Former Republican Candidate for House District 35
Westminster police make about 21,000 traffic stops a year. In about 3,000 stops the officer gives a warning. There seems to be an unspoken city policy that says only if the stopped driver is apoligetic, submissive, and cowering will the officer give a warning. Everyone else gets a ticket. I don't know what happens if the driver is "Hot".
The City offers a deal if the cited driver will just plead guilty and send in money. If a person choses to go to court, the process quickly becomes time consuming, aggravating and difficult, and you might end up paying full price. Courts do not work nights or weekends. Nor do they work on Friday. You can appear only at specified time on certain date. We know that if we make the process hard, time consuming and awkward, most people will take our mail in deal.
This situation is easy, cheap and profit making for the City. It also isn't right. The police don't and CAN'T catch all the traffic law violators. I'll bet most officers see several traffic law violations every day that they don't stop. Few folks always use their signals when changing lanes. Most cars drive at traffic speed, regardless of the posted speed. But for the few folks we catch, we have become extortionists, justifying our actions behind a story of public safety. What we do is separate suckers from their money. We do all of this in an aura of being "protectors" of safe traffic flow and the public good. That really, really isn't right.
However worldly-wise but rather unfair our ticket process is, we can't ingnore the fact that true public safety concerns exist. There are bad driver out there. Folks that cause accidents should face a consequence and make restitution. Offering a deferred prosecution is the way to improve public safety, hold bad drivers accountable and reward law abiding drivers.
Here is how it might work. Police condut their traffic patrols they way they always have. Their discretion remains fully in place and unimpaired. However, when there is no accident or personal or property damage, the cited driver can go on-line, call on the phone, or write a letter or appear in person to request a deferred prosecution. The prosecutors office will review the cited drivers record and if found that there have been no other citations in the last 6 months and no more than one citation in the last two years or other objective, published criteria the prosecutor has set, the prosecutor will offer a deferred prosecution to the driver. If no other traffic citation is filed for the next 6 months, the citation will be dismissed. If the driver receives another citation durng the following 6 months, the both citations will be prosecuted. Double or nothing.
This idea would set a powerful precedent to encourage better driving. This idea would lessen the fear drivers have of police. Most first time caught drivers would not curse the police for stopping them, but would think the stop as a wake call to pay more attention to their driving.
This idea would reward cited drivers for paying more attention to their driving and not getting another citation. Of course this idea might give a tiny fraction of drivers permission to drive stupidly until the they caught the first time. I think the benefits of a deferred prosecution program would far outweigh the costs.
Police should NEVER be the enemy or adversary of the people. The Police should be working with the people to insure safer traffic flow. The people and the government must be partners in making a better society. This is a step in that journey.