07.17.2017 0

What are they thinking?

By Printus LeBlanc

You would be hard pressed to find a city in the US that does not have budget problems. The average citizen probably believes the politicians will raise revenue through taxes. But a sinister source of revenue is undermining the community trust in police officers. Local officials are using police as revenue raisers through fines, fees, and civil asset forfeiture. Unfortunately, the police are often the focal point of anger. Police have a hard-enough job as it is, they shouldn’t change their logo from “To protect and serve” to “Policing for profit”.

It may seem like a typical traffic stop, but the next thing you know, another police car is pulling up behind the police car that already pulled you over.

Why did the officer pull you over? You weren’t speeding. You didn’t change lanes. It could be something as simple as out of state plates headed in the wrong direction.

News Channel 5 in Nashville, Tennessee conducted an analysis of traffic stops made by the Drug Interdiction Crime Enforcement unit (DICE). What they found was not surprising. The agents were 10 times more likely to stop someone headed east, the money direction, than headed west, the direction the drugs come from. This paints a picture of law enforcement not looking for drugs, but the proceeds from drugs, for their own profit.

Following the investigation, the DICE unit was absorbed into another drug enforcement unit. No word if they changed tactics. But it begs the question, “how many jurisdictions are doing this?”

The problem is not on the police alone. The police, just like the military, take orders. They are tasked with enforcing the laws that politicians pass. Politicians blow their budgets on pet projects and expect the police to make up the difference by harassing the citizens. This is making an already unsafe job, even riskier. When a large portion of the people see the police, they think “what is this going to cost me?”

Police officers do have ticket quotas. People and police officers will scream at the top of their lungs, they do not have ticket quotas. But how many of you have seen police walking down the middle of a congested intersection telling people to pull over into a parking lot where other officers are writing people tickets. I’ve seen it a lot in Houston. That is a quota.

Look at city budget if you do not believe there are not ticket quotas. If you look at budget proposals you will see a line item that reads “fines and forfeitures,” such as the city of Fairfax, Virginia that estimates almost $1.6 million of such revenue for FY 2018. That means the city is expected to take in X amount of dollars for the budget. That is a quota.

Why do politicians put this burden on the police? Because the police are the only government entity that can raise money, without raising taxes. No local politician wants to raise sales or property taxes. That is a sure-fire way to get unelected.

How far are local governments willing to go to make money off their citizens, and what will they do to protect their schemes? A local man in Suffolk County, New York is facing 22 years in prison. What could the man have done to be facing such a dire sentence? There are murders, rapists, and kidnappers facing less prison time than this man. The man discovered the red-light camera program in the county was causing more harm than good and cut the wires to the cameras to fight the policy.

A study released by the county showed they shortened the yellow light time to generate more ticket revenue, and it led to a spike of 44 percent in accidents with injuries. A combination of drivers stopping short and others speeding up had serious consequences. Local officials are fighting to keep the cameras, they generate tens of millions per year for the county. Notice the only person in trouble, is the one that tried to do something.

Police unions need to start holding the lawmakers, that forced them into this untenable situation, accountable. Between ticket quotas, cameras, and asset forfeiture, the revenue raising actions of politicians and police departments are putting people at risk. Police departments need to start policing and stop raising revenue, while politicians need to have the guts to raise taxes or not spend so much on wasteful projects. Your actions have put lives at risk, and it needs to stop.

Printus LeBlanc is a contributing reporter for Americans for Limited Government.

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