Advertisement

It's A Gray Area: The corrupting of traffic citations

June 13, 2010|James P. Gray

In many parts of the country, police have expressly been instructed to issue more traffic citations in order to generate revenue to counteract governmental budget deficits. For example, this has happened in the metropolitan Detroit area, where the state of Michigan reduced its revenue sharing with communities by $3 billion. More tickets have been issued there for driving as little as 5 mph above the speed limit, and traffic warnings have virtually become a thing of the past.

The reason for this action was stated succinctly by the president of the Police Officers Assn. of Michigan, who said: "When elected officials say 'We need more money,' they can't look to the department of public works to raise revenues, so where do they find it? Police departments."

Michael Reaves, the chief of police in Utica, Mich., explained the situation this way: "When I first started in this job 30 years ago, police work was never about revenue enhancement, but if you're a chief now, you have to look at whether your department produces revenues."

Advertisement

An even more direct comment came from Sgt. Richard Lyons of Trenton, Mich., went like this: "They're trying to use police officers to balance the budget on the backs of drivers, and it's too bad. . . . We might as well just go door to door and tell people: 'Slide us $100 now since your 16-year-old is going to end up paying us anyway when he starts driving.' You can't blame people for getting upset."

In Virginia, where a campaign was launched under the title of "Operation Air, Land & Speed," state troopers were ordered to issue as many citations as humanly possible during one particular weekend along Interstates 95 and 81. That effort resulted in the issuance of 6,996 traffic citations. The published reason for the program was that the state had a big deficit, and it needed to find some quick sources of money.

According to California Watch and the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, our state has also undertaken similar fundraising programs. For example, these two groups reported that during 2009 alone, sobriety checkpoints in California yielded approximately $40 million in state fines and towing fees.

Daily Pilot Articles Daily Pilot Articles
|
|
|