Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Police Lives for Revenue Gains?

Don't ask for the ultimate sacrifice over unpaid tolls

I usually don't wade into local issues on this blog. But a Twitter exchange earlier this week about tolls on the new 495/95 Express Lanes made me want to write a bit about it.

On Sunday reporter Stephanie Ramirez from WUSA9 tweeted:

I replied, asking: "Does catching toll cheats increase public safety?" The Virginia state trooper that Ms. Ramirez interviewed said catching toll cheaters will control traffic volume to prevent congestion and overwhelmed roads.

With all due respect to the trooper that sounded like a thin, canned response so I continued: "Highway stops are inherently risky from traffic as well as unknown/potential threats within car, especially at night." Ms. Ramirez agreed, concerned that the smaller shoulders on the express lanes put troopers at greater risk. (Here's the entire exchange.)

In 1984 I worked as a seasonal police officer for Ocean City, Maryland. My primary assignment was the boardwalk where we dealt with large crowds as well as the occasional vacationer who was having too much fun (if you know what I mean). Late one night I encountered an illegally parked car with someone slumped in the driver's seat. I called for back up and approached the vehicle. With the door locked and window up I positioned myself to the rear of the door, tapping repeatedly on the window until the drunken occupant awoke. I unsnapped my holster and placed my hand on my weapon, not knowing if the occupant was armed; he was not and eventually stumbled out of the car. It was my most anxious night of that summer. I tell this story because it's the only way I can relate to what full-time officers encounter daily.

Traffic stops are dangerous. And we're asking trained professional law enforcement officers to collect unpaid tolls? That's a bad deal for troopers and taxpayers alike.