Behind The Badge: The Dangers Local Officers Face On Traffic Stops

For some officers back-up could be miles away.

STEPHENSON COUNTY - Traffic stops are one of the most common interactions between the public and police, but it is also one of the most common scenarios that can turn deadly for police officers.

Rockford Police Officer Jaimie Cox died after a traffic stop went horribly wrong on Nov. 5th, after an apparent scuffle with 49-year-old Eddie Patterson, also deceased. A little more than a month before that, a Winnebago County Sheriff's Deputy was wounded after he pulled over 27-year-old Jordan Spates who fired shots at the deputy, seriously injuring him.

Incidents like these serve as a reminder of how dangerous a simple traffic stop can be. It is something Stephenson County Sheriff David Snyders knows well.

"During this interview we have two deputies on the road, so they're out there on their own. Back-up could be minutes, or a half hour to 45 minutes away, so they are very cautious," said Snyders.  

Jaime Hare is one of those deputies for the Sheriff's Office. He's a rookie on the force, trained to take officer safety very seriously. We tagged along on a few traffic stops to see first hand some of the uncertainty he faces, like with an SUV with tinted windows. Deputy Hare thought only one person was inside, but it turns out he was wrong. There were four people were inside.

"I couldn't even see the other people in the back. There's four other people, so three people I couldn't see, in the back," said Hare.

So far this year, 42 officers nationwide have died in the line of duty while conducting a traffic stop. For Deputy Hare, he approaches each stop like it could be his last.

"There are always traffic stops where you reflect back and wish you did something different. Things like, 'I wish I would have been more observant.' Sometimes you walk up on a traffic stop and you are so focused on trying to make contact with them and you miss things in plain sight," said Hare.  

Officers know that traffic stops are an important part of keeping community safe, despite the dangers.

"My goal is to enhance the quality of life for that person. My best guess is to always have in the back of my mind that anything can happen," he said.

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