“May have been the losing side. Still not convinced it was the wrong one.”


"This report is maybe 12-years-old. Parliament buried it, and it stayed buried till River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear because there's a whole universe of folk who are gonna know it, too. They're gonna see it. Somebody has to speak for these people. You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you all come to the same place. So now I'm asking more of you than I have before. Maybe all. Sure as I know anything I know this, they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, 10, they'll swing back to the belief that they can make people . . . better. And I do not hold to that. So no more running. I aim to misbehave." ~ Captain Malcom Reynolds

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Unexpected results

I caught a murderer once.

It wasn't part of any long-term investigation.

I wasn't responding to a call, or chasing someone down, or anything like that.

I stopped a car for a simple traffic violation one night, and the passenger wasn't wearing a seatbelt. Getting his information for the ticket he gave me a fake name, which led me to investigate further. Ended up he had just committed a gang-related killing a couple of days prior and was wanted for it. So, off to jail we went.

I'm relating this story not as anything exceptional on my part; rather, this is an example of what happens every day around the nation. Serious criminals are arrested as a result of routine traffic stops and taken off the streets.

This is relevant, because we seem to be going through another cycle in the press and in public opinion regarding police behavior during traffic stops. That we need to "let people go," or "not push things further" when we run into people on these encounters; because "it's only a traffic violation."

But, the point is, if we don't investigate things further, many times we would miss out on such criminals. Which means the community would be less safe, and that we wouldn't be doing the jobs you entrust us with. Because until you finish looking at things, even if sometimes it's just trusting your gut to investigate further, you never know. Walking up to the car that night I had no idea that one of the occupants was a killer.

"Routine" traffic stops get killers off the streets. They interdict drugs which ruin our communities. They recover stolen property, find wanted people, and do all the other things that society expects of police. Because, in America, almost everyone is in a car at some point, and so it's our most frequent location to encounter criminals.

Now, it is also our most frequent encounter with normal, law-abiding citizens - and this is vital too. I'm not in any way justifying police excesses on traffic stops, or saying they should be without rules and norms. And, for 99% of the officers encountering the public during these events, it is a polite (even if unwelcome) event which is quickly resolved.

But don't miss the possible importance of these stops. Don't ask society to take away this tool which ultimately makes everyone safer.

Oh - one more example. Timothy McVeigh - the worst American terrorist in history. Stopped after the Oklahoma City bombing for a license plate violation by an alert officer.

Food for thought.