Why Are the Police in Charge of Road Safety?

It’s an unacknowledged peculiarity that police are in charge of road safety. Why should the arm of the state that investigates murder, rape and robbery also give out traffic tickets? Traffic stops are the most common reason for contact with the police. I (allegedly) rolled through a stop sign in the neighborhood and was stopped. It was uncomfortable–hands on the wheel, don’t make any sudden moves, be polite etc. and I am a white guy. Traffic stops can be much more uncomfortable for minorities, which makes the police uncomfortable. Many of the police homicides, such as the killing of Philando Castile happened at ordinary traffic stops. But why do we need armed men (mostly) to issue a traffic citation?

Don’t use a hammer if you don’t need to pound a nail. Road safety does not require a hammer. The responsibility for handing out speeding tickets and citations should be handled by a unarmed agency. Put the safety patrol in bright yellow cars and have them carry a bit of extra gasoline and jumper cables to help stranded motorists as part of their job–make road safety nice. Highways England hires traffic officers for some of these tasks (although they are not yet authorized to issue speeding tickets).

Similarly, the police have no expertise in dealing with the mentally ill or with the homeless–jobs like that should be farmed out to other agencies. Notice that we have lots of other safety issues that are not handled by the police. Restaurant inspectors, for example, do over a million restaurant inspectors annually but they don’t investigate murder or drug charges and they are not armed. Perhaps not coincidentally, restaurant inspectors are not often accused of inspector brutality, “Your honor, I swear I thought he was reaching for a knife….”.

Another advantage of turning over road safety to an unarmed, non-police unit would be to help restore the fourth amendment which has been destroyed by the jurisprudence of traffic stops.

As we move to self-driving vehicles it will become obvious that road safety does not belong with the police (eventually it will be more like air traffic control). We can get a jump start on that trend by more carefully delineating which police duties require the threat of imminent violence and which do not.

Defunding the police, whatever that means, is a political non-starter. But we can unbundle the police.


He probably read your blog. You had it coming, Alex.

You answered your own question. Drivers shooting at police and vice versa is the reason armed police conduct traffic stops. MANY crimes are prevented by traffic stops. Those with something to hide are easy to spot and the police follow up and often it results in arrests of criminals.

+1 (not that complicated...watch some YouTube videos...criminals commit crimes using automobiles since walking puts them at risk).

Those with something to hide are easy to spot

Do please tell me how.

Don't be silly. Even babies can read your face and actions. I assume you don't have children. If you have a friend or relative with toddlers try hiding a piece of candy from them. Try it with two adults trying to keep the child from knowing you are consuming candy. It is an inherient human trait to know when people are hiding something from you or acting suspicious.

You should go teach the TSA then - they also think those with something to hide are easy to spot but they keep harrassing pissed off passengers. Even the bag searches miss crap 95% of the time.

If the traffic stops - the vast majority of them *civil* (not criminal) violations - were conducted by non-LEO's that were not there to also try to push into finding criminal conduct, the 'necessity' of blowing away what is effectively a meter maid wouldn't be there.

Once you push meter readers and the pool-guy into reporting crimes they observe then you're putting *them* into 'shoot on sight' territory also.

And, of course, we could end the drug war, which is the root cause of a lot of violent crimes being committed.

"MANY crimes are prevented by traffic stops."

Like what? The crimes I see being prevented are vice-related. I don't see them preventing many real crimes. When was the last time a traffic stop found a dude tied up in the trunk? Or even a bomb?

"Those with something to hide are easy to spot"?! And who's the arbiter of "something to hide". Serial killers in the past "had something to hide", I don't remember any of them being "easily spotted". From white collar criminals to drug dealers to low level purse snatchers... criminals go out of their way to NOT be easily spotted. So there's that. Your rationale sounds like that of one who knows very little about criminality in a real world scenario. JS

Surprised that Alex does not even consider the possibility that police approach traffic stops while armed precisely because the driver and passengers could be threats. They could easily be carrying guns themselves and can drive away quickly from any crime scene. That's the reason for hands on wheel, no sudden moves, etc. Would you want a job confronting --- and issuing citations is confrontation --- unidentified drivers every day while unarmed, knowing that at least some drivers will be irate and might even be driving stolen vehicles even if the percentage is small?

