This safety tip and the response first appeared on PoliceOne.com
Tim Knowles, Humberside Police (United Kingdom)
I have noticed something quite alarming among U.S. law enforcement officers when they make traffic stops on highways and during night hours. I base my observation on viewing TV news, COPS and other "reality" shows; a recent vacation to the United States, which included five states; and a departmental visit. Not a statistically compelling study, I agree, but it's still a fairly wide sample.
American law officers rarely seem to wear reflective vests or tabards. Equally, U.S. police cars seem to be covered in pretty designs, corporate identifiers and commitment logos, but not much protective marking.
I appreciate the tactical considerations of making a stop in which many of the subjects may be armed, but stepping onto a road without reflective gear, with drivers moving at high speed, seems to be crazy from where I sit.
I also encounter armed and dangerous subjects, but I tell you, I wouldn't dream of exiting the vehicle without wearing some high viz gear. It only takes a few seconds to go from tactical black to hi-viz.
My force's vests feature a reflective strip, and our cars are also well striped to increase rear visibility. Despite all that, I still find myself talking to people who say, "I didn't see you."
Dale Stockton, editor
It's very hazardous to enter a roadway, and reflective gear can make a difference. During the last 10 years, more than 150 officers have died in the United States after being struck by cars. How many of these deaths could have been prevented will never be known. However, use of reflective gear, at least in America, requires judgment on the part of the officer, and there are times when an officer may legitimately choose not to do so and remain safer as a result.
Although nighttime operations are inherently dangerous, officers usually benefit from a stealth approach during traffic stops. A reflective vest can work against this effort. At other times, such as directing traffic, wearing a reflective vest should be a given. Consider:
There are times to wear reflective clothing and times when it is in the officer's best interest not to do so even during nighttime operations. This is not a black-and-white issue, but rather one that requires good judgment. Exercise it.