The World Needs Fewer Cops

About a year ago, I was pulled over and given what I consider to be a frivolous ticket. I managed to beat it in court, but it got me thinking about how many police we have dedicated to making sure nobody is doing anything “wrong” with their car or skateboarding where it is prohibited. It seems that the vast majority of the police force is out patrolling roads rather than actually helping the people who need it or stopping real crimes.

Speed limits have not substantively changed since the 1950’s despite the fact that our vehicles have improved immeasurably in terms of breaking and handling ability. Why is this? Just follow the money. Think of all the tickets that are written each day. Think about how much those tickets cost, and then consider the fact that only 3% of all citations are contested in courts. This pretty much just amounts to a huge tax that only a tiny fraction of Americans seem to question.

In fact, because of all the fear mongering out there, most citizens have been deluded into thinking we need even more cops to “protect our safety” by pulling over even more terrifying criminals who are endangering our society by driving with a headlight out, or going 5 mph over the speed limit. Can you detect my sarcasm? Good! To me, if our cops don’t have anything better to do than set up speed traps and give kids a hard time for riding their roller blades, we have far too many of them as it is.

After getting that ticket, and before I beat it in court, I wrote this letter to my Governor, local and state representatives. Not a single one of them wrote me back. I imagine that they have all joined in society’s collective fear, and just didn’t know what to think about a person who is asking for fewer, rather than more police.

I am writing this letter to ask that you please investigate any and all means to prevent drug trafficking within the state of Vermont. Drug abuse is a major problem, and controlling it will undoubtedly have a positive influence on the quality of life in this state.

Having said that, I am asking that you please evaluate alternative options to hiring more state troopers. The reasons I am asking this of you are two-fold. First, we find ourselves facing unprecedented budgetary challenges, and with each new officer costing tax payers roughly $70,000 for the first year alone, creating more police positions is simply not fiscally responsible at this time. Secondly, it frequently appears that the state police we do have often lack enough work to keep them busy. Countless examples exist of officers issuing frivolous tickets, or hassling folks who are doing nothing illegal, or even suspicious, but who don’t quite fit the mold.

I moved to Vermont from New Hampshire because I value my freedom, my individuality, and my right to be left in peace. Even though it is an unintended consequence of otherwise well-meaning initiatives, it is my experience that a larger police presence can’t help but run counter to these values we share as Vermonters.

Please don’t impose more financial obligations on an already over-taxed state. Please help preserve the sanctity we share as law-abiding citizens. Finally, please impose tough, no-nonsense sentencing standards upon those involved in the illicit drug trade, but don’t ask tax payers to fund a larger police presence that is likely to spend nearly all of it’s time patrolling roads, not removing the drugs from our streets.

Thank you very much for your time.

After thinking more about it, perhaps a better way to go about reducing the number of cops would be to lobby for higher salaries. If we demand that our police officers are paid more, the departments will be able to retain fewer of them… It would keep Mr. and Mrs. Paranoid feeling secure, and we could be more selective in the type of troopers we are hiring.

22 thoughts on “The World Needs Fewer Cops

  1. No offense meant to you, but I think this post is just stupid. Speed limits are NOT just there to increase profits but because there are real saftely implications to increasing or removing them.

    When I get out on the highway, I know the speed limits (an any other rules of the road) are there are not just there to protect me from my car’s inability to handle a situation…but me handling a situation.

    There is a reaction time involed in breaking appropriately. Going about 60 miles an hour a car should remain about 3 seconds behind the car in front of them to allow for the safest possible breaking distance. The faster one goes, the further apart one should be from the leading car. So what’s the reason? Well, the faster I am going and the closer I am to the car in front of me, the less likely I will be able to avoid a collision AND the more damage I will do.

    As I drive faster and closer – and you can’t tell me that most people obey the 3 second rule without lying – the chance of causing serious injury on impact increases.

