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Can a Police Officer Order a Driver Out of a Car? Experts Weigh In

July 23, 2015  | 

Can a police officer order a person out of his car during a routine traffic stop as a Texas trooper did to Sandra Bland, who was later found dead in her jail cell? And what about ordering the driver to put out a cigarette while he is still in his car?

Retired Los Angeles Police Capt. Greg Meyer said Bland's behavior led to the result, reports the Los Angeles Times.

"Officers have complete discretion to control the movements of the violator, including making them get out the car," he said.

Meyer said it is standard practice to have someone put out their cigarette.

"No one, including a police officer, wants to get a burning cigarette jammed into their face or eye; it's basic procedure," he said. "The officer asked politely if she would mind putting out her cigarette. The violator then raised her voice, actively resisted multiple lawful directions to get out of the car. The officer requested a backup officer to respond. The officer raised his voice several times in what turned out to be a futile effort to overcome that resistance."

In hindsight, Meyer said, it may have been better to wait for backup. "The lady seemed committed to her resistance to lawful detention and arrest, so the presence of a backup unit might not have made much difference," he said.

"This is yet another case of someone who chooses to illegally resist the directions of a police officer, thus escalating the situation," he said.


Comments (11)

Displaying 1 - 11 of 11

westcoastleo @ 7/23/2015 4:50 PM

The trooper stopped her for a traffic violation, he made the approach and ordered her to put down her cigarette and produce her license. The second that she refused his orders, gave him the right to get her out of the car and take her to jail. I'm sure her intoxication of the marijuana clouded her thoughts and caused this incident.

WUP @ 7/23/2015 6:55 PM

Maybe you should read what Texas DPS has to say. They are not standing behind this cop. All he need to do was show common courtesy, give the citation and be own his way. He esculated the stop - not my words, read what Texas DPS has to say about the stop.

If he would have just done his job and not have gotten so mad.... She would be alive and he would have a career.

DelLEO @ 7/24/2015 6:35 AM

DPS placed him on admin. So what? Thats doesnt mean the he is criminally negligent in his duties. Breaking a department policy (a weak one at that), does not constitute criminal actions. This woman already had her own agenda. Accountability: Something people in this country are losing on a daily basis. Accept the actions for your decisions, it is not societies fault it's your own!!

Jack @ 7/24/2015 6:55 AM

Westcoastleo, you apparently haven't watched the video. He did not approach and ask for her license and then ask for her to put the smoke out, he engaged her in a debate about her irritation level instead of giving her the written warning he had in his hand, then ordered her to put it out when she got even angrier. I've been a cop for 19 years, I know a badge-heavy jerk when I see one, and that guy was one.

wasson6515 @ 7/24/2015 1:52 PM

So maybe the officer noticed her irritation, her erratic driving and decided he needed to ask her if there was a reason (medical, drug induced etc...) she was upset, or maybe he could smell the odor of burnt marijuana and thought, perhaps she was smoking and refusing to put the cigarette out because she was trying to mask the smell of marijuana. maybe he didn't want a cigarette shoved in his face by this agitated person, maybe he didn't want to have to smell the smoke (kind of like the courts have said you have to smoke at least 20 feet away from a building because second hand smoke is so dangerous and others should not have to breathe it), maybe just maybe all of those Monday morning quarterbacks making assumptions about what happened when they were not even there but they know what a badge heavy jerk looks like should take a look in the mirror. Of course I have only been a cop for 26 years, I too know what certain things look like, if it walks like a duck....

Sherry @ 7/24/2015 9:04 PM

Police officers are not God. You know my six year old asked me why the Policemen is a bully? I asked how is he a bully? She said if you ask him a question he wont answer and if you don't do one little thing he says he slams you on the car. Why mommy.

WUP @ 7/25/2015 3:14 PM

Maybe those 36 years of experience have jaded you. You sure do use a lot of maybes in your investigations. This cop had an attitude from word go. He didn't show respect. Now he is paying the price. Like I said the DPS isn't backing him.

Theodor Rat @ 7/25/2015 7:30 PM

It is my understanding that the request to put out the cigarette occured AFTER the officer signbed the UTTC and giving her the warning/ticket. As such, the detention as a "temporary suspession of civil rights" and investigatory nature was completed; any orders given thereafter were unlawful. His comment about her being upset was an attempt to produce another reasonable suspicion and, as a consequence, another detention or cause to arrest. Her misinformation about rights, as common in the civilian population - that regardless how unlawful an officer's commands may be, they all must be complied with - caused her to respond emotionally and resist the officer. I must wonder if that was what he was hoping for. Of if he just snapped at her defiance of his authority and so he escalated the event further by ordering her out of the car. Cursing at a police officer or actions or department is not a crime if they lack the "fighting words" characteristics - protected by the First Amendment.

Tetro1980 @ 7/26/2015 9:11 AM

I read these comments;
All he need to do was show common courtesy. What about common courtesy by the offender.
If he would have just done his job and not have gotten so mad.... She would be alive and he would have a career. Do you know for a fact that she would be alive today? It was her decision to commit suicide, how do you know that she was not comptiplating suicide before she was pulled over and that was why she was irritated or upset.
I've been a cop for 19 years, I know a badge-heavy jerk when I see one, and that guy was one. I been in law enforcement officer for 35 years, it does not give me the right to judge the actions of another.
Police officers are not God. I have never heard one of my colleagues’ say he/she was God in 35 years of law enforcement.
I see a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking here. The bottom line is she committed suicide. Wait until the investigation is completed before we jump to conclusions like has happened too much over the past year.

Rscinsc @ 7/27/2015 2:38 PM

There are 3 different situations here.
1. The traffic stop: From what I see the traffic stop was legal and proper...on both sides of the encounter.
2. The post stop detention: Whether the officer knew it or not (he should and probably did know). The traffic stop was over when he went back with the ticket. With the traffic stop over (I was going to give you a warning); this became a situation where Ms. Bland could leave at any time (the LAPD officer need to keep abreast of recent court rulings).
3. The jail will inherit liability for the intake forms, failure to supervise.
Bottom line:
Officer: No State Charges; Possible Federal Charges; suspension if no Federal charges....fired if charged.
Jail/County: Federal civil charges...large settlement coming (taxpayers will pay)
Texas DPS: Possible Federal civil charges; little / small liability...unless they get consolidated with Jail lawsuit.
IMHO..

WUP @ 7/28/2015 7:33 PM

Also....... He never ordered anything, he asked her and she said no. Asked and answered. The cop will pay for this one.

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