Restaurant inspectors approach known businesses. The identities of the restauranteurs are known and, if the inspector dies during the inspection, we know where to find the restauranteur.

Attributing traffic stop violence to officers carrying guns seems like attributing rain to people carrying umbrellas.

...but *why* are car occupants a threat to police officers? Because police officers are a threat to the occupants! It is precisely that threat that causes somebody who robbed a bank to react violently to an officer in a traffic stop, but not react violently to the McDonald's employee who serves him lunch.

Couldn’t disagree more. We simply don’t need most moving violations. Rolling through a stop sign, tag light out, Speed limits, failing to signal: all just local revenue generating nonsense. If someone commits a moving violation that results in an accident or injury, there are plenty of civil laws and negligence laws to punish the offender. If someone is driving dangerously or drunk, you want an armed individual to apprehend that person because they are committing a genuine crime and it’s hard to arrest people without the threat of force. Lack of tag, insurance, and updated registration are a genuine state concern as things stand, but should be handled more like taxes: annual documentation and administrative paper work and fines before threats of criminal charges. In my ideal world, police wouldn’t be unbundled but de-scoped.

Although I generally agree that we should punish accidents rather than moving violations, there are a couple of features you aren't considering when it comes to the latter.

1) With moving violations it's generally much easier to establish guilt, simply because the officer witnessed the behavior. This is rarely the case with accidents.

2) Moving violations aren't just about revenue generation although there's certainly a component to that. They also provide a way to stop and identify those who are wanted for more serious crimes. For example, suppose you're a cop and believe the driver is someone wanted for murder. An effective way to do this is to conduct a traffic stop and establish id.

That's warrant-less search and seizure, Jeff. That's a violation of the constitution, Jeff.

@ Nigel - that's exactly how it works in the UK.

In the UK, the local police force doesn't get to keep the fine revenue. Instead it gets sent up to central government, then redistributed and allocated for spending on road safety improvements.

Jeff, your #2 there is basically justification for removing the 4th amendment.

First, only the driver can be required to identify themselves. That does nothing for anyone else.

Why not make a law mandating visible ID for all people? Set up checkpoints?

If we're going to allow cops to stop cars because it would be easier to find criminals, we should allow them to stop and search pedestrians for the same reasons. We should allow unscheduled searches of homes for the same reason.

We don't have traffic laws to allow cops to stop and search cars. That's the road to absurdity. Imagine a law that says that if you don't come to a complete stop every 2 minutes, that is a violation - and if you stop in the road or on the side of it, that is also a violation.

Would give the cops lots of excuses to stop and search motorists, right?

I was wondering recently why even the most anti-state libertarian accepts virtually all road laws reflexively and unquestioned. Even though they're made by bureaucrats and experts and all the other things they normally hate. And it is internalized so much that when they go to a place like India or South East Asia with very different adherence to traffic laws they often have a very indignant, moral revulsion to the people's failure to follow traffic laws.

How did everyone get so brainwashed about traffic laws? What's the history of that?

I am a pretty radical libertarian. To judge if a law makes sense I usually ask myself what a private owner would do. So, laws on seat-belt compulsory use are obviously stupid, while I am not against laws on drunk driving or excessive speed, even if Rothbard was, just to mention a famous libertarian. I think most people would stop patronizing my road if I allowed drunk or reckless drivers in.

But Alex’ point is well taken. If I had my highway, I would not want thugs in uniform to go around looking for trouble. If somebody is moving dope, or is a fugitive, my own highway is not the place to bust them. I would keep unarmed inspectors, but mostly cameras and other sensors). The main way of persuading people to respect the rules would be temporary or definitive suspension of the service to violators.

Also, rules would be extremely flexible. If a guy is in the highway by himself, he can go at 200 miles per hour, for what I care. But if there is heavy traffic and fog, maybe 25 is already too much. They do something like this in the German autobahn system, for example, using electronic signaling. But think about the possibilities technology provides today. For example, if a camera sees a car moving erratically, and an AI program decides the driver is drunk or sleepy, the next signal can flash an order to the car in question telling the driver to stop for a while to rest or get out of the highway at the first chance.