    I’ve heard you argue that ‘cars are more advanced now and are much safer.’ To this, I would have to agree. But is that grounds for increasing or removing the speed limits? No. As long as people drive vintage cars; as long as it snows/rains/sleets; as long as people fall asleep at the wheel; as long as people take their eyes off the road to pick up that cigarette that they dropped, there will always be a need for a seatbelt and a speed limit to REDUCE casualties and injuries.

    Regarding skateboarders…well, if I run a business and have built a nice little cement wall or have a nice table/bench outside; not only do skateboards put un-needed wear and tear on that equipment, but there is ALSO a safety hazard AND liability. I’m not going to elaborate too much on this, just know this: skateboarding is an injury prone sport. Injuries at your place of business leaves you open for being sued…plus it makes you look bad as a business. Don’t agree with that? Well, what if there were two bookstores in the same town…say they sold basically the same amount of books, had good employees and prices, yadda yadda yadda. Now, one bookstore has frequent skateboarders in front of it and doesn’t care one way or the other. In the past year, that store has seen 12 injuries of varying degrees in the past 3 months…injuries to the boarders and/or to the patrons. In addition, there is always a group of boarders loitering around skating back and forth. Which store seems more desirable now? *shrugs*

    Your post is about reducing police costs. Here is a better solution than saying “Ticketing is stupid. Speed limits shouldn’t be enforced, etc, etc, etc.” If people really want to reduce the need for police…follow the freaking rules. Go the speed limit. Be safe. If more people did this…it would REDUCE the amount of tickets being distributed which would decrease revenue for state and local police. In terms of skateboarding: communities need to build places for skateboarders to practice their talents. Businesses have a right to say what happens on their premises, as it directly effects their business. The business’ desires should be upheld (obviously to a reasonable amount) which would decrease the need to patrol, which decreases police revenue.

    I say: don’t right a pleading leader to a governor that most likely didn’t read it and would rather eat his/her own children’s left feet than respond. If you really want to change something, obey the speed limit and you won’t have a problem. I try to obey it every time I drive (and do a pretty good job at it) and I’m still surviving. I don’t get tickets, I get to my destination, and I know that I have a less likely chance of killing someone when I ram into them than the hoo-has that are passing me at 80 miles an hour.

    Game over. kkthxbye. omgwtfbbq.

  2. The question is, does and should the government take a vested interest in keeping you alive? My belief is no. Just as I disagree strongly with mandatory seatbelt laws, I think that the government has no business trying to keep me alive.

    Having said that, my rights stop where yours begin. If I am speeding and causing endangerment to others, then yes, I deserve the ticket. However, if I am speeding and there is no one else on the road, who else am I harming by speeding?

    You cannot deny that tickets are a source of revenue for the municipality that it was issued from, as well as the state. The profits of those tickets gets invested in our infrastructure, such as roads, etc. All criminal fines and penalties are handled in this manner. This this end, it is not unreasonable to conclude that it is in the best fiscal interests of a town to issue as many tickets as possible.

    I should also mention that there is a certain percentage of speeders who are stopped by police, and other crimes are discovered as a result of that motor vehicle stop, such as DWI, narcotics posession, and felatio on zoo animals while operating said motor vehicle. These bastards need to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

    Regarding speeding, Montana has a very nice system:

    Montana’s daytime speed limit is “reasonable and prudent” for cars. Trucks are limited to 65. At night, it’s 55 on two-lane roads and 65 on four-lane roads for everyone. County roads are not covered by the “R&P” speed limit, they still have numerical limits in force. (ref. 61-8-303, MCA)

    “Reasonable and prudent” speeds are determined by the arresting officer but are probably between 70 and 85 mph.

    Montana had 247 traffic deaths last year. It is unclear how many of those are highway speed related.

    By comparisson, New Hampshire had 165 traffic fatalities, 40 of which were motorcycle related. In New Hampshire in 2004, there were 171 people killed in motor-vehicle crashes, and 194 in Maine.

