Police Don't Like It When The Shoe Is On The Other Foot

Via Radley Balko, certain Dallas residents are upset that they are getting "nitpicked" for speeding and other traffic violations caught by camera.  Normally, I would be quite sympathetic.  But not in this case.  You see, those who are upset about getting punished for violating traffic laws are Dallas police:

The Dallas Police Department has suspended a special unit’s regular reviews of dash-cam video from patrol cars because officers felt they were being nitpicked with disciplinary action for minor infractions such as speeding.

The recordings and the reviews are meant to provide evidence when patrol officers go renegade, and they are especially helpful in excessive-force cases. They’re also crucial for protecting officers falsely accused of wrongdoing.

In 11 months of operation, the unit reviewing the video found numerous examples of officers exceeding the department’s speed requirements, failing to turn on their lights and sirens or failing to stop at stop signs or red lights during chases or when responding to other emergency calls.

While in many cases these actions are against department policy, police commanders say they became concerned that some supervisors were taking a heavy-handed approach to routine problems, meting out discipline rather than finding ways to change behavior.

“The folklore among officers is, ‘I’m afraid to go five miles over the speed limit because I’ll be disciplined,’” said Chief David Brown. He ordered a cooling-off period for the review process while the department takes a look at what can be done to ensure that it is fair and reasonable.

As someone who has gotten a ticket from a police officer for going less than five miles over the speed limit, I can think of a two word response:  Equal protection.

While some supervisors informed of violations have simply counseled officers to be more cautious, Dallas Police Association officials say at least a couple of dozen officers were disciplined, mostly with minor write-ups, for speeding violations.

Well, since police officers like all public officials are impossible to fire, this does not mean squat.  I don't see any fine here, or points on their license, penalties absolutely everyone else would face.  A better spin for this article would be "police violations of traffic law treated far more leniently than those by anyone else."  And even with this lenient treatment, they still shut it down as too onerous.

All that being said, the video review program Dallas was doing is a good idea.  It should continue, and if traffic law enforcement is getting in the way of the program continuing, I would be willing to let the officers slide if only to catch more substantial violations in how they interact with the public.

 

  • LoneSnark

    I have on several occasions watched a cop drive up to a red light, turn on his flashing lights, drive through the red light, then turn them off.

  • me

    Hah. Spot on. The funny thing is that where I originally come from, police officers are held to a higher standard than ordinary citizens. In the US, we essentially created a criminal class in uniform.

  • Kevin Jackson

    Surely the broken windows approach applies to policing the police as well as to policing communities. Perhaps if police officers knew that even the mildest infractions were being noticed and punished, they would be less likely to engage in major infractions.

  • perlhaqr

    As someone who has gotten a ticket from a police officer for going less than five miles over the speed limit, I can think of a two word response: Equal protection.

    That's much more polite than the two word response I had to that article... ;)

  • NL_

    "Dallas shuts down police monitoring program for being too successful at monitoring police."

  • rg

    you seem to have a consistent anti-law enforcement agenda. the extremely rare sensational outrageous exception seems to trump all else. try living in a community with no law enforcement and in a country with no military and get back to us.

  • Not Sure

    Living in a community with no law enforcement or in a police state are not the only choices.

  • rg

    'Living in a community with no law enforcement or in a police state are not the only choices'

    Thanks for that awesomely instructive and constructive alternative.

    Please enlighten us with reality based examples. Or the dreamy utopian example in floating in your head.

    pfft.

  • Andrew

    Perhaps a community with a police force that is held accountable for its actions?
    That certainly would be a dreamy utopia...

    If the police have nothing to hide, why are they afraid of being held accountable?

  • llo

    rg - So non-sensational instances of law enforcement officers breaking the law are ok? Why do we have to choose between living in a road warrior wasteland and having the police playing by no rules at all. I think holding everyone to the same standard seems pretty fair.

    Also is it all that unreasonable that we keep an eye on those who we have given exceptional authority and power over us? Do we not have a right to voice our objections when they abuse that power and authority?

  • Not Sure

    "Please enlighten us with reality based examples."

    America, 50 years ago. When the police didn't see their mission as domination of the local population. And didn't shoot dogs as SOP.

    Hope that's not too dreamy and utopian for you.

  • Heehaw

    As an old headline writer, I couldn't help my fingers twitching and grasping for the ol' blue pencil:

    "Police Don't Like It When The Boot Is On The Other Neck"

  • fiftyville

    These cops are supposed to be professionals. At what, whining? We may as well disband the cops and go to vigilante groups because:

    1) how could they hardly do worse?

    and

    2) vigilantes don't get paid and don't incur retirement costs.

  • pete the elder

    "America, 50 years ago. When the police didn’t see their mission as domination of the local population"

    You are living a fantasy if you think a lot of the police did not see that as their mission 50 years ago.

    I have almost been hit by police cars on multiple occasions when they were speeding, talking on a cell phone, or didn't bother to use a turn signal whne making a lane change and I had to swerve out of their way. Had the situations been reversed I am sure I would have gotten a ticket.

  • Matt

    "you seem to have a consistent anti-law enforcement agenda."

    Really? The police were violating the law, unambiguously, and they do not dispute this. They are attempting to end enforcement of the law, at least when it applies to them. You seem to agree with them.

    So who exactly is really opposed to the enforcement of the law here?