Being "drunk" is not a binary state, but rather a spectrum. The current blood alcohol level used to establish guilt is ridiculously low, about half as impaired as driving tired. Of course it makes sense to set the limit quite low if you're goal is not road safety, but rather to maximize the number of cars the police can steal and sell at auction.

I have never heard of any place (at least in the US) where the car of a drunk driver was automatically seized under civil forfeiture. And yes, I've known more than a couple people whop went through the DUI process.

New York State appears to allow for civil forfeiture of cars that are driven drunk.

On North49's point, laws with bright-line thresholds are the easiest to enforce. Lawyers can endlessly argue about what constitutes "impaired" or "tired" driving but it's a bit more difficult to argue with a BAC reading.

There are plenty of places (not in the US) where the limit is either zero or practically zero. The idea is that if the limit is higher, you're more tempted to have a "few" drinks and decide you're still OK.

There are more traffic laws than seatbelts and drunk driving. Separated lanes, no driving on sidewalks, obeying red lights, "no right turn on red", stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk. None of those are "things a private owner would do" as easily shown by the fact that private owners don't do that in Southeast Asia. Yet virtually everyone swallows and, what's more, act viscerally disgusted when they see a culture that doesn't.

Unfortunately there are very few cases of ordinary roads (not highways) owned by privates, Kate. Gated communities are an example, but pretty simplistic. It could happen with the first private cities.

Anyway, all the rules that you mention obviously make sense, with the possible exception of taking a right when it is red (it depends on the speed and volume of the coming traffic, so it would be a case per case decision).

The absence of the State does not imply absence of rules. Anarchy is not chaos.

I am one of the joint owners of a three mile long private road in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I want to share with you that throughout my life I have harbored some amount of sympathy and enthusiasm for *some aspects* of libertarian political organization.

All of that has changed in the ten years we have lived on this ranch and been tasked with maintaining this road. I had *absolutely no clue* how difficult, time-consuming and expensive it is to maintain even a short section of road surface to even minimal levels of quality.

My younger, urban and suburban self was incredibly naive as to the never-ending layers of cost and complexity (drainage, slope, subsoils, corner radii, fallen trees (!), subsurface water movement (!)).

And costs ... I had *no clue* how expensive proper asphalt paving was. It's incredibly, astonishingly expensive. Like, millions of dollars per mile expensive. You simply cannot believe how expensive it is to properly asphalt pave even short sections of road.

There's a reason that people band very large groups of themselves together and outsource this kind of infrastructure to government and it's not because they're stupid. Quite the opposite: I regularly feel stupid having taken on a sphere of responsibilities that goes far beyond what any comfortable, urban/suburban user of public infrastructure can imagine.

If libertarian political organization has any foundation in the "well, we could just build the roads and bridges ourselves ..." (and I think it does) then I have sour news for you, Jack.

John, an economy means trading. Trading virtually always means division of labour. I do not think you have ever built your car. Very likely you never knitted your sweater, and most definitively you did not produce the yarn. How did it come to your mind to build and maintain a road, instead of contracting a specialized agent?

There is this idea that we libertarians wants to live like Robinson Crusoe. Far from it. Most of us us understand basic economics and realize we do not stand a chance to live like autarkic individuals. I would likely die in 24 hours without air-conditioning, insect-control products and IPads to entertain my kids.

Understanding this, we are actually gregarious fellows, not a bunch of Unabombers. We just want to be able to decide who to associate with, instead of being forced, but friendly we are.

By the way, if you are still in the part-time business of maintaining a road, I hate to tell you only now, but next time go for concrete, not asphalt. Leave asphalt to pros.

You can be free to not wear a seat belt as long as any injuries you incur are not covered by group insurance. Once we decided to keep people alive regardless of whether or not they could pay for it that ushered in a variety of necessary regulations.

If it's private insurance, that should be between Massimo and his insurance company.

But, you've hit upon a point of why I see nationalized healthcare as leading to less freedom, specifically in the form of petty nanny state authoritarianism. It feeds into the Bloombergian argument for soda taxes, taxing the hell out of tobacco products, and whatever will be next (tax on fatty food?). The argument of "but you cost society with healthcare costs" can stretch to cover a whole lot of activities that otherwise shouldn't be anyone else's business.