    These are just raw numbers, and it would be interesting to see a study comparing the data sets to draw a conclusion…

  3. “If people really want to reduce the need for police…follow the freaking rules. Go the speed limit.”

    Speed limits are too slow. Why should I adopt a law that is so clearly flawed?

    “skateboarding is an injury prone sport. Injuries at your place of business leaves you open for being sued.”

    True… Skateboarders need to accept this, and judges need to start throwing out cases that involve a company or person being sued by a injured skaters. These kids are just having fun, and they could be out doing drugs and killing kittens, so throw out stupid cases, and leave the rest of them the hell alone. Having cops give them a hard time just makes them more likely to engage in criminal bahavior.

    “If I run a business and have built a nice little cement wall or have a nice table/bench outside; not only do skateboards put un-needed wear and tear on that equipment.”

    You seem to have confused property damage with skateboarding. Skatrboarding is not a crime. Vandalisim is. DO NOT confuse the two.

    “Businesses have a right to say what happens on their premises, as it directly effects their business.”

    True, but when was the last time you saw someone skatboarding in J.C. Pennies? These people mostly use the sidewalk, which is public grounds. They paid for it, and as such, have a right to use it. Parking lots are another matter.

  4. “Speed limits are too slow. Why should I adopt a law that is so clearly flawed?”

    Flawed how? How is it too slow? The higher the speed, the higher probability of fatalities on impact…not only to you but to those you hit. As I told you in the hall, I drive the speed limit not ONLY because I want to avoid getting a ticket but because I value life…(mine and those I’m gonna ram). I don’t care if you don’t value your own life, but to show no regard for those around you is sad, in my opinion.

    “True… Skateboarders need to accept this, and judges need to start throwing out cases that involve a company or person being sued by a injured skaters. These kids are just having fun, and they could be out doing drugs and killing kittens, so throw out stupid cases, and leave the rest of them the hell alone. Having cops give them a hard time just makes them more likely to engage in criminal bahavior.”

    I could have “fun” burning down trees in front of buildings. Is that bad? Should my case be thrown out? What if I have fun doing graffiti? Sure, some idiots are drawn to do things they aren’t supposed to do, but to be a proper adult they need to learn from their mistakes via reprimands…

    “You seem to have confused property damage with skateboarding. Skateboarding is not a crime. Vandalisim is. DO NOT confuse the two.”

    Fact. Vandalism is a crime. I never said skateboarding was a crime. Had I said it was a crime, I wouldn’t have suggested skateboarders find alternate locations to skate, I would have said: “Lock those little bastards up!” Lets not confuse my words.

    “True, but when was the last time you saw someone skatboarding in J.C. Pennies? These people mostly use the sidewalk, which is public grounds. They paid for it, and as such, have a right to use it. Parking lots are another matter.”

    I never said anything about being IN a store…just in front of it. Most often than not, skateboarders are on the hunt for something to grind or jump, not just skate of flat surfaces. Public grounds have not been paid for by many skateboards (which are generally pre-job highschool/college students), their parents have…but regardless a sideWALK was paid for by many people as a location to walk with minimal fear of getting plowed into by a wheeled vehicle. (thats why bikes are SUPPOSED to be ridden in the road and skateboards/rollerblades are typically prohibited…which I agree is a little ludicrous, save for when people start doing tricks in crouded areas) They have a right to use the sidewalk, yes, but should it be used for practicing ollies and whatnot? I’m not too sure. I’d lean towards no on a busy street with a crap ton of businesses…I’d lean towards “allow-em” when you talk about the sidewalks at Plymouth State University that tend to be wide and open.

  5. Loitering is a crime. Posting signs that says “No Skatebording” also makes those who ignore the signs guilty of tresspass. And if assholes with skateboards simply played with their toys solely on the street or sidewalk, it wouldn’t be an issue. But no, they have to look all cool by riding rails and trying to ollie over anything and everything. Shithead skateborders should have their boards snapped in half by the cops and then be given haircuts. Shit, sign ‘em up for the Marines!

