Former Cop Proposes Law Allowing Officers To Issue Tickets Without Leaving ‘Safety’ Of Their Vehicles


from the safety-first! dept

Tim Cushing
Tech Dirt
February 8, 2014

coptechWell, we know for sure that one person thinks this is a good idea, but if this bill passes intact, it will only further confirm the theory that legislators are unable to think more than one step ahead. (via The Consumerist)

An Oklahoma state senator has filed a bill to allow law enforcement officers to issue electronic citations for traffic, misdemeanor and municipal ordinance violations.

A former police officer, Sen. Al McAffrey, said Senate Bill 1872 would protect law enforcement personnel during traffic stops.

“Allowing officers to issue electronic citations will help better protect them. If they don’t have to approach vehicles during traffic stops to give people tickets but can simply email traffic violation citations directly to the district court clerk then they’re less likely to get into a dangerous altercation,” said McAffrey, D-Oklahoma City.

Officer safety must always be the first (and apparently, only) consideration when drafting legislation, at least when it’s a former cop doing the drafting. McAffrey doesn’t seem to have considered exactly how awful this plan is — or just doesn’t care.

McAffrey wants to make sure officers are safe, but seemingly has no similar concerns about the public. Ticketing someone electronically — without ever interacting with the driver — will make the roads less safe. What if the driver is under the influence? There’s no way for the officer to make this determination without an interaction. What appears to be a minor moving violation may actually be the symptom of something more serious. The officer also won’t be able to determine whether the driver is licensed to operate a vehicle. Worse, the automated process will send the ticket to the vehicle owner rather than the actual driver, and negatively affect the wrong person’s driving record and insurance rates. And as for the “threat” McAffrey seems so worried police officers might confront, does it really make sense to protect the officer but leave the arguably dangerous person free to cause harm elsewhere?

Ultimately, the worst side effect of this bill is that it will lower the bar for ticket writing. Officers will be able to write more tickets for more violations (even minor ones that would previously go unnoticed) simply because they won’t be slowed by interactions with the public. Removing this friction will increase the number of tickets issued, whether truly warranted or not. Traffic cams spit out tons of tickets because the “decision” is binary and wholly removed from public interaction. Cops with an e-ticket platform will likely become indistinguishable from the unblinking eyes watching over many American cities. And once this new way of policing kicks in, the cities utilizing the method will find the increased revenue hard to resist, which will prompt even more questionable legislation and tactics further down the line.

Here’s more on the justification for this absurd piece of legislation from McAffrey:

“Routine traffic stops are one of the most dangerous times for officers to become injured because they don’t know what kind of situation or individual they’re approaching. They’re walking up blind,” said McAffrey. “We need to provide better protection for them by not putting them in harm’s way unnecessarily. By allowing them to submit electronic citations, they’d no longer have to leave the safety of their car.”

Well, if we want them to be truly safe, just blanket the state with cameras and allow those to issue the citations. We all know what a bang up job the cameras do, and this way no officer needs to be troubled to exit their vehicle, or perhaps even bother driving down to the station to clock in. After all, as we’re all aware from countless seat belt PSAs, most accidents happen during short commutes like the daily drive to work. And why limit them to traffic citations? Enough cameras will certainly net a few felonies and calls into dispatch can be handled via an online questionnaire. (“Are you in danger?” [ ] Yes [ ] No [ ] Undecided) We can’t have officers “walking blind” into domestic violence incidents or putting themselves in harm’s way by interacting with citizens trying to report theft or a missing person. Let’s ensure these officers are never forced to navigate the deadly streets of Anytown, OK ever again.

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