(BTW, I don't really get worked up about seat belt laws, but I respect the philosophy of the argument against them.)

A tax revolt would be easier than taking away probable cause from cop depts. PC = big $.

Absolutely, Realist. Once in Costa Rica I was told by a young socialist that the government should prohibit Uber. When I asked why he said because sometimes the drivers do not have insurance, so the passengers in case of accident would consume scarse public healthcare. I told him that I was already paying for public hospitals, actually 20 times the the average tax-payer there. Besides, I did not use them anyway because they suck so I am privately insured. Now he wanted me not to use Uber. Like we say in Italy, cornuto e mazziato.

He told me that I deserved not to use Uber as a punishment because I was exploiting Costa Rican workers.

Why would private car accident health insurance be necessary under a fully public health care system?

According to him, or in my opinion?

To him, because he had this belief that professionals drive a lot, increasing their risk to end up in a public hospitals and crowding out other people. He apparently did not realize that if something is congestable, by definition is not a public good.

In my case, among other reasons, because I am shy. I want to be alone if I feel like farting or watching porn.

A seatbelt also lets one retain control of the car better when at the edge of control. It helps if everyone else is wearing a seatbelt as well so they don't interfere with the driver.

"I was wondering recently why even the most anti-state libertarian accepts virtually all road laws reflexively and unquestioned.

We . . . we don't. I don't think even license plates should exist. But what are you going to do?

". . . moral revulsion to the people's failure to follow traffic laws."

We have a moral revulsion to those people's disregard of other's safety.

At the risk of being at odds with most everyone who would frequent such blogs as this, I am glad for a mildly 'menacing' force whose respect is defaulted to through a bit of arrogance, self-importance, and slight cowboy-style craving for a more respect-thy-local-authority type world. Anything that takes the edge off many of our overly-anxious, risk-averse, shoulder-chip-toting, and frankly, these-rules-aren't-for-me-driver-types, is a slight and regular nudge that would otherwise be a good balance and repudiation against an automated surveillance and penalization system.

Think of it as a customer service from the Local Authority letting you know that that kind of behaviour isn't really appreciated and here's a request to contribute to the local economy. Over-reach and nanny-ism? Not at all - it just puts off the eventual black-box tattle system where your driving habits will be constantly reviewed for optimum civility with insurance increases, points, and cash charges exacted with regularity and un-feeling certaintude.

Welcome the hands-on attention to your slipping decorum to our otherwise very permissive state. Nagging cops are not great, but the computer-centralized alternative is worse., not matter how ‘correct’ it is in assessing your ‘crime’.

obviously i meant:
risk-flouting not risk-averse.

Yeah, it's not the only thing you seem to have gotten backwards.

Society needs a certain number of police on hand for surge events like riots, terrorism, upticks in violent crime. Having police on the road performing less urgent, but necessary functions, keeps that capacity on-line.

"Welcome the hands-on attention to your slipping decorum to our otherwise very permissive state. Nagging cops are not great, but the computer-centralized alternative is worse., not matter how ‘correct’ it is in assessing your ‘crime’."

Except the computer-centralized black box won't kneel on your neck until you are dead.

"It's ok to incentivize speeding around a neighborhood because hitting a pedestrian at a stop sign will cause a lawyer to go after you"

Truly a delusional and careless view. Unless you want to put cameras at all 500 stop signs in my small neighborhood, until then a random patrol can stymie this behavior.

No one on here said anything remotely like "It's ok to incentive speeding around a neighborhood because hitting a pedestrian at a stop sign will cause a lawyer to go after you".

Speeding through a stop sign would be endangerment and negligent. But most people don't speed through stop signs and cops are not often around when they do. Most people who violate stop sign laws come to almost a stop and accelerate through after checking for pedestrians and other traffic. If there is a neighborhood where people "speed" through stop signs, you could install speed bumps, report this to the police and request a patrolman monitor for and arrest the offender, or move. Social norms are enough to prevent most people from driving dangerously. The threat of a lawsuit will dissuade most of those for whom social norms don't matter. The lawsuit compensates those who suffer from negligence whereas a criminal suit would simply put someone in jail.

