Many officers are believers in the kind of position of advantage you can gain by making an unexpected passenger-side approach on a vehicle stop…and for good reason. Take the example of a Wisconsin deputy who ran a routine check on a brown van that passed by while he was observing highway traffic and discovered that the plates had been suspended because of unpaid citations.
As he was getting the van pulled over, he noticed considerable movement between the male driver and the female passenger, concentrated in the area between their two front seats. Initially, the deputy made a traditional driver-side approach. He noticed that both occupants had just lit cigarettes and were puffing on them. As he made contact with the driver, he also noticed (despite the smoke) a smell of intoxicants coming from inside the van.
After ordering the driver out and positioning him where he could be watched, Brian then made an approach to the passenger side. Simultaneously, he noticed the driver trying to move back toward the driver-side door. The deputy ordered him to stop.
Good thing he did.
From the passenger-side vantage point, the deputy could now see the front seats from a new angle. That view allowed him to spot a vinyl strap bolted to the lower right side of the driver’s seat that held a black, semi-automatic 9mm handgun. The makeshift holder and gun could not have been visible to the deputy at the driver’s window, but when the driver was seated behind the wheel he could have lowered his right hand and grabbed the gun in an eye blink. Had he been allowed to return to the van, he could have simple reached across the seat and grabbed it.
In addition to the loaded magazine in the gun’s well, a search of the van later produced an extra loaded magazine and a box of 32 9mm rounds in the center console, as well as open containers of beer. Arrested at gunpoint, the driver said he understood the concealed weapons law he was violating at the time of the stop some years ago, but he didn’t agree with them nor recognize them. In follow-up discussions, the deputy attributed his driver-side approach to the fact that the situation didn’t turn deadly for him or the suspects.
Have an experience where a passenger-side approach proved tactically valuable? We’d be interested in the details. Please e-mail our team at: firstname.lastname@example.org