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Augusta-area law enforcement agencies not changing traffic stop procedures

Monday, Jan. 30, 2012 10:51 PM
Last updated Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012 1:07 AM
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After the third officer death in the line of duty in less than four months, four area law enforcement agencies say they won’t make any immediate changes to their procedures regarding traffic stops or suspicious vehicles.

“It’s way too early for that now,” said Aiken Public Safety Sgt. Jake Mahoney, adding that the policy might be reviewed later. “All the details haven’t come to light yet. Right now we’re showing our respect for Sandy and her family.”

Master Cpl. Sandra E. Rogers was fatally shot Saturday morning in Eustis Park while checking on a suspicious vehicle. Another Aiken police officer, Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson, was gunned down in December while on a traffic call outside Pace’s Run Apartments.

Two months earlier, Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy James D. Paugh was shot after he stopped to check on a suspicious vehicle on Bobby Jones Expressway at Gordon Highway.

Area departments say every traffic call is unique and, therefore, the officers cannot plan for what might happen.

“This is a dangerous job. We knew that when we took this job,” Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said.

Richmond and Columbia counties do not have a standard procedure for traffic stops.

There also is not a policy in place that says when officers can and cannot pull their weapons.

“We leave it up to the conditions and observations the officer sees,” Gay said.

For the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, the circumstances usually determine whether the officer waits for backup before approaching a vehicle. Depending on how far away other officers are, the responding deputy will either wait or proceed with the call. Aiken Public Safety and the Richmond, Columbia and Aiken sheriff’s offices usually patrol with one officer per car.

Aiken Public Safety officers are still grieving over losing a second officer in a little more than a month. Rogers and Richardson are the fifth and sixth officers killed in the line of duty since 1892. Rogers was the first woman.

“We will watch each other’s backs, support each other and continue to provide law enforcement services to this community,” Mahoney said.

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Asitisinaug 01/31/12 - 02:27 am
What many people do not

What many people do not understand and probably never will is why agencies don’t have policies in place for when to draw a weapon or how to handle a traffic stop, etc. However, the real problem is when policies and procedures and checklist driven law enforcement organizations are teaching cops what to think and do, instead of how to think and do.

When this takes place, agencies are not creating and nurturing problem solvers in law enforcement. Instead we are creating rule- and checklist-followers and this is extremely dangerous and part of the problem when it comes to officer safety and effectiveness. Dangerous in the sense that the types of circumstances cops handle are dynamic, rapidly changing, complex situations that require walking, talking, thinking cops. Policies take the thinking out of the equation.

I applaud these various agencies for not falling into the trap of trying to have a policy and procedure for each and every situation which officers encounter – if they did, it would never work and officers/deputies would have to break policies on a consistent basis as circumstances and situations change often throughout a shift.

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