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-   -   Police tap cars during traffic stops? (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=84147)

snopes 01 February 2013 02:24 AM

Police tap cars during traffic stops?
 
Comment: I've heard that when police make traffic stops, they often tap or press a hand against the rear of the car (taillight or trunk) as they approach the vehicle from behind. I've also heard several explanations for why they do this:

a) They're leaving fingerprints behind to document their contact with the vehicle in case the perpetrators take off or abduct the officer.

b) They're pushing down on the trunk to ensure it's latched so that no one attacks them by popping out of it.

c) They're trying to startle the vehicle's occupants to hinder their efforts at hiding any incriminating evidence.

So do police actually do this? If so, why?

crocoduck_hunter 01 February 2013 02:41 AM

I've been pulled over twice and neither time did the police officer actually do that.

Though I don't think that they'd be worried about someone popping out the trunk of my hatchback.

Seriously though, whoever came up with that idea has watched too many Trunk Monkey commercials. One: it'd be freaking obvious if a car was driving along with its trunk open, and two: that wouldn't really do anything since practically every car these days has a button that the driver can use to open the trunk anyway (and there's also some cars that have levers inside the trunk that open the trunk in order to prevent someone from becoming trapped in the trunk).

diddy 01 February 2013 02:46 AM

The several times I have been pulled over for various offensives (don't ask) I have never seen cops do this. None of the above makes sense:

1) Generally they don't need to document contact with a vehicle. Their tickets are carbon copies and they document plate number - they also have cameras to record pull-overs.

2) Who keeps people hidden in the trunk on the off chance that they get pulled over? And if your trunk isn't closed it will open on the road.

3) I would think that flashing lights would be enough to startle vehicle occupants and even before then it would be too late since they observe people once pulled over. Cops aren't dumb. If they suspect somebody they act.

snopes 01 February 2013 02:54 AM

Quote:

it'd be freaking obvious if a car was driving along with its trunk open
A trunk lid can be unlatched without being open, especially if something else (such as a bungee cord) is being used to hold it closed.

Quote:

Generally they don't need to document contact with a vehicle. Their tickets are carbon copies and they document plate number
But not if the occupants of the pulled-over car drive off or attack the officer before he can write the ticket.

diddy 01 February 2013 03:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by snopes (Post 1709420)
But not if the occupants of the pulled-over car drive off or attack the officer before he can write the ticket.

Which is why I mentioned cameras - though they might not be universal. But I would think that before they actually talk with the driver they do the basics like get a plate number in case they do drive off...

Dasla 01 February 2013 04:06 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by diddy (Post 1709429)
Which is why I mentioned cameras - though they might not be universal. But I would think that before they actually talk with the driver they do the basics like get a plate number in case they do drive off...

Yeah, finding a car with that number plate is easier then pulling over every car of that make, model and number to dust it for prints it.

hoitoider 01 February 2013 04:11 AM

I thought it's standard procedure now for the police to run the plate numbers before they ever get out of their car. If the pulled car is stolen or the owner has outstanding warrants it helps to know ahead of time that it's going to be a dangerous situation.

Dasla 01 February 2013 04:16 AM

d) The police officer has OCD and it is a compulsion.

Dark Blue 01 February 2013 07:02 AM

A and B are the reasons. C happens where there are two officers making the contact, and the second officer gently taps the car to distract the occupants as the first officer moves into place.

ganzfeld 01 February 2013 07:08 AM

e) The officer is checking to see if the trunk is hot and therefore possibly hiding radioactive aliens.

RichardM 01 February 2013 04:53 PM

Given that Dark Blue is a police officer and that what he says is exactly what the city of Sachse police officers told us during our training for Citizens on Patrol or whatever it is called :) , I think he is 100% correct. Or if this was a sports column, he is 100 and 10% correct.

Alarm 01 February 2013 04:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dark Blue (Post 1709490)
A and B are the reasons. C happens where there are two officers making the contact, and the second officer gently taps the car to distract the occupants as the first officer moves into place.

But wouldn't the fingerprints only stay on the car if it doesn't get washed, rained on, snowed on, repainted...

ETA: I'm not disputing your statement, just wondering about the actual effectiveness of it, given what cars can go through before the perpetrator gets caught.

Dark Blue 01 February 2013 05:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alarm (Post 1709612)
But wouldn't the fingerprints only stay on the car if it doesn't get washed, rained on, snowed on, repainted...

ETA: I'm not disputing your statement, just wondering about the actual effectiveness of it, given what cars can go through before the perpetrator gets caught.

Yes the prints might not stay on. Yes there are other things that make catching the car and suspect easier and more effective. But it's just one extra piece of evidence that might be there if it's needed. And pushing on the back of the car is just as easy and doesn't take any more time then not so it just kind of becomes a habit.

snopes 01 February 2013 07:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by diddy (Post 1709429)
Which is why I mentioned cameras - though they might not be universal. But I would think that before they actually talk with the driver they do the basics like get a plate number in case they do drive off...

If the plates were stolen and the perpetrators removed or swapped them after getting away, knowing the plate number won't help identify the car.

mick66 02 February 2013 06:32 AM

Actually, it's quite true. I've been watching COPS since it started and more times than not, when an officer is walking up to the car, he makes a very deliberate move to touch the rear of the car... my guess was to "feel" if its running or possibly starting to move...???? Dunno...

Dasla 02 February 2013 01:55 PM

I keep reading the "tap" in the thread title as "tap dance" :) A tap dancing policeman would "startle the occupant even more then tapping the boot. True tap dancing next time. ;)

Dasla 02 February 2013 03:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dasla (Post 1709891)
I keep reading the "tap" in the thread title as "tap dance" :) A tap dancing policeman would "startle the occupant even more then tapping the boot. True tap dancing next time. ;)

Too late to edit. That should be try tap dancing next time. And I missed the closing " on startle. :-o

But true tap dancing would work better then fake tap dancing. :)

Lainie 02 February 2013 03:08 PM

Hijackably, that reminds me of Christopher Walken saying that he learned to dance because all the mothers in his neighborhood sent their kids (boys and girls) to dance school, and adding that most of his childhood friends grew up to be cops, so there must at one time have been a number of NYC cops who could hoof it.

Plurabelle 02 February 2013 04:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter (Post 1709416)
Seriously though, whoever came up with that idea has watched too many Trunk Monkey commercials.

Thank you for bringing the trunk monkey back into my life! :lol:

videoguy 02 February 2013 08:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by snopes (Post 1709699)
If the plates were stolen and the perpetrators removed or swapped them after getting away, knowing the plate number won't help identify the car.

Stolen plates or not, recording the plate number can still be helpful.


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