Policeman’s Death is a Warning for Other Officers to be Cautious

October 29, 2006

By Danza Johnson
Daily Journal (Tupelo, Mississippi)

The recent tragic death of University of Mississippi Police Officer Robert Langley has reinforced what law enforcers already knew – there is no such thing as a routine traffic stop.

“Officer Langley’s death really hit home for our guys,” said Mississippi State University Police Chief Georgia Lindley. “We train our guys to be aware that anything can happen on a traffic stop, but after this tragic event, it really hit home. We realize that the most routine stop can turn into a life-or-death situation. We have to treat every stop with caution.”

Langley was killed when he was dragged for nearly 200 yards during a routine traffic stop at Ole Miss on Oct. 21. Ole Miss freshman Daniel Cummings, 20, is being charged with capital murder in connection with Langley’s death.

Tupelo Police Maj. Jackie Clayton is over the patrol division. Patrolmen have been getting nightly reminders to be careful on traffic stops since Langley’s death.

“The shift commanders have been reminding officers of the dangers of traffic stops and just telling them to be careful,” said Clayton. “Each stop is different and because of that, they each have to be handled with caution. We are lucky enough in Tupelo to have enough officers where help comes fast when a stop is made.”

Pontotoc Chief Larry Poole has been on the job since 1973. He said that until Langley’s death, he never really thought about being injured during a traffic stop.

“As officers we just have to react to all situations,” said Poole. “Our guys probably didn’t think about stuff like this before it happened. It hit so close to home that you have to look at it and realize it could have been anyone of us. I’m sure when we go over our pursuit policy again traffic stops will be a big part of it.”

Main problem

More than 16 percent of all officers killed from 1995 to 2004 were killed during traffic stops, according to Thomas Aveni, a consultant and police trainer with the Police Polices Studies Council. Aveni said these types of deaths are becoming more common.

“This is the third most dangerous reason that police are killed in the line of duty,” said Aveni. “We had 96 officers killed from 1995 to 2004 from traffic stops. That’s a lot. Fifty-six of those were killed making routine traffic stops. An officer just doesn’t know what to expect when they approach a vehicle.”

Langley update

Law enforcement officials have not released any official information on what happened to Langley that he was caught up in the court. Cummings’ attorney Steve Farese said he believes Langley came through the window into the suspects automobile.

Aveni said the most common deaths occur when an officer reaches inside the vehicle.

“An officer who’s dragged often reaches inside a car to grab the keys or shut the car off,” said Aveni. “This is not a good tactic. At that point the officer is going for the ride. A lot of departments train officers not to break the plane of the window. I think it should be a uniform rule.”