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Traffic Stops are Dangerous for Police

Audio

Aired 4/19/09

Eleven police officers in California have been killed in the line of duty this year. Oceanside Police Officer Dan Bessant was added to that list last week. He was shot during a routine traffic stop. KPBS Radio's Andrew Phelps reports that traffic stops may be the most dangerous police activity.

Lieutenant Ron Cottingham says there is no such thing as a "routine" traffic stop. Cottingham is a San Diego County Sheriff's Lieutenant and president of PORAC, the Peace Officers Research Association of California. He says 99 percent of traffic stops happen because of equipment violations -- a broken taillight, for example. That's what caused two police officers to pull over a couple of armed robbery suspects in 1963.

Cottingham: Two officers are kidnapped. Their guns are taken away form them. They are taken out in the onion fields, I believe, of Bakersfield. One is assassinated in the field. The other one manages to escape.

Cottingham says police officers need to be vigilant in every situation. He says Dan Bessant's death is so unfair because Bessant couldn't have seen the sniper that killed him. For KPBS, I'm Andrew Phelps.

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