Police in Topeka, Kansas, have decided to treat each routine encounter with motorists like a standoff with a dangerous criminal by implementing a new policy requiring drivers to reach for the sky during traffic stops.
As part of a new policy dubbed “hand compliance,” the Topeka Police Department is directing motorists to put their hands up in the air or on top of their steering wheel during encounters with police on the road.
“As we all know, we’ve lost three officers in less than two years. And as a result of that, we’ve had to take a hard look at the way we’re conducting business, particularly as it relates to car stops,” Officer Matt McClimans told the local KSNT of the policy.
“Before we even approach a car, is to see the hands of the driver and occupants, it doesn’t matter what the infraction is, it doesn’t matter if it’s a soccer mom, it’s just gaining that hand compliance,” he added.
Many local residents have criticized the “hand compliance” policy, saying that it’s dangerous for the public for officers to consider everyone a threat.
“To put my hands up, I mean, I just can’t see how people are not offended by that,” one resident said.
Others have suggested that making motorists place their hands in plain sight as a matter of policy rather than a courtesy to officers is a ploy to cut down on the number of people recording traffic stops.
There are also fears that the “hand compliance” policy gives officers more leeway to act aggressively toward motorists.
“This is just reason for them to act more aggressive, they already flip shit if you move too quickly, now you’ll be in cuffs or on the ground,” a commenter on one local story said. “How many cars you think will have guns pointed at them because people don’t know this new ‘rule.’”
Topeka’s police maintain that the policy is a simple officer safety matter.
Police Sgt. Colleen Stuart told the Topeka Capital-Journal, “When we walk up to a car, we don’t know anyone in that car or what their intentions are,” she said.
When motorists place their hands up, Stuart added, it “gives us a better idea that they are complying with our orders and that it’s going to be a positive encounter.”