There are not many people that like the police. They tend to have an air of arrogance and act as if they are above the law. As of late, they seem to be more a threat themselves rather than what keeps the public safe. Highway patrol, in particular, gets a lot of hate. This is mostly because they are the kind f cop your most likely to encounter. Despite there being some logic in the highway patrol and speeding fines possibly making roads safer, it feels as though they are wasting their time and taxpayer funds while real crime happens elsewhere.
The Tail Light Tap
The notorious tail light tap is not done without reason. Though it can seem like the Police officer is just wasting your time and trying to spook or intimidate you, the act of touching a tail light of a vehicle that's just pulled goes back to when police first started patrolling streets.
This ritual was a very sneaky tactic used by patrol cops before the invention and use of dash cams. It was done in the hopes of catching the driver or passenger by surprise. After all, if you've got something you don't want the cop to find you're going to try to hide it.
In its original form, the intention of the tail light tapping technique was to startle the criminal or criminals. It would prevent them from hiding their stash just long enough for the officer to see it and then confiscate it.
But There's More
This is not the only reason for this mysterious tradition, and this reason will blow your mind. The second reason an officer touches your tail lights is to leave evidence behind. In case you make the ill advised attempt at incapacitating, or worse, the officer the tap leaves evidence proving he was there.
Very Sneaky Again
Most obviously the officer will leave his fingerprints behind if he does this. So when the owner of the vehicle in our hypothetical cop killing is found they be able to match the fingerprint and prove that he was the one responsible for the murder.
But Maybe Not
While the what has already been said are the reasons for the start of this tradition it seems farfetched to believe that this is what goes through a roadway cops mind every time he taps. Now that dash cams are standard this very old technique could simply be a habit.
Possibly a Bad Idea
While the listed reasons make tail light tapping seem strategic and in the safety interests of an officer, that's not always the case. Tapping the tail light can let a criminal know the exact location of the officer especially risky at night in the dark.
This habit that has no real practical importance in modern times could be considered a part of police culture. It could be seen as a rite of passage young officers learn from their elders or a way to honour the officers that have come before them.
Not all cops do the tap. Many cops have stopped practicing this tradition and more and more stations are advising their officers to stop tapping tail lights as it let potential know exactly where they are in that moment, posing a severe safety risk.
Let the Games Begin
Another reason for the tap is to cause some surprise in the culprit. If your guilty of something and have just been pulled over you're likely to be nervous. This is where the mind games start and that little tapping surprise might be all that's needed to break your nerve.
Tried and Tested
Despite the counter movement, many cops still swear by the tail light tapping technique. They say that using the tapping technique has helped to increase their arrest rate of intoxicated drivers, drug dealers, and driver in possession of unlicensed firearms.
Most criminals pulled over aren't going to try and assault the officer but rather try to speed off as fast as they can. I can be challenging to track down the right vehicle as there could be many of the same model that are the same paint colour.
Jack in the Box
If the tail light is a bit dusty the tap can mark it and make it easier for a cop to confirm he's got a runaway culprit. Sometimes it's not about the light at all. An officer at the same time holds down the boot to make sure no-one springs out at them.
The Pop Up Theory
This idea was used during the radical crime waves of the 60s and 70s. In these eras cops were being ambushed by criminal groups. Off course a modern day lightweight car trunk wouldn't stay down if unlatched making the ambush visually obvious.
In big cities like New York, the New York Police Department have officers patrol in pairs. In this situation the tapping catches the driver's attention and makes him turn his head giving the second officer an opportunity to make sure there are no obvious weapons in the car.
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