The Everlasting Phelps

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Phelps Defends the Police

February 28th, 2012

I love how ABC couches this as a bad thing – Dallas police writing fewer tickets:

Dallas police handed out 56,000 fewer citations over the last two fiscal years.

Some officers tell News 8 they are doing it in protest, while others blame a new focus on property crimes.

“The purpose of traffic enforcement is to improve traffic safety, not to raise revenue,” said Dallas police Chief David Brown in a statement to News 8. “We dont believe the citizens of Dallas want its police department writing citations to raise revenue.”

I’ve been really hard on cops.  I’ve lost a lot of faith in the last few years. This is the sort of thing that will turn my opinion around and bring me back to supporting the police.

“The police department does not view citations as a revenue producer,” said Assistant Chief Tom Lawrence. “That’s not what they are for. That’s not what we believe we enforce traffic laws for. The intention is to correct criminal behavior by our drivers and to reduce accidents.”

That is, I believe, the absolute best answer — both for the People and the police.  It all goes back to Robert Peel’s principles.  If you want the police to be the community and the community the police, then you can’t set the police on the community as tax collectors.  Everyone has seen a jackass weaving in and out of traffic, or running red lights, and thought, “geez, why couldn’t there be a cop here now?”  But no one (well, no one sane and well adjusted) sees someone doing 75 in a 65 (while everyone else is doing 70) and thinks, “oh, it would be so much safer here if there was a cop writing tickets.”

“We’re asking them to make those traffic stops to correct behavior,” Lawrence added. “It may take a citation or it may be just a warning, but that’s why I feel traffic stops are more important than citations.”

I think this part is really key.

Have you ever gotten a warning?  It changes the entire interaction.  I can’t speak for everyone, but it actually gets me to think about what i was doing and correct it.  Tickets don’t do that.  When I get a ticket, I think, “how can I avoid getting caught”.  When I get a warning, I think, “Yeah, I guess I was doing it.  Maybe I shouldn’t,” — especially if the warning is reasoned, like, “sir, we’re really watching out for people going over on residential streets, because there was a child struck by a driver three blocks over last week.”  That gets me to slow down.  The idea that the city wants my ticket to pay to repaint the mayor’s office doesn’t persuade me in the least.

Finally, when warnings become the norm, you won’t ignore it when someone you know gets a ticket.  Right now, there is no shame whatsoever in a traffic ticket.  It shouldn’t label you as some sort of pariah, but it should tell people, “I got caught acting like an asshole.”  With the way things are now, people just think the cop was an asshole.  I hope that this trend stays, and changes that mentality.

One final thing — notice how they phrase this in the story: “while others blame a new focus on property crimes.”  Got that?  Catching burglars and car thieves is somehow to blame for not writing as many traffic tickets.  “What, you stopped writing tickets to catch burglars and vandals?  Who thought that was a good idea?”  Uh, pretty much everyone, actually.  Everyone, I guess, but reporters and city bureaucrats.

Update: the DMN is in on this too.  Get this:

In addition, traffic unit personnel have been assigned recently to crime-fighting initiatives rather than strict traffic enforcement duties.

The decline comes as the city has seen an unprecedented eight straight years of overall crime reduction. For most of that time, the size of the force was steadily rising, thanks to a hiring push.

Once again, I’ll quote Peel’s principles:

1. The basic mission for which the police exist is to prevent crime and disorder.

9. The test of police efficiency is the absence of crime and disorder, not the visible evidence of police action in dealing with it.

Frankly, the cops could stop writing tickets for everything but reckless driving (and wrap actually being impaired by alcohol and not just “over .08″ driving into that) and spend the rest of their time on peace keeping and I would be perfectly happy with that change.

The Everlasting Phelps

TRIGGER WARNING: This entire site will cause massive butthurt in any precious snowflake that needs a trigger warning for anything.