You people live in very different neighborhoods than where I grew up. Meter maid traffic stops would face intimidation and outright laughter. Listen or I will call backup, and three meter maids show up. The boyz in the hood will die laughing.

The marginal cost of having police do traffic enforcement is low and it generates revenue. This may come as a shock but criminals use cars a lot. And suspicious cars in neighborhoods are a concern. If you want to end all proactive policing and just have them take reports well after the fact, sort of like an insurance adjuster, I guess that is a choice.

Mentally ill calls are potentially very dangerous. Families frequently call the police because they don't think the social worker can or will be able to respond. Do you know the wait time for a social worker?

Domestic disturbances are the most dangerous for police, Send a social worker, that will work with some guy giving his wife a beatdown.

Food inspectors settle issues with a bribe in many cities. Regardless, the comparison to food inspectors and police is ridiculous. Restaurant owners have every reason to be civil and cooperate.

Wasn't Alex a big fan of no bonds. That is a disaster. Alex is at his worst when he talks about the police and crime. He lives on a different planet or an Ivory Tower on the topic. Sort of sounds like the lady who wants to get rid of the police in Minneapolis.

I think the question here is whether or not the social cost of police officers ticketing people for things that aren’t truly crimes exceeds the benefit.

I didn’t see where you sell the benefit, except to say that it gives police a chance to contact criminals. How do they know that the perp they pulled over for a minor traffic violation is a criminal? That’s right: profiling. And I think it can be argued that what we are seeing now is the spillover effects of what you say is the benefit.

You say domestic disturbances are too dangerous for a social worker? That’s definitely a straw man argument because wife beating is a crime.

I guess I’ll skip the personal attack although I can’t say you don’t deserve it.

Timothy McVeigh was profiling I guess. Awful thing. So go for it. Police as insurance adjusters after the fact.

And there is no such thing as a suspicious person. Good to know. Go through life unaware of your surroundings oblivious to reality. You will be happier that way.

Many years ago I was told the cop on the corner is not there to stop crime but to keep honest people honest. High visibility and stopping minor crimes, the broken windows idea, goes a long way to make a community feel safe. For a lot of people. And they can vote with their feet for communities that do that. And I'm sure you will have created an urban paradise for the people left behind.

I wonder if Alex lives in a community that has the standards he desires. Like Camden.

This sounds intriguing. Seems like you only need to pull someone over if they are driving recklessly; otherwise just have the traffic safety officer take a picture of the license plate, enter the violation, mail the ticket. Alex's suggestion seems likely to just lead to ubiquitous traffic cameras. That may or may not be a bad thing. Why hire people when you can just have machines do it?

Traffic cameras hand out a lot of tickets that shouldn't be handed out. A normal person following the rules of the road can easily get nailed. A sudden zone of 25 mph speed limit on a road where the flow of traffic is usually 40 mph + with little traffic. A camera that hits you for turning right on red even though it was yellow when you started and there are no cars coming. A camera that says you ran a red light when you are just over the line but clearly stopped before the intersection. A ticket because you got stuck in the middle of the intersection due to rush hour traffic making it impossible to get through. All things a cop wouldn't get you for but a camera will.

They have become ubiquitous all over Baltimore and are just a revenue source for the city. Contrary to Alex's predilections, they are very concentrated in the white areas because taxing white people is a Baltimore pastime.

"It was uncomfortable–hands on the wheel, don’t make any sudden moves, be polite etc. and I am a white guy. "

I've been pulled over plenty of times and other then the fact that I didn't want the ticket I didn't find it uncomfortable. Officers are friendly and they have often let me off with a warning rather then a traffic camera that will nail me every time. I once got a ticket I didn't think I deserved but I didn't freak out like Alex.

"A sudden zone of 25 mph speed limit on a road where the flow of traffic is usually 40 mph + with little traffic. A camera that hits you for turning right on red even though it was yellow when you started and there are no cars coming. A camera that says you ran a red light when you are just over the line but clearly stopped before the intersection. A ticket because you got stuck in the middle of the intersection due to rush hour traffic making it impossible to get through. All things a cop wouldn't get you for but a camera will."