  6. It is a fabrication to say that higher speeds cause more accidents. It is, however, true that higher speeds cause more of those accidents to include fatalities. I guess we should all drive 12Mph everywhere and go on about debating if driving 12 is safer than going 11.

    I know from my experience living in Nevada, where speed limits can be as high at 75Mph, that people tend to not really excede it. On the flip side, I think we can all agree that 70Mph to 75Mph is pretty much the standard on highways posted at 65Mph. Try telling me that this is not a government scam to make money. They are criminalizing every day behavior, and it is quite simply wrong.

    Maybe we should all just sit around in our underware every day, and nobody would have to worry about getting hurt.

  7. Oooh Oooh, I vote naked too! And actually Cliff, if they raised speed limits to 75, people would be doing 80-85, you know it as well as I do. People are going to go as fast and they think they can get away with because we value our time more than the safety of ourselves or those around us … it’s just a matter of what you can get away with.

    Also, regarding your Montana “facts”, you neglected to mention that the population of Montana is 902,195 residents according to the 2000 census, and has an area of 147,138 square miles, where as New Hampshire has 1,235,786 residents and 9,351 square miles. That’s a staggering difference, and the fact that we have fewer traffic related fatalities is amazing considering in Montana you should see another driver on the road about once every other day. Seems to me speed there probably is a large contributing factor to the death toll.

    Regarding your statement about JC Penney’s, malls, stores, and the surrounding sidewalk, benches, and parking lots are paid for by individual (if it’s a franchise) or a development company in the case of a mall. They are not paid for by tax dollars, so the store has every right to deny the use of skateboards on their property. I’m sure if someone is just skateboarding through from one place to another, no one’s going to bother them, but it’s when they’re griding, they are vandalizing property … I guess you haven’t ever noticed that you can tell where the skateboarders have been grinding because the surface of the ground area is beat to hell, and if it was a painted surface, the paint is scraped off. It may not be as noticable or offensive as graffiti, but it is damaging someone else’s property which is the definition of vandalism last I checked: “Vandalism: The willful or malicious destruction, injury, disfigurement, or defacement of any public or private property, real or personal, without consent of the owner or person having control.”

  8. Oh damn it, in my zeal for wanting to rip cliff a new one, I didn’t even notice that it was your post … oh well … it was all pointed at cliff anyway. I wish most skateboarders were impotent, as then we would have fewer of them propagating their dumb-as-f%&*skating genes, but alas that doesn’t seem to be the case either.

  9. This is one heated driving debate. All hyperbole aside, taxes and fines make the government dependent on people’s poor judgement. Heavy cigarette taxes decrease the government’s incentive to educate people on the hazards of smoking. Legislatures rely on gas taxes, gambling revenue, state liquor stores, and traffic tickets in order to balance budgets. For proof, just look at the PSU cops, their operating budget comes from charging $100 per parking ticket. Any organization responsible for protecting the health and safety of the public shouldn’t profit from their self-destructive behavior.

  10. Well said Mike! Sociologists look at this as the functional view of crime. The police are deep invested in the expantion of what is thought of as criminal behavior because it provides them with job security and a source of funding.

