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What is a BOLO Traffic Stop?

By Spodek Law Group | July 22, 2023
(Last Updated On: July 22, 2023)

Last Updated on: 22nd July 2023, 08:00 pm

BOLO Traffic Stops: What They Are and Why They Occur
Acronyms are common in just about every field and law enforcement is no exception. Police officers sometimes conduct traffic stops based on information that has been shared through a dispatcher, during a briefing, or some other source. That can lead to what is known as a BOLO traffic stop. Here is what the average person needs to know about a BOLO traffic stop.

What does the Term Mean?

BOLO is another way of alerting an officer to be on the lookout. This term may refer to an all-points bulletin or be intended to alert officers that a suspect is heading into an area where they are currently located.

The word to be on the lookout may also originate outside the jurisdiction. For example, there may be reason to believe that a suspect in a criminal investigation has left the West Coast and is heading to New York. Law enforcement officials in the originating jurisdiction will contact New York police and advise them of that the suspect may be in the area soon. This in turn provides the basis for the local police to spread the word through their dispatchers and primary contacts in surrounding jurisdictions.

What Sort of Activity Could Lead to a BOLO Stop?

An officer may pull over a vehicle because something about the person driving or an occupant matches with a recent bulletin. In this scenario, the goal is to verify the identify of the people in the vehicle and determine if one of them is the individual mentioned in the reports. If not, the traffic stop will end and the driver is free to move on.

The stop could also occur because the vehicle appears to be one that was recently reported stolen. In this instance, officers were advised earlier to be on the lookout for a vehicle of that particular make, model, and color. If the stolen vehicle had any other identifying marks, such as a certain type of bumper sticker or special hubcaps, that could be what catches the attention of the officer and leads to the traffic stop.

There is one other type of BOLO that should be noted. This kind is sometimes known as an attempt to locate. In this scenario, there is reason to believe that someone is traveling in a vehicle and is injured or otherwise in distress. Officers will be on the lookout for a vehicle that appears to be moving erratically or is partially pulled on the shoulder of a street or road. The goal here is to locate the person in distress, administer aid as necessary, and seek backup if the situation calls for more comprehensive measures.

What Happens During a BOLO Stop?

Several things can happen when a BOLO traffic stop occurs. If the driver or one of the occupants of the vehicle appears to match the description of a suspect, the officers will have everyone remain in place while the identification of each person is checked. This may require making contact with a dispatcher to determine if there is grounds for an arrest. Should the identities of all parties be confirmed and the suspect is not among them, the vehicle will be allowed to proceed.

When the reason for the stop has to do with the vehicle proper, the officers will ask the driver for the registration documents and proof of insurance. While examining the documents, a cursory inspection of the car exterior will be conducted and the tag number called in for verification. If the car is the one reported stolen, all parties in the vehicle will be taken into custody.

If the BOLO has to do with finding someone who is in distress, the officers will focus on evaluating the circumstances and seeking assistance that is appropriate. For example, if the individual appears to be having a heart attack, the officers will call for emergency medical care and do what can be done to keep the individual stable until help arrives.

Individuals involved in a BOLO stop would do well to remain calm, follow the instructions provided by the officers, and comply with any requests for identification or other documents. Doing so will ensure the stop is a short one and the innocent party can continue on to the intended destination.

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