Berkeley Is considering taking traffic enforcement away from the cops. In thirty years a cop, stopping somebody strictly to give them a ticket was the least of my considerations. Traffic stops for the sake of citations and fines is right up there with the fairy tale about the troll under the bridge.
As a retired cop there is only one good thing I can say about dedicated traffic enforcement units. “Traffic enforcement is very important. It gives really stupid cops something to do.”
I guess I need to expand my earlier statement. “It also pays the salaries of idiot politicians and city administrators.”
Cops will appreciate the nuance. I guess I owe everybody else an explanation. We need traffic laws. They have to be enforced, but not to the exclusion of anything else. Traffic enforcement units, Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) are numbers games. Tickets, tickets and more tickets. Do cops have quotas? Yeah and no.
Patrol cops have to keep their sergeant happy. The standard can vary from sergeant to sergeant. The results are usually tracked on a monthly basis. Calls for service, arrests, paperwork, special assignments and court time all conspire to make a daily count impractical. There are some days when things are so busy that patrol cops don’t have time to make traffic stops.
Patrol cops use traffic stops in order to talk to people. The stop is just a prelude to upending the driver and shaking them to see what falls out of their pockets.
Here’s the secret about traffic enforcement from a patrol officers perspective. Like everybody else, crooks have to get from point”A” to point “B.” Public transportation is all well and good. But public transportation is unsuited for transporting just stolen 72″ flat screen TV”s. Just killed and chopped up your mother-in-law? The bus isn’t a first choice to get rid of the old lady. Crooks can be at their most vulnerable when driving down the street. This could be an explanation for the number of officers killed each year while conducting traffic stops.
Traffic cops also have to keep the sergeant happy. What keeps traffic sergeants happy is a high number of citations and warnings. Down time because of arrests, paperwork and court time are a traffic officers bane.
I worked with a booger eating moron. He consistently wrote one hundred plus citations a month. (I’m not calling him names.) A driver complained on him because, he stopped in the middle of a contact, drove his finger up his nose, to the second knuckle and produced a booger. Okay, so he didn’t eat it. But he did flick it onto the hood of her Mercedes-Benz.
I worked the same shift. I wrote about twenty citations a month. I also made twenty to thirty misdemeanor warrant arrests, two or three felony warrant arrests, a couple of felony arrests, a half dozen misdemeanor arrests and recovered four or five stolen cars. The moron’s activity? Nada, zilch. I’m not intimating that he could duplicate my results. But to have no other activity but the citation? See my original statement.
For the most part my sergeant loved me. Okay, he wasn’t thrilled when I tried to book the dead cat into evidence room. He pooh poohed my idea to monetize the value of a quicky in the back seat of the patrol car. I argued we had to put a dollar value on the offered sex act in order to make a bribery case.
I can explain. I was bored.