  11. With all due respect, Matt appears to be an ignorant statist. Having driven hundreds of thousands of miles all over the world, I have found that driving slower rarely makes you safer. Since about a third of my meager income goes to the state, I have to work a lot more than 40 hours to support my family. Since I work a lot, I don’t get as much sleep as I’d like to. Driving at the unreasonably low posted speeds causes drivers to die of boredome by falling asleep at the wheel and getting into accidents. I tried driving the speed limit once for a few months, but when I was falling asleep at the wheel a couple times a day, I decided that I should just drive at the speed that is the most comfortable to me. The faster I drive, the more adrenaline my brain produces, which helps me to stay awake. I have never fallen asleep at the wheel while driving over 70 mph. Fortunately I have never plowed into anyone. Just because Matt and his likes don’t have the skills to handle situations on the road, doesn’t mean that the state should restrict my speed to what might be safest for bad drivers who don’t pay attention to the road ahead of them. I have been rearended three times. The first time, I was struck from behind by a cop who was obviously not looking beyond his ability to stop, and I think he was kind of drunk. The vehicle I was in had been stationary for over a minute before it was struck. The second time, I was struck while I was pulling into a parking spot in a parking lot. The third time, I had been sitting at a red light for at least 30 seconds before I was struck from behind. These accidents were not caused by speed, but by inattention. Inattention causes far more accidents than speed. I know several people who usually ignore the speed limit and have been in numerous accidents at low speeds, but none at higher speeds, because while they were driving slow, they either fell asleep at the wheel, were messing with something inside the vehicle, or looking at the scenery, instead of paying attention to the road ahead of them. If people practiced lane courtesy, (which most cops don’t enforce, even though it is law), traffic would move more smmoothly, there would be less braking due to rolling roadblocks and left lane vigilantes, and there would be fewer accidents. Getting rid of tollbooths would also serve to reduce the number of accidents, but since revenue generation is more important to statists than safety, the state is unlikely to get rid of toll booths or raise speed limits. Safety is just an excuse. Revenue generation is the reason for speeding tickets. I have driven twice the speed limit a lot, often exceeding 100 mph. I am less of a danger to those around me than people who are not paying attention to the road. I was talking to a representative of the DOT a few weeks ago, and she told me that the DOT is planning to make roads narrower to slow drivers down. Since people on nonmotorized wheeled vehicles are not allowed to ride on the sidewalks, those kinds of kneejerk reactions by fearmongers in government will result in even less space on the roads for cyclists, skaters, etc, which would result in more accidents between motorists and skateboarders, etc. Pulling people over for speeding will also make things more dangerous for police officers, their victims, and motorists who are passing them. Even though tickets have cost me a lot of money over the last 15 years, because my safety is more important to me than the cost of the speeding tickets, I will continue to pay attention to the road ahead of me and ignore the speed limit.
    As far as skateboarders go, I think that they should be allowed to ride on public property as long as they yield to pedestrians and don’t willfully cause damage.

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  13. This person is just pissed off about a ticket, christ almighty dont you have anything else to cry about. I mean come on, what a joke. Hey lets get rid of the drugs, but first lets get rid of cops, hahahaha, that is just stupid.

    • Aaron,

      Since you seem incapable of identifying connections between the most basic of concepts, let me spell it out for you… The police we have are spending their time writing traffic tickets because it funds their existence. Were they spending time on something that actually matters, stifling the illicit drug trade, for example, their existence in such numbers could perhaps be justified. As it stands, they are not. They seem only interested in growing their numbers, and expanding their sphere of influence, which is something that I am not comfortable funding as a taxpayer.

      Understanding that you will likely disagree with me on this matter, I would suggest that you do a couple of things. First, read the entire article before commenting. You will sound infinitely more intelligent and informed if you do so. Secondly, study up on some of Émile Durkheim’s writings about the sociological paradigm of Functionalism. Even if you do not agree with it, I have no doubt that you will find it illuminating.

      Finally, I suggest you take a look at this NPR series. It’s a wonderful little story about a Texas police department that knowingly allowed vehicles loaded down with illegal drugs to enter the country, only to stop them on the way back into Mexico. A loophole allowed the majority of any drug money confiscated to be used for police department funding so these corrupt officers were all too happy to turn a blind eye to smuggling so they could confiscate and make off with he cash later. People only began to get suspicious when they started spending money like drunken sailors on shore leave. This is the kind of thing that passes for police ethics in this country, and it’s totally unacceptable. We have given them far too much power over us, and it’s time we started taking it back.

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