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Thread: The true function of police these days

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Jul 2006
    The Land of The Edentulites

    Unhappy The true function of police these days

    Under existing judicial precedents, a police officer cannot be held criminally or civilly liable for failing to come to the aid of an individual citizen whose person and property are under criminal attack. However, police agencies across the country routinely discipline police officers who fail to fill their quota of traffic citations.

    This may at first glance seem to be a spurious comparison. But consider it in light of the principle of opportunity cost as applied to the time budget of the typical patrol officer: Should he organize his time in such a way that he can be available to help a victim of violent crime, or in the best way to take advantage of "hot spots" for traffic violators, thereby making his quota and enhancing his prospects for lucrative overtime?

    A given officer can be in only one place at a given time, after all, and each hour spent trolling for inattentive drivers represents an hour taken away from the task of "serving and protecting" the local population.

    Here in Payette, Idaho (population circa 7,000), the local police force has not one or two but no fewer than three undercover, unmarked cars (recognizable from some angles by the antenna cluster at the back) that apparently circulate through the town in search of traffic violations. One of them can be seen every morning making circuits through a local "hot spot": It’s a section of a business route branching off I-95 where the speed limit suddenly dips from 35 MPH to 25 MPH for several blocks.

    This kind of ticketing-by-quota – the existence of which is indisputable, the anguished denials from police officials to the contrary notwithstanding – isn’t "law enforcement"; it’s revenue enhancement. And it’s increasingly common as the economic implosion accelerates and governments at the municipal and county levels are starved for tax revenue.

    "When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement," observes Michael Reaves, a police chief in Utica, Michigan. "But if you’re a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues. That’s just the reality nowadays."

    The Detroit News article containing Reaves’ lament was entitled "Traffic fines help fill city coffers: Officials increasingly target drivers to bolster budgets." The piece, the first in a two-part exposé, reported that "Court and police records from 2002–2007 [show that] many Metro Detroit police departments have drastically increased the number of moving violations issued in what some people say is an effort to offset budget shortfalls caused by the sluggish economy."

    One former Detroit-area police officer summarizes: "A portion of the tickets our officers write helps pay their salaries, but the rest is profit for the city. ‘Profit’ may not be the right word to use in government, but that’s pretty much what it is."

    No, "profit" – a term describing material gain honorably earned through mutually beneficial commerce – is not the correct word. "Plunder" is.

    Detroit and its environs are in the throes of a severe and deepening depression, and suffering a predictable increase in property crimes and violent assaults. And yet, as the perspicuous Karen DeCoster (herself a Detroit native) points out, "the cops do nothing to prevent the scores of home robberies, car thefts, and assorted property crimes because they are too busy sitting in 'hot spots' that are good for catching the more dangerous types, like speeders and drivers who don't come to a complete stop at a stop sign in an empty intersection."

    That’s opportunity cost at work. And this underscores, once again, the true priorities that define police "work": Revenue collection for the government über alles, protection for the governed … sometimes.

    The embodiment of the Detroit-area police plunderbund is Officer David Kanapsky, the champion pen-slinger for the Warren Police Department. During 2007, the Warren PD issued 54,100 traffic tickets – an increase of 20 percent over the previous year’s total of 44,809.

    Kanapsky, a physically unimpressive wad of aging cholesterol who couldn’t chase down a robber or wrestle an assailant to the ground without risking an immediate coronary infarct, wrote ten percent of Warren’s citations during 2007.

    Most of them were issued at Kanapsky’s favorite fishing hole, an intersection with a stop sign at which some drivers would make a "rolling stop."

    But then again, it doesn’t really matter whether drivers come to a full stop, since Kanapsky – by virtue of the costume he wears to what he calls "work" – enjoys the benefit of the doubt when tickets are contested in court.

    And since Kanapsky is paid (note carefully: not "earns," but "is paid") overtime simply for appearing in court, he actually has a perverse incentive for issuing citations he knows will be challenged. Last year he was given $21,562 in overtime simply for dragging his tax-engorged corpus into court to wheeze out his allegations before a judge.

    Each of those contested tickets was a case of Kanapsky’s word against that of his victim – the word of a self-interested tax-feeder against that of a productive citizen. Naturally, the judge invariably takes the side of his comrade in the tax-feeding class. So Kanapsky is let free to grow another subsidized chin and prey on other innocent people; meanwhile, those who dared object to Kanapsky’s predations are out the price of a ticket and the valuable time spent in the useless, infuriating, self-abasing attempt to contest it in court.

    Any citizen is free to pursue that disagreement further, at his own time and expense, in the same system that depends on the support of armed predators like Kanapsky. However, if that citizen simply shrugs his shoulders and says, in effect, "You’ve proven nothing, and I have no intention of surrendering my legitimately earned money on the word of a self-interested thug," he’ll eventually learn that he can’t persist in his disagreement without getting shot.

    It’s important to recognize that many police officers are nauseated by the use to which they are put by the governments that hired them.

    "The people we count on to support us and help us when we're on the road are the ones who end up paying the bills, and they're ticked off about it," observes Trenton, Michigan Police Sgt. Richard Lyons. "We might was well just go door-to-door and tell people, 'Slide us $100 now, since your 16-year-old is going to end up paying us anyway when he starts driving.' You can't blame people for getting upset. No politician wants to be the one to raise taxes, but if the community needs more money they should go ahead and raise taxes. At least that's more honorable than chasing down cars for doing five miles over the speed limit."

    Of course, no politician wants to raise taxes overtly, and with property values and retail earnings sharply declining, property and sales taxes are being choked off. This is why police nation-wide are increasingly being deployed as armed revenue farmers – and why the already lengthy lines outside your local traffic court get longer every week.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Raleigh NC, USA
    I-95 goes nowhere near Idaho.

    Chip H.

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