I Miss My Badge
I am on probation. I received a speeding ticket about 6 weeks ago. Allegedly, I was doing over 80 in a 65. Unable to think of an affirmative defense (insanity?), I pled no contest and received deferred adjudication. If I complete my probation the ticket will be dismissed (but the county keeps the fine, around $230).
This used to not happen. When I was a prosecutor we had badges. Prosecutor badges in Texas range from impressive large badges (think “The Shield”), to small pathetic stars (Sheriff Woody in Toy Story). We also had car windshield stickers that identified us as members of the Texas prosecutors association.
I never got a ticket when I was a prosecutor. I was “lit up” a few times. I always got a warning. Cops would check my registration and see the sticker showing I was a prosecutor. My badge was in my wallet with my license. Upon seeing one of the other cops would inquire who I worked for. We would chat about how I should slow down or the best way to get somewhere and then I would be let go.
I never said “I’m with the DA can I have a warning?” Cops would ask, and I would tell them. It seems like splitting hairs I know, but I did not use my official capacity to generate good will or ask for favors. It just happened.
It was like the police and I were on the same team. There was comfort in knowing that law enforcement was on my side. I had instant credibility with State Troopers. No need to ask to search my car or check my license for warrants. I was a good person.
I miss the lack of confrontation in those stops. No questioning where I was going or why I was in a hurry. It was like the trivial laws of the nanny state(speeding, seat belts) did not apply to me.
I had a cop tell me once that “Cops don’t write cops tickets. It’s called professional courtesy.” I was prosecuting a case where a cop pulled over two speeders at once. One of the speeders was a cop and got a warning. The other was a civilian and got a ticket. The civilian took the case to trial and I dismissed it.
Why not let more drivers go with a warning? Why not treat all drivers like they are on the same team as the police?
1) Revenue. Tickets are a cash cow for governmens.
2) Drugs/DWI. DWI (NHTSA) training starts by teaching cops that the public is the enemy. Drug seizures bring revenue (seizures) and prestige. Every traffic stop is a possible drug search.
Tickets are boring. DWI and Drug arrests are the Capital Murder of traffic stops.
Those two reasons have changed traffic stops. Peace officers have been replaced with law enforcement.
Have I gotten warnings before or after prosecution? Sure, lots of times.
Are cops bad people? Of course not. I have known a lot of them. Cops have a tough job and most do it very well.
The problems with law enforcement are systemic. We have too many malitum prohibitum crimes. We also instill distrust of the public with some police training (more on that in the future).
Labels: Police, Traffic Tickets