Police officers are trained to always expect the unexpected. We avoid using the term “routine” because even the most common, everyday police interactions such as minor automobile accidents or simple traffic violations can result in the discovery of a crime or a wanted person. Police officers are at a disadvantage in these situations because they never know who or what they will encounter.
Sometimes police officers are perceived as uncaring or rude. A vast majority of the time, officers want to help and are not trying to be rude or arrogant, but they are not robots. They have emotions like everyone else. Police officers work in a world where they must maintain their professionalism when regularly interacting with people who could be in pain, suffering, untruthful, disrespectful, or outright violent toward them. Also consider an officer’s ever-present awareness of the serious consequences that may come from making a mistake on an arrest or use of force decision.
Officers are trained to avoid being overly argumentative or disrespectful to people and they should never be demeaning to citizens by calling them names, belittling them or acting sarcastic but may need to raise their voice to be heard or to demand quick action for safety. While we want officers to be friendly and approachable, officers are not generally trained to be overly cheerful or enthusiastic about taking enforcement action such as issuing citations or arresting people, as this can be insulting to the people on the receiving end of the action.
In order to protect themselves and effectively detect signs of criminal activity, the law and the courts allow police officers to exercise reasonable control over a stop location including directing motorists where to stop; directing occupants to remain inside a vehicle or exit, etc.; to approach your vehicle from the passenger side to lessen the risk of being struck by a passing car; the authority to “pat down” for weapons if there is reasonable suspicion of a crime; the authority to compel the driver of a motor vehicle or a person being charged with a crime to identify themselves; and when reasonable suspicion of a crime exists, the authority to detain citizens for a short time in order to attempt to identify the person and conduct a brief investigation.
Enforcing the law in the dark is more dangerous for officers because threats such as weapons are harder to see and easier to conceal. The same holds true for evidence of a crime. This is why police are equipped with powerful lights. Do not feel apprehensive or embarrassed when an officer shines a spotlight or flashlight at you during a traffic stop. Officers also appreciate it when citizens keep their hands visible and turn on the dome light so they can see what is happening in the vehicle.
Even though police officers are granted reasonable measures by the law and courts, there may not randomly stop people or vehicles without reasonable suspicion or probable cause with the exception of sobriety checkpoints; they may not compel people to consent to searches by threatening arrest; and BGPD officers must thoroughly document their stops and investigations to provide the best possible evidence for a possible court case and to provide a check on the officer’s performance.
We have very high expectations of our Bowling Green Police officers to treat people with dignity and respect. However, if you ever feel that you have been treated unfairly, we would like to know about it so we can look into the matter. Citizens are always welcome to come by or call the police station and speak with a police supervisor. Or, if you do not wish to speak with anyone in person or over the phone, you may file a written complaint at City Hall.