Missouri lawmakers recently approved bill SB765 banning ticket quotas and SB 572 limiting fines for some traffic offenses to $200. I doubt they will solve the problem. I’ve read too many stories from other jurisdictions.
Two simple reforms would force most traffic law enforcement in America to be about traffic law enforcement by eliminating the incentives that created the current system.
- Abolish fines for traffic violations. No fines, no court costs, no probation fees, no plea bargains to “parking on the pavement” or “defective speedometer.” They can take your license or throw you in jail, but they can’t take your wallet.
- Legislatively overrule the Whren doctrine, which says police can use traffic stops as a pretext. Require a stop to be justified by a published policy uniformly applied. The policy could be to pull over everybody who violates a certain law, but then they have to actually pull over everybody.
Now city councilors can’t put their family on a payroll funded by traffic fines. Police can’t go on fishing expeditions.
That still leaves plain old anti-driver sentiment. I wrote about a police chief who ran an illegal speed trap to keep outsiders from driving on his town’s road. (Until Connecticut DOT shut him down recently.) He wasn’t in it for the money. He just wanted to make his town an unpleasant place to visit. There are a thousand more with the same ambition.
That is a deeper problem, but at least we’re down to one of the three main problems.
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