Going 40 in a 25 would certainly get you a ticket... hell... that's probably why that is the speed limit and the cops wouldn't let that slide. Maybe the speed limit should be higher... but then in that situation, your problem is with the speed limit, not the camera. Getting stuck in an intersection during rush hour... you mean causing gridlock! There is a special place in hell for people who block intersections. If you start getting tickets for being slightly over the line or turning right on red when you didn't really have time to make the turn... well... maybe you'll stop running red lights.

I'd love to have some cameras at my local stop sign... even when there are tons of kids waiting for the bus (ahh... the good ol' days) or when they were doing construction and the intersection was down to one and half lanes, people were just blowing through.

Cops let that slide all the time. Many sudden drops in speed are due to mandatory regs that often fail to take local issues into account. For example around here there is a mandatory speed drop next to a local high school. Because there are only so man lateral feet between the school and the road it has a mandatory speed drop. The fact that the road is cut into a hill with significant vertical separation from the school and the fact that any high schoolers would have to jump a wall and then go down the embankment is not taken into account at all.

And frankly, as the guy who sees many of the actual accidents and meets the people responsible I would argue that it goes more the other way. When bad drivers see harmless actions being criminalized they just assume that all the laws are equally stupid and do those things as well. Further I want the cops concentrating their traffic enforcement on the people most likely to cause trouble. If they are pulling over everyone who fails to see the no-turn-on-red sign that gets covered every spring until the county trims back the new branches, they are likely letting more dangerous folks get by without warnings or citations.

Frankly when I look at what causes crashes it has exceedingly little to do with enforcement or lack thereof. Number one predictor is age/gender. Number 2 is alcohol with heavy confounding of those two. In my professional experience nuisance tickets do jack all to convince teenage males to take less risks (and they generally know they were taking risks) a certainly appear to have zilch to do with alcohol consumption.

'in my professional experience nuisance tickets do jack all to convince teenage males to take less risks..."
- teenage males get their license suspended if they get too many
"nuisance" or non nuisance tickets. this is a bigly incentive for
teen males

I once lived in a town where a road formed the boundary between my town and the neighboring one and the speed limit was set differently depending on what side of the rad you were on. It was 35mph on my side, 25mph on the other town's side. This was a clever speed trap by the other town, and yep I got got popped by it once.

Indeed, the 25 mph was due to a small window where it passes through a "school zone" even though its a busy commuter road that is reasonably far from the school that no schools kids ever cross. The rest of the road is 40 mph. Even someone like me that knows about it often I will be busy with something, driving at the pace of traffic, and not remember to slow down suddenly for that one brief window, and bam.

If a cop had to enforce that it wouldn't get enforced.

"If a cop had to enforce that it wouldn't get enforced"
- yes it does, when they want to make their quota, because tickets are a great revenue generator, so this is the kind of thing they like.

when I was in college at the U of M there was a notorious case of a cop in Ann Arbor going to answer a burglary call who stopped to write someone a ticket because he hadn't written enough tickets that month.

Where I live, they have this crazy idea where they install signs with the speed limit written on them in big numbers. That way, all I have to do is keep my eyes open an pay attention to the road, and I know what the speed limit is at all times.

The wacky state government even has a law where they can't enforce the speed limit unless it's posted on one of those weird signs.

If they had that in your state, that 25mph zone on a 40mph road would present less of a problem.

"Traffic cameras hand out a lot of tickets that shouldn't be handed out. A normal person following the rules of the road can easily get nailed. A sudden zone of 25 mph speed limit on a road where the flow of traffic is usually 40 mph + with little traffic. A camera that hits you for turning right on red even though it was yellow when you started and there are no cars coming. A camera that says you ran a red light when you are just over the line but clearly stopped before the intersection."

Those things do not Happen to careful drivers.

Ask the people in Chicago how red light cameras have worked for them.


You sound a lot like one of these obese individuals who transports himself using a motorized couch encased in a metal shell. More intelligent and rational people walk or ride a bike.

When your dick is bigger than eight inches (shower not grower) bikes aren’t really an option. As much as I’d love to show it off in spandex. But you keep being a tiny dicked fag wearing spandex.

