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Comments Evanston Now readers have submitted following Wednesday’s release of the video of the traffic stop of a Northwestern University student who police believed had stolen a car indicate a lot of confusion about what a driver should do when pulled over by police.

The Illinois Rules of the Road handbook issued by the Illinois Secretary of State’s office is pretty clear about that, saying (at page 84) that the driver should:

“Stay in the driver’s seat with both hands clearly in sight on the steering wheel until the officer instructs you otherwise or the traffic stop is complete. Do not exit your vehicle unless asked to do so. Getting out of your vehicle can be perceived as aggressive behavior and a threat to the officer’s safety. Turn on your interior light if stopped at night.”

HB6131, adopted by the state legislature last summer, will require that all driver education courses include instruction concerning law enforcement procedures for traffic stops, including a demonstration of the proper actions to be taken during a traffic stop and appropriate interactions with law enforcement.

During the Oct. 10, 2015 incident shown in the video released Wednesday, the driver, Lawrence Crosby, got out of his car as soon as he was pulled over.

Related story

Police release video of arrest that led to suit (1/11/17)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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17 Comments

  1. Also, be sure not to be dark skinned

    Also, be sure not to be dark skinned. That can be perceived as threatening. Of course it will be entirely upon you to avoid being beaten by the police, even then you still might get beaten by the police.

    1. How the heck are you supposed

      How the heck are you supposed to turn on your interior light while keeping both hands on the steering wheel?

  2. Learned myself

    About 25 years ago, a friend was shocked when I told him that I would get out of the car immediately upon being pulled over by the cops. In the rural area where I grew up, that is what you did.

    He told me “that can get you killed” and explained that pulling cars over is very dangerous for cops, especially at night, so you stay in your car with your hands on the steering wheel. And he emphasized to never keep anything in your hands while interacting with the officer: no wallet, flashlight, ice scraper.

    He told me to ask the officer before I move: “Officer, my license is in my wallet in my bag. May I reach for it now?”  Get the license out, hand it to the officer and put the wallet down. “My insurance card and registration are in my glove compartment. May I reach for them now?”  Get the cards, close the glove box door and hand them to the officer. 

    Excellent advice. On the few instances that I have been stopped by an officer while driving, I have never had a problem.  

    When you jump out of the car in the dark of night with something in your hand, it seems reasonable for the officers to instruct you to drop it or get on the ground. When you don’t follow their instructions, why not?  The next step is for them to put you on the ground. 

    Cops are not always right. But I cannot imagine doing that job. Put yourself in the cop’s spot: a woman who expresses concern that she saw someone use a pry tool to open a car door and is concerned about racial profiling is probably not a set up by anyone.  They honestly believe that a car may have been stolen. When the car is stopped in the dark of night, the driver exits the vehicle immediately with something in his hand. What do you do? They did not pull their weapons which may have been warranted to order the driver to drop what was in his hand or to order him to the ground.  That would have escalated the situation unnecessarily in my opinion. 

    The result of this stop would likely have been different if the driver remained in the car, asked for the reason for the stop then asked if he could retrieve his license and registration to show the officers.  With some checking of electronic records, ownership is confirmed and everyone is on their way in 10 minutes. Instruction on this point in driver’s ed makes sense.  How about some public service announcements, too?

    As for the officer apparently heard saying something to the effect of making something out of this, that does not seem right and should be investigated. 

  3. What did he do that was illegal?

    What law did he break to deserve the treatment he received and the charges that were originally filed against him?  

    1. Obviously

      He was black, and “uppity” to boot. I mean did you hear him argue something about his 5th Amendment rights? And I can imagine what the perp probably said to the cops, after they tackled, punched and arrested him for owning his own car. <snark>

  4. Shouldn’t this be titled,

    Shouldn’t this be titled, “What to do if you are black during a traffic stop.” If we’d all stop pretending that this is the norm for everyone then maybe we could get to the heart of the matter and ensure that such never happens again in Evanston. At some point we have to be honest and real with ourselves. Ashamed that my hometown community has become infected with the same disease as so many other cities in this nation. Why I thought my hometown would be immune??? I don’t know… I just never felt institutional and structural racism while growing up there. Now I see it and I am worried about the young (and old) black people in Evanston. I am even more worried that Evanston’s gentrification has welcomed the extremely privileged undercover racist that came up for air this past election. I hope that I am wrong. I hope that such people feel unwelcome and uncomfortable in my hometown and leave.