  • Russ

    Matt,

    Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom: holding the police to their own standards does not make one "anti-cop." What's more, Dallas PD has demonstrated a clear and *decades-long* disdain for professional ethics, let alone law-abidence, demonstrated in scandal after scandal. If a Dallas cop were coming in my front door, and a burglar were coming in my rear, I wouldn't know who to shoot first.

  • pdiddycornchips

    This sentence needs clarification:

    "the unit reviewing the video found numerous examples of officers exceeding the department’s speed requirements, failing to turn on their lights and sirens or failing to stop at stop signs or red lights during chases or when responding to other emergency calls.

    Failing to stop at stop signs or red lights when responding to emergency calls? Isn't that the whole point of the flashing red lights and sirens?

  • Russ

    (apologies for lack of clarity: agreeing with Matt)

  • David D

    Oh I love this topic.
    Recently our community has killed a huge county project in our rural neighborhood,and the result has been a flock of 'code enforcement agents' nailing everyone for the most ticky tacky violations you could imagine. We live in a wind tunnel in the desert alongside a major interstate, but god forbid you should have a plactic bag wrapped around a bush in your frontyard or you'll get a ticket for 50 bucks within minutes. But recently I drove past the county building and there was trash all over their own parking lot. I felt like pulling over and using their own laws for 'unsightly yards' against them, but fat chance prevailing against them for violating the laws they write. B#astards!

  • Anonzmous

    Warren, you made Instapundit!

  • AD-RtR/OS!

    David D:
    Take pix, and include them with the relevant code sections to your elected reps, and the local media - but have your atty mail them for you, just in case.

  • Micha Elyi

    ...holding the police to their own standards...
    Russ

    Russ, you're confused about who writes the laws.

  • Dennis

    Years ago while living in Atlanta I had an Atlanta PD car pass me at around 80 mph with no siren and no lights as required to exceed posted speeds. I fell in behind him and about a mile down the road he slowed and moved into the emergency lane. I passed him by and he immediately deployed siren and lights behind me and pulled me over. He was irate when arriving at my window and launched into a profanity laced tirade including referring to me as a "smart ass", "think you can get away with speeding behind me?" and other pithy comments. I politely informed him that I was following him because apparently 80 mph was an acceptable speed for him, thus for me as well. Long story short, I got no ticket after 10 minutes of back and forth. I would not do it again because I suspect many officers would have ticketed me just for the thrill of it, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.

  • Squid

    "...the extremely rare sensational outrageous exception seems to trump all else."

    This article was about a law-enforcement program being terminated because it was embarrassing to the department. It was embarrassing because it routinely caught cops routinely breaking their professional codes and policies, and also breaking the laws they're sworn to uphold. It seems to me that we have a case of regular, routine exceptions, which to me is even more outrageous.

    Is regular, routine lawbreaking by police more acceptable than the "rare sensational outrageous exception?" I sincerely await your reply.

  • Not Sure

    "I have almost been hit by police cars on multiple occasions when they were speeding, talking on a cell phone, or didn’t bother to use a turn signal whne making a lane change and I had to swerve out of their way."

    Cops had cell phones 50 years ago?

  • Jay Dee

    I'm a former LEO. In my view, police officers are required to follow the law as well as everyone else. I cringe whenever I read of the profanity laced traffic stops or cops pointing weapons when they are not threatened. They wonder why the public regard them as thugs? They are thugs.

    Putting on a badge is not a license to bully the public nor is it a license to violate whatever law. If anything, a police officer should be held to a higher standard and present a suitable example to the community. Those unwilling or unable to set the example should not be entrusted as a police officer. Find another career before you do something really stupid, endanger fellow officers and land your sorry ass in jail.

  • http://tjic.com TJIC

    @rg:
    > you seem to have a consistent anti-law enforcement agenda. the extremely rare sensational outrageous exception seems to trump all else.

    "Extremely rare" ?!?

    I read multiple articles PER DAY about cops beating defenseless people, shooting dogs, raiding houses without warrants, lying on the stand, lying to the press, etc.

    Heck, I've been on the receiving end of this myself.

    Cops are thugs. Maybe not 100% of them - I've heard rumors that there are one or two good ones out there - but every one I've interacted with has had a cavalier attitude towards the law and an actively hostile attitude towards the Constitution.

  • http://tjic.com TJIC

    @JayDee:

    > Putting on a badge is not a license to bully the public nor is it a license to violate whatever law.

    It SHOULDN'T be a license to bully citizens, but in fact it usually is.

  • HiCarry

    pdiddycornchips:Many agencies have policies in place that dictate what can, and cannot be done while using your emergency equipment (lights, sirens). Most agencies require that you slow down or stop before proceeding into an intersection while using your lights/siren. This is because there have been too many incidents where citizens proceeding thru the same intersection on the green have been hit by the police/EMS vehicle.

  • tmuir

    If the cops are in clear violation of local speeding laws for not good reason, responding to a call, well we have procedures for this: write them a traffic ticket and fine them. If we cant fire them if they cant get there act together then mine them for fines.

  • me

    I was going to quote the investigation trying to get fired the one good cop who recently made the headlights.
    But here's a much jucier bit: you thought your money was your money? No, it isn't. Except if you're rich: http://overlawyered.com/2012/04/structuring-who-can-get-away-with-it-and-who-cant/

    Takes the cake.