That's the message Atoka Police Officer Tommy Reinberg is sending to motorists who see officers conducting traffic stops on the side of the road.
On June 30, Reinberg's foot was crushed as he and another officer were in the middle of arresting a suspect after a foot pursuit near Main Street and Highway 51. A 71-year-old Dyersburg man drove over Reinberg's left foot, crushing most of the bones.
“They say my ankle's broke, my heel's broke in two places, all these bones in the front of my foot are crushed and leaned over to the side,” Reinberg said Tuesday. “I've got feeling in my toes, I can't move them and my big toe really hurts if it's touched.”
He said he doesn't remember a vehicle, but other officers said he told them he'd been injured.
“I hurt all of a sudden on my foot. They said I yelled, 'I've been hit,' I didn't know there was a car there, I didn't know there was anything there, so for me to say I've been hit, I didn't know how I knew that. The other officer said I actually stayed to cuff him before I rolled off. ”
Reinberg's accident could have easily been prevented, Atoka Police Chief Jessie Poole said, had the driver followed the state's Move Over law.
Passed in 2006, it requires drivers to move into another lane of traffic when emergency and utility vehicles are stopped along the roadway. The penalty for violating the law is a maximum fine of up to $500 and possibly up to 30 days in jail.
In 1975, Tipton County Deputy Mike Erwin was killed by a passing truck during a traffic stop, so Reinberg feels lucky to be alive.
Charges have not yet been filed and the Tennessee Highway Patrol is still investigating the accident.
Meanwhile, Reinberg sits and waits.
Confined to a wheelchair while he recuperates and rests for surgery – which will happen on Monday, July 14 – Reinberg has to work out the logistics of being immobile.
Fellow officers Chuck Salayi and Carter McGee have fabricated and installed wooden ramps at his Drummonds home as a way to help out.
“I'm in a lot of pain. I'm not able to do daily tasks, I can't do the normal things, like brushing your teeth, washing your hands … it's very hard. I can't stand on it at all, no pressure. I'm having to sit in a wheelchair and my body's acting weird because I'm not used to this, I'm used to moving.”
Facing the probably of pins, plates, fusing and using bones from his legs to repair the ones in his foot, Reinberg stresses the importance of paying attention and giving them room to do what they're trusted to do.
“Please move over,” he said. “If we're on the side of the highway, please, please slow down and move over. Give us a chance to do our job.”