    1. Infected?

      Hi K. Terry,

      Your theory is interesting, so I tried to check it out.

      1. I re-checked the Rules of the Road booklet … and it doesn’t suggest that people should behave differently during a traffic stop based on their race.
      2. Assuming the “extremely privileged undercover racist” you’re referring to is Donald Trump … he got 7.29% of the vote in Evanston last year … compared to 13.31% for Romney in 2012. You could look it up here: http://www.cookcountyclerk.com/elections/results/Pages/default.aspx
      3. The percentage of people in poverty in Evanston has actually increased over the past few years, according to the latest available data provided by the city, which you could find here: https://data.cityofevanston.org/Community-Development/Column-Chart-of-2011-14-City-of-Evanston-Poverty-R/dmm7-emt2
      4. The median household income in Evanston rose 21 percent from 2000 to 2010 … less than the 27 percent increase in the consumer price index during that time. See: http://www.point2homes.com/US/Neighborhood/IL/Evanston-Demographics.html and https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=1&year1=2000&year2=2010  So it doesn’t look like the weathly have been flocking here in huge numbers.

      I think your theory that Evanston has recently been taken over by racist gentry may need to be re-evaluated. (Of course that doesn’t mean Evanston is now or has ever been entirely free of racial problems.)

      — Bill

    2. I’m white.  A few years back,

      I’m white.  A few years back, I was pulled over.  I started to get out and was met with an immediate and urgent-toned “Get back in the car” over a loudspeaker of some sort. 

      I’m not making any giant point.  Just saying that police do seem to have a strong preference for people staying in the car regardless of race.  I closed my door and stayed put, so I can’t tell you exactly what would have transpired if I’d kept getting out.  Perhaps the reaction to me would have been milder. 

      1. The problem with him staying

        The problem with him staying in the car is that ALL of the interaction and conversation wouldn’t have been caught on video or audio. Last summer, a young man in MN stayed in his car, was attempting to comply w commands to show his registration and insurance and TOLD them what he was going to do, and was shot anyway. I 100% understand why he calmly exited the car with his hands up. Also, when 5-6 people are shouting at you, it may not have been possible for him to hear ANY of them clearly. Y’all need to quit making excuses for these jerks. 

  5. Racial profiling

    The chick who called on this young man should be very proud of herself.  Way to contribute to the problem.  You bought into it, and you made a very bad call.  And people wonder why there is so much discord in this country.  Shame on you EPD!

    1. Why shame on EPD?

      I cannot say that race had nothing to do with this incident. But it appears that the driver’s behavior in getting out of the car with something in his hand did.  The police can be heard telling him what to do but he does not comply.  All this happened in the dark of night.

      If faced with that same behavior next time in the same setting, what should the Evanston police do, regardless of race?  How should the cops handle it?  Is there any proof that a driver of a different race would have been treated any differently?  Can the cops show, through their reports (with personal identifying information deleted other than race) that drivers of other races were wrestled to the ground in similar circumstances?

      How about all of the stops where the driver, regardless of race, did not exit the vehicle quickly as soon as the car stopped with nothing in hand and nothing happened?

      Among the Evanston police, with their training and practice, can it be established that behavior of the driver, rather than race, determines the cops’ next steps?  Let’s see what we see from those facts that involve looking at more than one traffic stop. 

    2. The woman

      The woman (chick is not a respectful way to refer to anyone) who called in did the right thing and acted in good faith. Are you suggesting that nobody should report suspicious behavior is the individual engaged in the behavior happens to be black? If I saw anyone trying to break into a car at night while holding a metal bar, I’d be suspicious and call the police.

