STOPS: More than Stopping Cars
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Taught to police officers across the nation since 1993, the Strategies and Tactics of Patrol Stops course has been credited with saving at least 300 law enforcement officer lives, said Ron Hantz, president of Pro-Train Inc., which produces the STOPS program. Canfield (Ohio) Police Officer Robert Magnuson authored the STOPS program because he saw a desperate need to train law enforcement officers in safely making traffic stops.
“The first thing officers would do is get a badge, a gun and keys to a car and go out and stop every car with a headlight out,” Hantz said. “They never were trained to do it safely and, unfortunately, that still is done in some places today.
“STOPS has taken the available research and videos of officer-involved shootings, FBI statistics and other sources, and developed strategies — learning from what happened in other real-life situations, Hantz continued. The worst thing we can do is not learn from every officer killed.”
Department of Criminal Justice Training instructors attended a STOPS instructor training course in late June to incorporate STOPS training tactics into DOCJT curriculum. The four-day course begins with examining situations where officers were both killed and not killed in traffic stops and exploring together why each situation unfolded the way it did and how those officers reacted, Hantz explained.
“But it’s not just about stopping cars,” Hantz said. “These tactics apply any time an officer deploys from a vehicle.”
“The core tactical principals of STOPS transcend vehicle-related activities and have benefits across the tactical spectrum,” DOCJT General Studies Instructor Tom Atkin said after attending the class. “The program takes these activities out of the classroom and beyond perfect, sterile situations in which rudimentary patterns are taught, and prepares officers for what can happen in the most common — and often the most dangerous — activities law enforcement officers undertake.”
The training identifies 12 ambush zones, six on either side of a subject’s car, and focuses on the six most dangerous zones and how to counter an assault from those locations and defeat the bad guy, starting with moving first. As the training progresses, students walk through low-risk and unknown-risk scenarios before moving on to high-risk stops and what happens when risks change and things go bad, Hantz said.
“In most traffic stop situations, officers are behind the power curve,” Hantz said. “The bad guy knows he is going to attack and [officers] don’t. But we’re still managing to win with our tactics because they are superior. I can tell you stories where it didn’t go to gunfire because a student did what he was told from this training."
“The program provides realistic balance between safety, tactical, legal and social concerns," Atkin agreed. “And it may be the best way to introduce and reinforce tactical concepts such as move first, then draw; use of cover and concealment; and the dynamic nature of gunfights.”
Hantz, who still serves as a full-time Indiana officer, and his seven instructor trainers have dedicated themselves to constantly listening to, looking for and learning from officer-involved shooting footage, articles and all types of law enforcement sources to ensure they are training officers on the absolute best tactics to stay sharp and safe in every traffic stop and scenario. They have trained more than 4,000 STOPS instructors who are sharing their knowledge and tactics with thousands of officers across the nation.
“God put me on earth to do this, and I think about it every night when I go to bed,” Hantz said. “I can’t tell you how much I care about these [officers,] this is my mission in life.”
“I love police officers No. 1,” Hantz added. “I grew up in a family of cops and started working in a jail and then on the road, and I still have as much passion now as I did then. Let’s go out there and keep our people who protect us as safe as they can be.”
For more information on STOPS training, visit www.protraininc.com