Is it just an urban myth that officers touch the car or the trunk to leave fingerprints in case something happens?
No, it is not an urban myth. Officers used to do it to leave fingerprints (before departments began video recording everything) and to make sure the trunk was closed so no one could easily surprise or ambush an officer. Some officers, especially those who started before video cameras, still do it.
Is there any good answer to “Do you know why I pulled you over?”
Yes, a good answer is “Don’t YOU know why you pulled me over?” I’m being a little facetious but I hate when officers ask that. This is a horrible, confrontational way to start a traffic stop and actually violates the way we are trained. The proper way is to approach and greet the driver, identify yourself and your agency, and tell the driver why he or she was stopped. For example, “Good morning, I am Officer Tchida with the Georgetown Police Department. The reason you are being stopped today is because of your speed. You were going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone. Is there any reason for your speed today?”
I see flashing lights in my rear view but it’s a dark empty road or there is no safe place to pull over. How do I let you know I’m complying but not immediately?
Turn on the flashers, slow down, and point to where you are headed. If need be, let 911 know where you are and what you are doing so they can notify the officer behind you. Make sure you pull over at the first available opportunity. We recognize this might happen but if you do nothing, it adds some tension to the stop because we can never be certain of your intent until after the fact.
Have you ever come across something spooky or weird in your duties that you just couldn’t explain?
Yes, we had to clear a house in old town one night. A neighbor called in and said they saw someone walking around the upstairs of the residence through the windows. The homeowner had died the week before. I am not overly superstitious but while we were walking around that house, I kept getting the feeling that we were not alone.
Do you have any funny stories about things kids say from the back seat?
Yes, but none that I can repeat in polite company!!
Cory Tchida is the Assistant Chief of the Georgetown Police Department. Send your questions for the Chief to firstname.lastname@example.org