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.