Filed under: Societal Botheration
I love cops on TV. I watch all the Law and Order series, I occasionally check out The Closer, and I’m fascinated and awed by the FBI agents on Criminal Minds. The police on television always impress me with their reasoning, their integrity, their crazy hours, their good looks, and their willingness to fuck up their personal lives for the greater good.
Cops in real life impress me much less. In fact, cops in real life suck ass. I live in a fairly affluent, low crime area. I should be exceedingly grateful for this, and I am. However, it seems that the local police force, deprived of the opportunity to fight actual crime, has litle else to do but spend hours on end setting up speed traps. I know, I know: as long as you are obeying traffic laws, this should be of no concern to you. That notion is only comforting if you assume certain key things to be true:
1. That the traffic laws are reasonable and practical.
2. That the cops don’t abuse their power.
Let’s start with practical traffic laws. As far as I’m concerned, if it’s not residential and it’s not a school zone, there is no justification for a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour. Modern cars can’t drive at the speed of 25mph. I have to take my foot off the gas pedal and just let the car coast in order to maintain that speed. That can be done for 500 feet while passing a school, but it can’t be done on a major thruway. I could get out of the car and walk faster than that.
Then we have the thin blue line. There’s a reason that so many films are made about police corruption and the brotherhood of cops protecting each other at all costs: give people (especially men) a little power and they tend to start thinking of themselves as untouchable. Somtimes this fact of the human condition manifests itself into cops swiping drug money found during a raid. Oher times, the result is a citizen receiving a speeding ticket for going one mile over the speed limit (true story).
Yesterday on my way back to the inferno after my lunch break, I had to travel on a fairly major road. Extensive construction is being done to parts of the road, so sections of it have been closed off and rerouted. The section I was driving through was more congested than usual due to construction and I got caught behind a super slow, lumbering construction truck. I sped up to pass it and immediately slowed down again once I was safely ahead of it. That was when a cop RAN OUT INTO THE ROAD IN FRONT OF ONCOMING TRAFFIC and began flailing his hands in the air at me. Though clearly drunk on power, I assumed he wasn’t doing jazz hands, and I stopped.
He had me pull into the parking lot where another office on foot walked up to me and asked me if I knew the speed limit. Because this is a well traveled four lane road with retail and offices on either side, I thought the limit was 35mph. For reasons beyond me, it is 25mph. When I shared this story with various co-workers, every single one either thought the limit was 35mph or expressed that he had thought it was until recently corrected. According to the officer, I hit 41 when I sped up to pass the truck. The officer walked away and during the 5 or so minutes I was waiting for him to write up the ticket, two other traffic violators were pulled over by him and his cohort.
When he returned, he shoved a piece of paper in my face without any explanation and said, “Sign here.” I replied, “What exactly are you asking me to sign?” and he pointed to the signature line with his pen, rather than explain anything to me or give me the usual info about when my court date is, how I can pay the fine and avoid court, etc. In short, he was a douchebag, and if he had the time to pull me over, he should have taken the time to explain procedures to me, especially after I made a direct inquiry, rather than speak only through his pointer finger. Before rolling up my window and pulling out I said, “So you and your buddy are basically tag-teaming people on their way back to the office from lunch, huh? That’s disappointing to see my tax dollars used that way, but you must be real proud.” He gave me a dirty look. After I started to pull out I rolled down my passenger window and told him I needed his name since he had written it (and the rest of the ticket) illegibly, and once I was securely back on the road and moving (slowly) I made direct eye contact with the jackass and mouthed “Fucking pig” like I was talking to a lip reader. He made an enraged face, I have complete deniability and I feel a little bit better just recalling it.
I checked out the county police web site and laughed at the traffic safety page’s committment to “keeping the roadways safe.” My ass. The only thing they are committed to is taking taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars. It’s not especially safe (or smart) to run out in front of moving traffic. When it happened, I slammed on my brakes, as one is wont to do when a person suddenly appears in the middle of the road. Because part of the road is being worked on, the accessible part is more jammed than usual, thus increasing the likelihood that there may be a collision if one car comes to a sudden stop. This is clearly a money making operation, not an efforts towards safety. There are also 4 traffic lights in less than a mile of this road, so it’s virtually impossible to get going very fast as is. And in case you were wondering, this is not a road that has had an unusual instance of accidents that would justify extra monitoring.
I can’t tell you how many times I have a seen a driver do something truly dangerous on the road, like back up on the shoulder to get onto an exit he had passed. Do you think people pulling these asinine stunts are getting ticketed? Fuck no. Never once have I watched someone do something horrifically stuipd on the road and actually be sanctioned for it, but boy is the police force on top of commuters driving 10 miles over the limit.
The area I live, work and commute in is ranked in the top ten in the nation for worst traffic/shittiest commutes, and ranked as high as number two in a recent report, second only to LA. At least one out of every four times that I hit a patch of crappier than usual traffic on my way to work, it turns out the holdup is because a cop pulled a speeder over, causing rubbernecking and the inevitable hitting of breaks that occurs when drivers see the flashing lights of the law. But where are these same cops when drivers try to bypass the line of traffic merging onto an exit by forcing their way into the front of the line with sheer bulk of vehicle, nearly causing at least two collisions in the process? Those cops are too busy issuing the 23rd speeding ticket of the morning, that’s where.
And then there’s the rampant abuse of power, such as cops’ tendency to park wherever the fuck they please, even if that spot is not an actual parking space. The other day a cop had to interview a co-worker of mine about a personal matter, so he pulled his car up to the curb at the front entrance of our building and parked it there for 30 minutes. This was a preplanned interview, not an emergency situation, and our building offers plenty of parking. Plus, the curb there is painted yellow, so it’s illegal to park there, and it alarmed our employees, who thought some serious shit was going down (probably that I had finally snapped and murdered Douche). This officer put me in the unfortunate position of having to explain to everyone that there was no need to be alarmed because the cop was speaking to someone regarding a personal matter, and since everyone I work with is nosy as hell, they all asked who he was talking to and why. I said I didn’t know, which they know is a lie because I would have had to have seen who he was talking to or called that person to let the person know he was here, so then a bunch of employees were pissy with me for not sharing the goods. Inconsiderate all around. That cop is probably buddies my friend’s neighbor, a cop that lives in her apartment complex and has been known to park his car (illegally) in the roundabout. If the local police weren less inclined to think of themselves as tax collectors who are above the law, I might be more inclined to respect them a little bit.
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