The Mind of an Enforcer

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by Eric Peters EricPetersAutos.com

Recently by Eric Peters: Why They Will Lose This Time

Want to understand how cops think? Or rather, how thought-less they are? Here’s a deconstruction of an interview (full text here) Yahoo conducted with ex-traffic op Mike Brucks:

Yahoo asked Brucks, “How much leeway do you give someone before writing them a speeding ticket?”

Brucks answered:

“The speed limit in Texas used to be 60 mph, [and] well, out on the clear road where there’s a lot of visibility I give people leeway. I wouldn’t write tickets until they got to 80 mph…..”

Ok. Hold onto that. Now check out Brucks’ next answer:

Yahoo asked him: “Are speed limits too low?”

And he replied:

“No, the traffic engineers, at least in Texas, are pretty good. It’s not that some parts of the highway are safer for speeding, it’s that drivers aren’t always paying attention. People die on lonely deserted stretches of road too. There are a lot of times drivers aren’t concentrating. They need to understand you’re going 100 feet per second on the highway. Above 75 mph things just happen so fast, [whether it’s] a flat tire, a coyote, wind, dirt, or rocks. It’s not that much better now that cars are safer; reaction times are still the same.”

Italics added.

Well now, Officer Brucks — which is it? On the one hand, you said, “I wouldn’t write tickets until they got to 80 mph” in a 60 MPH zone — 20 MPH over the posted lawful maximum — and then you go on to make the universal statement that speed limits are not set too low, that “the traffic engineers… are pretty good.” Except, apparently, when they under-post the road by 20 MPH. In which case you cut people some slack — or so you say. No, wait. You actually say otherwise. That “…above 75 MPH, things just happen so fast” … ” even though that’s still 5 MPH below your own arbitrary determination of a reasonable speed (20 over, 80 MPH).

Well, Officer Brucks? How about it?

You’ve admitted — openly — that you yourself flout “the law”… sometimes, when it accords with your arbitrary judgment. The sick thing — which Officer Brucks and his ilk never see — is that their arbitrary judgments are no more or less right or wrong in an ethical sense than the judgments of ordinary people. Or the arbitrary edicts called “the law” (when “the law” is purely statutory; i.e. when there’s no actual harm involved in violating it).

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Eric Peters [send him mail] is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities and Road Hogs (2011). Visit his website.

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