Friday, January 30, 2009

Speeding Ticket Starts IAD Investigation

I read on KPRC’s website where a Houston police officer is the focus of an Internal Affairs investigation for writing a speeding ticket ; oh yea, the ticket was issued to the mother of the officer’s captain. Several points of interest come to mind.

For the most part, and I say this as a retired police officer, a good majority of traffic tickets issued serve no purpose other than to raise revenue. Speeding tickets are perhaps the most flagrantly abused instrument in the criminal justice system and yet because they raise so much money you won’t find many at city hall or in top positions within the police department complaining; that is unless it’s the police captain whose mother got a ticket.

In order to successfully prosecute any “crime”, and traffic violations fall into the category of crimes against the peace and dignity of the State, each element of the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. ( As a side note, tickets issued for running red lights at camera controlled intersections are considered civil violations and do not require the same amount of proof as would a criminal complaint.) A speeding violation must prove that the violator was driving at a speed which put the rest of his fellow citizens in danger by ignoring, not only the posted speed limit; but more importantly, ignoring current road conditions and the normal flow of traffic.

Speed limits are determined in a variety of ways. If looked at carefully, posted speed limits would be found to be purely arbitrary and have little if any relationship with safety, road conditions or the well being of anyone. ( I will eventually get back to the topic of the officer writing a ticket to the “wrong person”.) Issuance of speeding tickets to folks, in most cases, is an insult against their personal dignity, not against the peace and dignity of the State; but for some reason such abuse is taken as if to say, “It’s not that bad; after all, I was going faster than that sign said I should.”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that 90% of the drivers on the road use what I call the “plus 9” speed limit system; what ever the posted speed limit indicates, add up to 9 mph to that number and be relatively assured that you won’t get a speeding ticket because that’s what a majority of the other drivers are doing. The idea of staying within that margin is to avoid getting a ticket; never does the idea of being reckless in your conduct to the point of endangering the rest of the driving public enter into that thought process.

There are exceptions, as with most any rule, which apply to those individuals who really don’t give any care to driving at speeds far in excess of rational judgment, who deserve further “enlightenment” and a good stiff fine for having scared the bejebbers out of everyone else as they broke the sound barrier in the next lane over. Most folks would agree that some traffic tickets, even some speeding tickets actually meet the criteria necessary to convict; to include the words, “against the peace and dignity of the state”.

The other extreme would include retired buggy whip manufactures and ladies with blue hair afraid to drive over 30 mph, even on the freeways. These folks are the nicest neighbors you ever wanted to shoot. They think freeway posted speeds should be just a little faster than school zones and anyone driving faster should get a speeding ticket and have their license revoked or at the very least suspended for several years.

Now, getting back to the officer who is under the gun for writing a speeding ticket to the wrong person; shouldn’t it be the captain who is being investigated? Isn’t Captain Moore guilty of much more? Does the term official oppression come to mind?

“Capt. Ceasar Moore, head of HPD's North Patrol Command, filed a formal written complaint against the officer when he learned that his mother had gotten a speeding ticket from the officer.”

The other side of the coin would include yet another issue which was brought up in the article.

“The ticket was written near the Hardy Toll Road and the North Loop 610 by HPD Officer Randy Barton, assigned to a specialized radar traffic enforcement detail and described by fellow officers as one of the top ticket-writers in the city.”

Translated to laymen terms, Officer Barton would have written his own mother a ticket. He wasn’t picking on his captain’s mother; in the crudest of terms that even his fellow officers would use, Officer Barton has exemplified the title, “chicken shit”. He’s working in a division which requires a “CS” mentality and he has chosen to become one the most efficient ticket writer in the group. If we looked up his family history it’s quite possible there would be a retired buggy whip manufacturer hidden in the wood pile.

All that having been said, look for the implementation of camera controlled speeding tickets on a roadway near you. Red light cameras have already generated in excess of 21 million dollars; greedy government looking for ways to stabilize the budget in a weak economy will not have the ability to resist the natural next step.

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