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Public Service Announcement
While it may be possible that a law enforcement agency may have developed a definition of a traffic stop for its own purposes, the definition provided herein must be the one used for recording stop data to comply with the law. Thus an agency should either modify its policy to reflect this definition or assure that line officers fully understand the circumstances in which they are required to record and report traffic stop data.
In any situation in which an agency is uncertain whether a particular scenario falls within the definition for purposes of collecting data it should apply the definition as broadly as possible and if in doubt collect and submit the data. Such situations can be submitted to OPM for further clarification.
The advisory board has developed a traffic stop definition to be used for complying with the Alvin W. Penn Act.
A traffic stop is defined as any time an officer initiates contact with a vehicle resulting in the detention of an individual and/or vehicle. Stops made as part of a checkpoint or spot check enforcement are considered officer initiated if contact with the operator is extended for any purpose. A traffic stop does not include contacts providing assistance to a motorist, all contacts arising from traffic crashes or in cases where an officer initiates contact with a vehicle that has been linked to a specific incident, whether based on a motor vehicle or a criminal complaint.
Exclusions: The following police activities are excluded from the definition of a traffic stop and data collection requirements:
By law data must be recorded for all traffic stops, unless the police officer was required to leave the location of the stop in order to respond to an emergency or due to some other exigent circumstances within the scope of such police officer’s duties.