If you are doing traffic enforcement, sooner or later you are going to get a “runner.” If you are going to pursue these minor-league violators, you have to keep in mind:
- The safety of the general motoring and pedestrian public.
- What kind of offense you saw ( and could prove).
- How long it is until the end of the shift if this turns into a DUI or some other lengthy cluster.
- How your supervisor will react when you go full-code-three for a “California stop” type offender and force her to show up.
- Do you have a decent chance of catching this bozo on wheels without bending your car, or even worse, spilling your coffee.
- And very importantly, how many citations you have written this week, vs. how many your Performance Review says you should have. (Contrary to urban legends, we do NOT have quotas; just strongly suggested hints from the Street Boss on how he sure needs an extra cop or two to wash down the INSIDE of the drunk wagon at 0300 hrs. Saturday morning. It just seemed that the larger the number he got from you, the less likely you’d get bleach duty.)
- Oh, and lastly, departmental policy.
I’ve been asked repeatedly by citizens (NOT journalists!) if there is a minimum number of traffic tickets that has to be written per cop. If I think the mood needs a little lightening, and IF the questioner seems to be a good sort, I’ll off-handedly reply:
“We don’t have quotas, but if I write three more tickets, I get a free toaster!”
Yes, I HAVE run after somebody who bailed out and ran into his house after a “minor” traffic stop went wrong. But in one case I was 10 feet behind the guy, and he was a well known local drunk who nearly killed people before when he was VERY DUI like just then.
The fact that he drove onto his lawn at 40 MPH, and hit his front porch was great photographic evidence at the trial.
The open and partially consumed bottles of cheap whiskey on the floorboards of his damaged Chevy were icing on the judicial cake.
One of the best “fleeing from police” happy ending stories comes from a yarn about the guy who ran from my partner and me for a simple 10-over-the-limit-thing. He was SO intent on making it home, that he drove into his garage without first opening the garage door.
Marc got out, interviewed the guy (who was pinned in his car by the mangled sheet metal door, but was more or less uninjured), and then gave him a verbal (only) admonishment for the speeding violation.
Old cop rule: Don’t put anything in writing if you don’t have to.
We kinda figured the $10,000 damage to the car and the garage door was more of a lesson than the fine he’d get for doing 35 in a 25 zone.
Marc wisely stopped me from ringing the house doorbell to advise the Mrs. that “Daddy was home” because he knew she’d find out momentarily, but also under another old cop rule that went: “The fewer witnesses to some things, the better.”
One day, I saw what looked like a “government car” completely blow through a stop sign. It was a four-door plain colored recent model sedan, with expensive performance rated tires and the cheapest hub caps that ever could be found. The single male driver was going waaay too fast for conditions, and when I got behind him, the frosting on this cake was the special state issued no-tax license plates. I asked police dispatch if there was a city car going to a hot call in my sector, other than being late for lunch.
When I got a quick negative response, I reached over the light-bar console and hit the very annoying electric air-horn toggle. Also known as the hooker-move-along-alert, it was our common practice that this was a sort of an audible, “Hello there. Wasss Up?” tone.
I saw the driver look in his rearview mirror at me, and then his left hand held a leather wallet with a shiny badge of some kind hanging out the driver’s window.
The driver then gunned his big-block engine so sharply that his rear tires squealed, and he almost lost it going around a corner while nearly hitting several frightened potential “roadkill” pedestrians.
I knew from sad experience that there were a few “wanna be” security guards who favored look-alike police cars, and this was starting to fit that profile, except for the state plate.
I called in the plate, and thumb switched the lightbar to full rotating reds. If this was going to be me embarrassing myself by pulling over a ranking uniform cop, or even an inspector, I felt better doing it “by the book.”
Then, when the driver clipped a series of orange cones, hit a painting scaffold, and nearly lost it, I lit up my car full bore, to make sure he knew that I wanted to talk about a few things.
About 2 blocks later, he slowed, (didn’t stop), and again stuck a gold colored badge of some sort out of the window, and then took off again.
Nope, ain’t gonna work.
I called it in, requested backup, and since I knew this was going to end badly, requested a supervisor.
Another 15 minutes, and four miles later, I had a lot of black and white company. We did a very careful felony stop on the shiny blue Crown Vic with the “E” plates, to find that a VERY young looking 14-year-old car thief had boosted the Deputy Chief of Patrol’s new take home car, and subsequently found his police star in the glove box.
We all were very happy that the gun found under the seat had a decent trigger lock in place.
I got a very sincere, “Thank you, Dave” from the DC, and then because I didn’t make a big deal of this caper, somebody else got to write ALL of the reports.
I had just enough time on my watch to get some more of Hunts Doughnuts double expresso java and then write a few movers so that my performance review would look good enough to make the Street Boss smile.
Two creams, three sugars please.