Posts Tagged ‘traffic laws’

NYC police union may cut back courtesy cards

Patrick Lynch, boss of New York’s Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), is reportedly slashing “the number of ‘get out of jail free’ courtesy cards distributed to cops to give to family and friends… to current cops from 30 to 20, and to retirees from 20 to 10, sources told The Post. The cards are often used to wiggle out of minor trouble such as speeding tickets, the theory being that presenting one suggests you know someone in the NYPD.” [Dean Balsamini, New York Post; also the topic of a discussion in our comments section]

Perfect New York touch: the anonymous griping in the Post comes from sources who complain that things aren’t corrupt enough in that cards aren’t being distributed as freely as before. The courtesy cards are sold on eBay for prices that can range up to $200, but awareness of their commercial availability is said to be one reason “plastic [lowest-level] cards are being honored less and less by officers.”

Alex Tabarrok quotes one source on “gold” (family member) and “silver” (most favored civilian) card levels, and another with extensive reflections on the workings of “professional courtesy,” which can include retaliation against officers who incautiously “write over the card” by ticketing someone with police connections.

Commentary from my colleague Julian Sanchez:

Think about the message these cards send to every officer who’s expected to honor them. They say that the law—or at least, some ill-defined subset of it—isn’t a body of rules binding on all of us, but something we impose on others—on the people outside our circle of personal affection. They say that in every interaction with citizens, you must pay special attention to whether they are members of the special class of people who can flout laws, or ordinary peons who deserve no such courtesy. They say that, at least within limits, officers of the law should expect to be able to break the law and not be punished for it. They say that a cop who has the temerity to hold another officer or their family to the same standards as everyone else is a kind of traitor who should expect to suffer dire consequences for the sin of failing to respect that privileged status. Moreover, they say that this is not merely some unspoken understanding—a small deviation from impartial justice to be quietly tolerated—but a formalized policy with the explicit support of police leadership.

Can we really be surprised, when a practice like this is open and normalized, that the culture it both reveals and reinforces has consequences beyond a few foregone speeding tickets? Should we wonder that police fail to hold their own accountable for serious misconduct when they’re under what amounts to explicit instructions to make exceptions for smaller infractions on a daily basis?

And Ed Krayewski:

The cards cut to the heart of the problem with public-sector unions: They create an environment where government employees who are supposed to ‘serve and protect’ the public instead get extra privileges. This is particularly dangerous with police unions, whose membership is armed by the state to enforce laws. Such unions regularly push for rules that protect bad cops.

Crime and punishment roundup

  • “This Massachusetts Lawmaker Wants to Throw Folks in Prison for Having Secret Car Compartments” [Scott Shackford; earlier on compartment bans here, here, and here]
  • Traffic stops dangerous and intrusive. Why not focus them where they’re most needed? [Steve Chapman] More: a different view from Scott Greenfield;
  • Why is AG Sessions enabling forfeiture end runs by police around their own state lawmakers? It’s not good federalism [Natalie Delgadillo, Governing] Angling to end suit, Philadelphia offers to end use of asset forfeiture funds for law enforcement [Robert Moran, Philadelphia Inquirer]
  • White-collar prosecution: “Time To Revisit The Yates Memo?” [Robert Bork, Jr.]
  • What happened when Rhode Island inadvertently legalized indoor prostitution [Elana Gordon, NewsWorks]
  • What if U.S. Department of Justice policies had to be run through OIRA regulatory review for cost-benefit comparison, as many other agencies’ do? [Mark Osler, Marshall Project]

Crime and punishment roundup

  • Citation nation: abuse of fees and fines erodes legitimacy and accountability in local government [C. Jarrett Dieterle, City Journal]
  • If concept of obstruction of justice is not to do injustice itself, it must be confined to a limited number of well-defined offenses [Tim Lynch, Cato]
  • “Drug recognition experts” deployed at traffic stops have a reliability problem, and that can put innocent people behind bars [11Alive Atlanta, Ed Krayewski] Zero-tolerance THC: Unimpaired driver gets six months for fatal crash she did not cause [Jacob Sullum]
  • New York Senate approves bill to make police protected group for purposes of hate crime law; similar proposals have become law in Louisiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi [Tim Cushing/TechDirt, earlier here and here]
  • Now renamed “trafficking”: “Why Governments Always Exaggerate the Prostitution Threat” [Camilo Gómez, FEE, related Libertarianism.org podcast with Elizabeth Nolan Brown]
  • Some problems with requiring “racial impact statements” for new bills on criminal justice [Roger Clegg and Hans von Spakovsky, NRO, James Scanlan, Federalist Society blog]

