By Jorge Castorena, Managing Editor
Raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by a Wilmore cop who was waiting for you at the bottom of the hill next to Cluckers (the world’s worst speed trap).
Talk about a bad day.
The only time I’ve ever gotten pulled over for speeding was here in our quiet town of Wilmore, of all places (where there are two traffic lights, and I use the term “traffic” very loosely). It happened shortly after returning to campus last semester, and I was going an embarrassing 25 miles per hour over the speed limit, which is a felony…and grounds for arrest. But more on that later.
What if i told you there is a way to avoid getting stopped by the Wilmore police for speeding?
There is an app causing controversy with police departments across the nation that helps drivers know when to slow down to avoid getting tickets. The app, called Waze, was meant to track moving cars to help users get around traffic jams. But the app developed an icon that marks moving (or sitting) police cars, effectively warning motorists of speed traps and helping them get out of potential tickets.
Law enforcement agencies are saying that the safety of officers is compromised when their locations are revealed and tracked with the app, suggesting that a person bent on attacking cops (which, to be fair, has happened recently) could find them easily and carry on with an assault.
While that is a legitimate concern, I am a bit skeptical. Cops aren’t exactly inconspicuous, and a person with bad intentions can easily find a police officer and attack without the help of an app.
So what’s the real concern?
According to the Executive Travel magazine, with an average of 100,000 people getting cited for speeding every day, over a whopping $6 billion dollars are paid in speeding tickets per year. A-ha.
And where does this money go, exactly?
The money you pay in tickets goes largely to general state funds, but the traffic control divisions of law enforcement see some of that money as well. The money is used to fund anything from the installation of traffic cameras and radar to speed limit signs, but in some cases, where funding is low, some of that revenue is used to actually pay officers’ salaries.
To incentivize officers, some police departments developed point systems (or performance expectations) that qualify officers to earn promotions, bonuses or other benefits if they earn certain numbers of points (or exceed expectations). These points can be earned by things like performing a drug bust or bringing in a burglar, but the easiest and weightiest way is by writing up speeding tickets.
This point system is why we hear that officers have to earn quotas (but quotas are technically illegal, and so they don’t call them that, which is great law enforcement if you ask me), and the system ensures a steady flow of extra funding.
Oh yes, an app that prevents people from getting caught in speed traps, directly resulting in large budget losses, would surely be problematic in the eyes of law enforcement individuals.
When I got pulled over, and yes, I know that I was going 25 miles over, I still couldn’t help but think that it wasn’t fair. In my defense, I was at the bottom of that dreadful hill next to Cluckers gas station, and I was also a bit distracted by a bacon and egg McGriddle (there are several levels of embarrassment here) I had just purchased. So, maybe the cop that pulled me over had a good reason to do so.
He ended up being very gracious and only cited me for going 15 over, thank God. I still had to pay $150, and despite the officer’s grace, I was still upset that I had to pay. And where was the money going, anyway?
Maybe I was just mad for getting caught, especially because I really didn’t mean to be going as fast as I was (though yes, I have a bit of a heavy foot). But speed traps are set at random, which means that most drivers who are speeding never get caught. How is that an effective way to enforce the law?
So then, is it really about law enforcement or about ensuring funds?
Either way, the experience of getting pulled over for speeding doesn’t usually cause drivers to suddenly have a change of heart about their need for speed. Romans 13:1 calls us to obey the law of the land, and I’d like to say that I no longer speed (as dramatically) for safety reasons and to obey the law. But the truth is I don’t speed anymore for fear of getting pulled over.
That’s just it. We fear getting pulled over. I tried not to be mad at the cop who pulled me over because a) he showed me grace and b) he was just doing his job (disclaimer: I highly respect officers and what they do).
But then I had a thought: when did it become the job of police officers to prey on citizens, especially when the direct result is funding? I’m just not sure how right it is that I now fear an authority that sets a trap, points a radar gun, waits for me to make a mistake and then makes me pay…all for my “protection.”