision.  But because of the language barriers I just tinkered with my dash cam figuring it out on my own. 

Finally, poke around first before diving into the dash cam pool as there are units that have a single camera, dual cameras, dual cameras with one being a remote camera, single units with GPS, dual cameras with GPS that are either internal or external (GPS can be unplugged but the cameras still operate), etc., all for under $100.

Thanks for the Blog, – Johnny Dash Cam