NYC responds to jury verdict on speeder-friendly street design

After a biker was badly injured by a speeding motorist on Gerritsen Avenue in Brooklyn, a jury in 2011 held New York City legally responsible for not having more speeder-unfriendly street design. The city is now instituting such changes, which according to one advocate should no longer be deemed “subject to debate.” The city was held 40 percent liable, but paid 95 percent or $19 million of a $20 million settlement. “‘This ruling from New York’s highest court puts an end to the notion that traffic safety improvements should be subject to debate and contingent on unanimous local opinion,’ said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. ‘The scientific verdict has been in for several years: traffic calming works to save lives and prevent injuries.'” [Alissa Walker, Curbed]

Prosecution roundup

  • Fourth Circuit will review forfeiture case of “pre-conviction, pre-trial restraint of untainted property” [Ilya Shapiro, Cato]
  • “Voodoo Science in the Courtroom: The U.S. has relied on flawed forensic-evidence techniques for decades, falsely convicting many” [Alex Kozinski, WSJ; ABA Journal] “Highest court in Massachusetts throws out another shaken-baby syndrome conviction” [Radley Balko on Boston Globe]
  • Federal judge Andrew Hanen gets results! “Justice Department orders more ethics training for lawyers” [Politico, earlier]
  • Like settlement slush funds, contingency-fee prosecutions divert money from the public fisc to influential private players [Margaret (“Peggy”) Little, CEI]
  • California appeals court: Orange County district attorney’s office’s war on a judge was legal but represented “extraordinary abuse” [C.J. Ciaramella]
  • “New Jersey Bill Would Punish Eating, Drinking While Driving” [Reason]

Behind on your child support? Texas won’t renew your vehicle registration

Some will lose their jobs for lack of transportation, while others will gain a first-time criminal record after taking chances on a no-longer-legal ride. Are you sure you’ve thought this through, Texas? [Houston Chronicle] Related earlier on tying driver’s licenses to issues of legal compliance unrelated to road safety here, here, here, etc.

Crime and punishment roundup

  • Virginia “one of a minority of states that suspend driving privileges — in most cases, automatically — for failing to pay court costs and fines arising from offenses completely unrelated to driving.” [Washington Post editorial]
  • D.C. Circuit “Rules DOJ Discovery Blue Book Off-Limits … For Now” [Jonathan Blanks, Cato]
  • “The New York Times Knows Florida’s Self-Defense Law Is Bad but Can’t Figure Out Why” [Jacob Sullum]
  • “We often hear that almost no one goes to prison simply for using marijuana.” But add “near a school”… [David Henderson]
  • A forensics roundup from Radley Balko;
  • “When Everything Is a Crime: The Overregulation of Ordinary Life” [Harvey Silverglate conversation with Reason’s Nick Gillespie]

“Bad drivers are a good indicator of a corrupt government”

James O’Malley looked at road deaths per 100,000 people for various counties “and compared it to the scores given by the World Justice Project on Rule of Law in 2015.” The correlation came out at -0.68, suggesting that improvements in the rule of law correlate strongly with safer road conditions, possibly mediated through better driver behavior and trust between citizens. Good rule of law conditions also correlate with increased income, but that appears to have a U-shaped effect on aggregate road fatalities: when very poor countries begin to prosper more persons can own cars and the number of accidents increases, but as countries approach affluence more is invested in safety. [CityMetric via Christopher Groskopf, Quartz, including above title]

“N.J. lawmaker wants fines for ‘distracted walking’”

A bad idea, seen previously in proposals in New York and elsewhere, won’t go away: “The measure recently introduced by General Assembly member Pamela Lampitt (D) would ban walking while texting and bar pedestrians on public roads from using electronic communication devices that are not hands-free. Violators would face fines of up to $50, 15 days imprisonment or both, which is the same penalty as jaywalking.” While no states appear to have passed such enactments yet, New Jersey isn’t the only state where they’re being floated: “For instance, a bill pending in Hawaii would fine someone $250 for crossing the street with an electronic device.” [Bruce Shipkowski, AP/Washington Post]