      1. Going too far?

        And I would too…and indeed have often called the police when I have noticed suspicious behavior.  However, I have never taken it upon myself once I reported my suspicions to the police to actually decide I needed to assist them.  The police had the necessary details, what motivated her to get in her car and follow the suspect?  Her actions escalated the situation and suggest she was looking for a little excitement which could have caused harm to the victim. The young woman in question is heard repeatedly asking the police for validation of her actions. If her motives were sincere, she wouldn’t need to do this.

  6. Lead with your mouth
    Jump out the car, phone in hand, wave your free hand and say: “I’m recording this illegal unconstitutional interaction on streaming video.”
    Act agitated, belligerent and just plain crazy. Make your face go all bug-eyed.
    Ramp it up verbally, get vulgar and LOUD, use plenty of “GD/MFs” and “Fs” and “Ns,” especially if the LEO is a minority.
    Call the cop a “Nazi Fascist!” Throw in a few colorful retorts like, “who you calling a ‘crack-ah,’ you so-and-so bla-bla-bla?!”
    Say you are a lawyer and will sue the pants off him/her and the city.
    Point out that as a taxpayer, you pay his/her salary.
    Be sure to scream: “Do you know who I am?!” And struggle when they try to restrain you.
    Point out that you are a VIP and earn 100 times what he/she earns, and he/she is wasting your important and expensive time with this BS harassment traffic stop.
    Suggest they could better spend their time chasing real criminals like rapists and bank robbers.
    Point out that your father-in-law was a highly decorated detective in the CPD; and the members of the Evanston PD are girlie-cops compared to Chicago’s.
    And finally, mention that you voted for DJT, and when he takes office bad hombres like you will be working as security at Walmart.
    That should do it.

  7. Everyone made mistakes!
    Everyone made mistakes!

    The caller was mistaken (not only about the owner of the car, Mr. Crosby – but also getting in her car and following Mr. Crosby after calling the police).

    Mr. Crosby made the terrible mistake of getting out of his car with an object in his hands. (I am a 61 year old Caucasian male, a lifetime Evanstonian, I was taught to not leave my car in the event of a police stop and to keep my hands on the steering wheel in clear view and only move them to fetch my driver’s license after being requested to do so – just like it says on page 87 of the current Illinois Rules of the Road – not just in Illinois but anywhere!).

    The police made mistakes too, but methinks they deserve the benefit of the doubt due to the perceived nature of the actions by Mr. Crosby on the night of this incident.

    I also think that it was a mistake by a mayoral candidate to demand that the video go public… It seems to me that the video in this controversy does not bring all the facts to light and adds to the Post Traumatic Stress not only to all the individuals involved but also to the community at large.

    Methinks this is not about being black, white or other, it is about a series of escalating mistakes that led to an unfortunate encounter where all parties share responsibility for the outcome. I hope something positive can come out of this… perhaps we all have learned a lesson the hard way.

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

    1. What to do when stopped by the police/Everyone makes mistakes!

      Brian G’s comments are completely accurate. I am a 59 year old Black male who has been stopped MANY times, in MANY states. In almost every case, I had committed some vehicle code violation (usually speeding). Here are my thoughts: I looked at this and could not tell what he had in his hand when he stepped out of the vehicle. Having ANYTHING in his hand was a grave error and he is very fortunate he did not get shot. It is my observation he was not compliant. Another grave error he made was trying to interject his understanding of the U.S. Constitution. He made several grave errors that would have ended his life in multiple places I have lived or worked. I have no issue with the call from the citizen. People are told: if they see something, say something. I believe he was arrogant and unnecessarily escalated the situation. These days, my demeanor in similar situations (where I am the person stopped) has been 100% compliant. There was no reason to elevate the tension. He did that exclusively and unnecessarily. I used to be him and I used to be that vocal during traffic stops. He should not have resisted which is a separate issue. With all of that said, this could have been handled differently, by officers. Intentionally leaving his car parked improperly was deliberate, retaliatory and sadistic. At minimum, I am shocked he wasn’t Tased. I would be interested to see what the new policies are that are being rolled out by the Mayor and Police Chief. I would also like to see the arrest report and related documents to see if they mirror what is on tape. Specifically, I would want to know if the use of force was documented accurately.

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