Mercer Island Police Officer Rob Jira answers frequently asked questions from Mercer Island residents.
Q: Should I ever get out of my car when a police officer pulls me over?
A: Never! Unless the police officer tells you to get out of your vehicle, do not get out of your car … ever! Staying in your car increases the safety of both the vehicle occupants and the police officer.
Most police officers are killed during traffic stops, so if you choose to get out of your car when you are pulled over, don’t be surprised if you are greeted by a highly vigilant officer who is loud and assertive.
The best advice I can give you is to stay in your car, keep both hands on the steering wheel where the officer can see them, and be polite and courteous. This will put the officer at ease and increase your chances of having a positive experience/interaction with the officer.
Q: If I am on a road that has a lot of traffic and a police officer turns on his lights to pull me over, should I just keep driving and find a safe place to pull over?
A: Pull over as soon as it is safe to do so. Pull over to the right side of the road. If the police officer feels the location is unsafe, the officer will direct you on where to go from there.
Q: Is there such a thing as the “fast lane” on the highways or roads?
A: There is no such thing as the fast lane; however, we encourage slower traffic to use the far right lanes and leave the far left lanes open for people who want to pass slower moving traffic. I encourage large trucks, older drivers and slower drivers to use this lane when traveling.
If you see a police car, fire engine or ambulance approaching the rear of your vehicle with their emergency lights on, they will be planning on passing you on the left side of your car. If you are already in the far right lane, it makes it easier for you to pull over and let them pass you.
Q: Last week I saw a police officer pull over a vehicle near the north QFC. As I was walking home, I walked between the police car and the car that he was pulling over. The police officer saw me and immediately addressed me. Was I wrong in doing this?
A: You didn’t do anything legally wrong, but remember the police officer now has to turn his/her attention away from a potentially dangerous traffic stop to assess if you are a threat. Remember, a police officer does not know you and does not know what your intentions are. For all the police officer knows, you may cause an unwanted distraction and/or may be somehow affiliated with the vehicle that he/she had just pulled over.
This also applies to traffic accidents and crime scenes. I understand that police work is very interesting, especially to those not in our profession, but please respect our work space as you or someone else’s safety could depend on it. Having innocent bystanders lurking around crime scenes places them in danger, could potentially disrupt or destroy evidence, and increases the difficulty of investigation for the responding police officers, as they now have to pay attention to you as well. If an officer asks you to leave the scene, please respect their request, as they already have their hands full.
To learn more about the MIPD, visit the City's website. Send your questions to MIPD Officer Jira at Rob.Jira@mercergov.org.