L. Neil Smith's

Number 21, February 2, 1997.

Pull Over and Deliver

By L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enyerprise

         I happen to be rather closely acquainted with a certain law enforcement professional who always rails against his fate whenever he's expected to "work traffic".
         He seems to feel that it's beneath the dignity of any peace officer duly sworn "to protect and to serve" to waste his time -- and in this particular case many years of forensic training -- chasing down miscreants guilty of no infraction worse than doing 33 1/3 in a 30 MPH zone. He complains that what he's really expected to do is operate as a municipal revenue-collector-of- opportunity.
         We might argue, in the historical period following the Waco Massacre and Ruby Ridge Atrocities, about what's beneath a law enforcement professional's dignity these days and what isn't, but my acquaintance raises a valid point nonetheless. And apparently among the Blue Gang, he's far from alone in his opinion. I'm a former reserve policeman myself, and the funniest thing I remember is a meeting where an assistant chief came down to our basement squad room to inform us that our platoon hadn't been writing enough traffic tickets lately.
         "So what you're really saying," replied the lieutenant, "is that we have a quota."
         "I'm not saying that, I'm saying you haven't written enough citations this month."
         The conversation went on a good deal longer than that -- as I recall, for about a half an hour -- but it never got beyond those two statements. There was some number of tickets the department wanted us to issue every month, but they wouldn't tell us what that number was, and we didn't have any quota to fill.
         Yeah, right.
         One novel solution, apparently being applied in various cities across the nation, is to hire personnel who are not police officers to issue traffic citations. I never got around to asking if they'd also make traffic stops, one of the most dangerous tasks (the other being family disturbances) a cop is called upon to perform. Likewise, I never asked if they would carry guns or have arrest powers, and what, if they did, would distinguish them from police officers.
         I wonder if they'd have a quota.
         Another "solution" -- being applied locally -- is installing hidden video cameras at strategic points, taking pictures of speeders' license plates, and then mailing them citations which, it turns out, are completely without legal merit. There's a legislative move afoot to make them legal, which would result, as my wife Cathy observes, in cops mailing you a search warrant and -- whether you ever see it or not -- smashing into your home to do whatever the bloody hell they want with your life, your property, and what's left of your rights.
         Cathy had no ready answer for me when I asked her what's new about that. We've come a long way down that dangerous road already, and it remains to be seen whether we'll eventually be able to bring civilization to a halt, turn it around, and restart it in a Constitutional direction without additional ugly bloodshed.
         We begin with small things.
         I have to confess right now that, ex-cop or not, there are few sights that irritate me more than some poor schmuck getting yanked over to the curb by a uniformed highwayman for failing to say "Mother, may I?" or waiting to hear "Simon says" before putting his foot down or turning a corner. If it really had something to do with public safety, I might feel differently -- if it did, they'd take your driver's license away for drunk driving the first time they caught you, eliminating 50% of America's annual traffic deaths -- but believe me, it's nothing but a game. All they're looking for is an excuse to stop you and steal your money because the city fathers didn't have the guts to try to raise your taxes. And I say that it's time we put a stop to it, once and for all.
         It probably won't surprise you to learn that I believe I have an idea of how to accomplish that, one that boasts the virtues of being simple and, in my opinion, hilariously funny. This is it: enact an ordinance, statute, even a charter or constitutional amendment evenly dividing every dollar of revenue from traffic violations -- let's throw in parking tickets, too -- between such worthy organizations as the American Civil Liberties Union and, say, Amnesty International.
         The best part is that Libertarians don't have to carry the ball on this one. Just see that the local Unitarian Church gets hold of the idea, let them think it's their own, they'll take care of it for us, letting us get on with other matters. Within hours of the measure's passage, the curve representing authoritarian interference with the free flow of traffic (and the loot derived from such piracy on the high road) would come to resemble the face of Niagara Falls.
         I would include some genuinely principled Second Amendment civil rights group, say, Gun Owners of America or Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, except that too many rank-and-file cops are with us on that issue, and it might tend to act as an incentive, when what we're looking for is a deterrent.
         I'd like to add the Libertarian Party, as well. However -- and potential contributors take note -- that crowd shouldn't be trusted with a dime until they acknowledge the putrescent corruption in their highest ranks and clean it up.
         Next time you see a black and white (in my home town, they're actually off-white and green, with, believe it or not, a stylized picture of a goose on the door) pull some poor civilian over -- red and blue lights awhirl atop an automobile which may well have been stolen from its rightful owner under RICO legislation -- ask yourself if the cop inside would be quite as enthusuastic about that part of his job if he knew that the money would be going to the ACLU.
         Then start collecting petition signatures.

Mindharp of Sharu, Flamewind of Oseon, Starcave of Thonboka, now re-released as L. Neil Smith's THE LANDO CALRISSIAN ADVENTURES. The youthful exploits of Star Wars' famous gambler before Han Solo won the Millenium Falcon from him. Buy this omnibus at fine bookstores anywhere, or phone Laissez Faire Books, toll-free, at 1-800-326-0996. Also, see "The Webley Page" at www.lneilsmith.org//

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