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Departments : Officer Survival

The Call Out

Why walk up on a carload of people when you can have the driver come to you?

December 01, 2002  |  by Michael T. Rayburn - Also by this author

Tactical Advantage

Now that we've discussed the mechanics of the call out, let's talk about its benefits. This is a great tactic to use on larger vehicles such as vans and SUVs, and for vehicles with tinted windows. Rather than approaching the vehicle blindly, have the operator step out of the vehicle and come to you.

The same is true of vehicles that contain multiple subjects. Why walk up on a carload of individuals when you can have the person you want walk back to you? You may not have the justification for a high-risk stop, but the last thing you want to do is walk up to a carload of possible gang members in the middle of the night.

The call out is also a good tactic to use when the offender exits his vehicle and starts walking back to your location. Those of you working drug interdiction have seen this maneuver a thousand times before. The offender exits the vehicle to distance herself from the vehicle or to keep you away from it in an attempt to prevent you from picking up on any contraband indicators. Little does she know that she's playing right into your hand.

Directing the offender to the middle of your car’s hood allows you to keep your patrol car between the two of you as a barrier. Also, in this position, your car’s many lights will make it difficult for the offender to focus on you.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of the call out is that it's unexpected. Motorists do not expect to be called out of their vehicles by traffic officers and it takes people by surprise.

The element of surprise always works to your advantage. If the subject had a plan to attack you when you approached the vehicle, he is now forced to rethink or abandon it. The same is true if the subject had a plan to exit his vehicle and attack you.

Ordering the subject out of his car also gives you a heads up on whether he will be compliant. If the subject ignores your commands to step to the curb, it's a good indicator of where this stop is going. Even if he obeys, you can read the subject's body language as he approaches and look for any aggressive behavior and conduct a visual frisk for any suspicious bulges that may indicate a weapon. The suspect's hands are also visible for inspection as he walks back to your location.

By performing the call out, you are less distracted and less vulnerable to passing traffic. Should a fight ensue it is always better to be fighting with some drunk on the side of the road than it is to be battling it out in the middle of a four-lane highway as vehicles go roaring by you at high speeds.

The advantages to the call out are many. I've just listed a few here to show you that this is a viable alternative to the traditional left-side or right-side approaches. The call out is just one more option to put into our "tactical toolbox" to keep us safe on the streets.

Do we need such options in our tactical toolbox? Considering that Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, and three of the 9/11 terrorists are just a few of the people who police have encountered at "routine" traffic stops, you bet we do.

Is it Legal?

Pennsylvania v. Mimms, 434 U. S. 106 (1977) gives you the authority to order the driver out of the vehicle while Maryland v. Wilson, 519 U. S. 408 (1997) gives you the authority to order any passengers out of the vehicle.

Executing the Call Out

The idea behind the call out is to ensure your safety, as well as the safety of the traffic violator.

√ Place your cruiser in the left offset position.
√ Unlock your passenger door.
√ Exit your car.
√ Stand by your car for a moment to make sure the occupants of the vehicle you pulled are not exiting.
√ If they try to get out, order them back in.
√ If no one gets out of the violator car, walk around the back of your cruiser to the passenger side.
√ Use your PA to call the driver out of his or her car.
√ Order the driver to walk back to your position.
√ Visually "frisk" the approaching driver for weapons.
√ When the driver is close enough to hear you, put down the PA and speak normally.
√ If additional paperwork is needed from the subject's car. Order a passenger to bring it to you. When no passengers are in the car, go back with the driver to get the paperwork. Don't let the driver get back into the car.
√ Issue the ticket or warning.
√ Dismiss the driver following proper safety protocol.

Michael T. Rayburn is a 25-year veteran of law enforcement and a senior patrolman with the Saratoga Springs (N.Y.) Police Department. He is the author of "Advanced Vehicle Stop Tactics," available from Looseleaf Law Publications (

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