Citation or Warning?
In analyzing the responses to my original article, Bush League or Legitimate, I found a 50-50 split on whether or not the citation for excess speed while passing a slower vehicle was bush league or justifiable. Many replies were very instructive; others informative, while two attacked me personally.
I do believe a difference in the type of police work was a deciding factor in whether or not the reader believed that the trooper should have written a citation to a retired police officer.
Many respondents saw a breach of ethics as I informed the trooper I was a retired PO and had a gun in the vehicle. The assumption was that I flaunted my position in order to gain favoritism. This is a moot point as I was very clear in stating in the original article that I did not request any preferential treatment.
Other respondents believed in the need to identify myself immediately and offer the trooper knowledge of a gun in my vehicle. Many replies stated that they would have written the citation for the highest speed attained in passing a slower moving vehicle. Others stated that they would never write a citation to another police officer for traffic violations.
The divide in viewpoints corresponded with the focus of the police work involved. Troopers and other law enforcement personnel charged primarily with traffic enforcement and traffic accident reporting were overwhelmingly in support of citing any person, including other law enforcement officers. A few even stated that they would write citations to their fellow officers on their own department.
City and other municipal police officers tasked mainly with crime prevention and arrests, stated prodigiously against writing any traffic citation to any officer of any force.
As far as announcing your police affiliation during a traffic stop, in Chicago it’s a common curtesy to tell an officer you’re a PO and have a gun in the car.
My viewpoints: Troopers generally work alone and in remote areas. Their primary responsibility is traffic enforcement and to a lesser degree, criminal activities. They see first-hand the damage that speeding can do.
Whereas, city police generally focus on calls for service and usually back each other up in most situations. Their calls are of a more immediate threat and can turn dangerous in a flash. I fully understand that trooper’s assignments have a propensity of violence, but city police respond to calls of shots fired, men with guns, man shot, etc. For this reason, I believe there is a tighter bond between urban officers than rural officers and as such a closer relationship. This relationship allows a very high degree of discretion and at times, police favoritism.
I respectfully disagree with half of those who responded; but it’s not an ethical, moral or legal reason, it’s simply because it’s the way I was taught forty years ago. I believe there is a LEO family and with all the detractors out there, we should respect each other and protect each other.
And, working for thirty years in Chicago, I have placed my life in jeopardy numerous times running hot to assist an Illinois State Trooper on the highways or fighting with their arrestees in our stations. To this day, when I see an officer on a traffic stop, I quickly analyze their situation before I drive away, often stopping and looking for a thumbs up signal.
I thank all those who voiced their opinions and believe me when I say I have respect for all of them. And, FYI, if I was driving by that same Wisc. Trooper that ticketed me and he was in trouble, I still would stop and fight side by side with him until his threat was defeated.
To all my police brothers and sisters out there, lock and load and protect one another. As always, stay safe.
Larry Casey, police sergeant (ret.), Chicago Police Department, professor of Criminal Justice at Wilbur Wright College. You can view his book at www.StoriesofaChicagoPoliceOfficer.com.