Throw it over your shoulder, like a continental soldier.

Nope. I'm pretty fit. 185# bodyweight, 5'10" height. 295# squat, 405# deadlift, 7:10 2k on the C2 rower. My bench is weak though. I'm just a dad who wants to be able to cross the street with his kids without being nearly run over by a-holes who don't stop when they're supposed to.

Humblebrag. I know, your bench is 225, which is lame (kidding).

Hahaha... nah... it's around 205. I've got a couple shoulder injuries that make me wary of going heavy with bench.

What is your evidence that this proposal will not increase the 10k+ drunk driving deaths in the U.S. per year? Or non alcohol fatalities for that matter? Police don’t simply help broken down vehicles. It may be a good idea, especially when we have driverless cars in 20 years, but you have a responsibility to responsibly advocate proposals. This reads like a Facebook post.


Drunk driving deaths would increase for sure

Is the drunk driving Death rate In the U.K. greater than the U.S.?

Are you suggesting that people drive drunk less than they otherwise would because the people who pull them over are heavily armed? I really doubt that very much.

I doubt most people would start thinking “now I can drive drunk because if I get pulled over, the officer won’t be armed so I can flee.”

In fact it might plausibly lower drunk driving. With unarmed officers who only do moving violations, they can require much less training so they will be cheaper and we can have more of them. And if their only focus is driving violations, they might be a lot better at that aspect than current cops.

I'm suggesting that it is possible that drunk driving and other malicious driving will occur at higher rates if the people pulling the cars over and enforcing moving violations are significantly more limited in their ability to arrest and detain. The larger point is that we do not know one way or the other, but we do know that thousands and thousands of more people die as a result of drunk driving than are killed by police at traffic stops. I'm advocating for some consideration around unintended consequences, and more measured advocacy in the face of uncertainty. It may be a good idea, but Alex's article reads like a no-brainer that should be adopted without any testing of the waters.

It is not that hard to test, just look to the Uk. Most police across the pond seem to handle all sorts of traffic stops, including drunk drivers without fire arms.

For sure - but police in the UK can assume the driver likely won't have firearms too - that's one of the major differences in policing in many other countries that people try to compare to.

If we were truly concerned about stopping drunk driving, then all cars would have a breathalyzer lock on them that would require a sober breath to start and random immediate sober breaths during the drive (where a passenger could not lean over and breathe for the driver). This is actually a practice in Tennessee for people who have been convicted of drunk driving to keep their licenses.

If we wanted to stop speeding and create a healthy revenue stream, we would have cameras that would mark one's entry time onto a highway or roadway, one's exit time, note the time spent on the road, then calculate the average rate of speed. Would it catch every speeder? No, but it would capture the lion's share and could allow for AI assessment of other factors that would trigger a driver to be pulled over for erratic driving.

Should we de-couple the skilled policework that might require armed response from the multitude of additional work that has been placed upon the police for economic/political/efficiency reasons much of which they have not been adequately trained to do? Some of which they don't want to do? That is a discussion that some people are ready to have, some not. It's going to mean some whites giving up some white privilege. It's going to mean some cops giving up some blue privilege. It's going to mean a reapportioning of budget dollars to fit the priorities we say we want in a civil society. Some lobbyists will lose and some people making money in the privatized police state will lose. And the tendrils stretch as far as contracts for heads in beds in private jails to businesses getting deals from cheap private labor to good ol' boys having to arrest their friends for domestic abuse. It's going to take a long time to unravel and repair. A problem created over 400 years does not get solved before the commercial break.

I would. I have seen patients who have been brought in by the cops for being so drunk that the cops are worried they may choke to death on their own vomit. Yet in spite of having been arrested and brought to emergency the still attempt to abscond to "drive home".

Drunk people's decision making is impaired. The odds that someone who is drunk will get a fine, get right back into the car, and continue driving are not going to be zero. And I mean seriously, I already have a patient or two every few months who attempted (however stupidly) to outrun the cops who have guns and full arrest powers.

And lest we forget there is a huge portion of the populace that already has all manner of sanctions levied against them and it does not change behavior. E.g. the other month I had a guy whose license was suspended, he had an active warrant out, and he still went out driving in an uninsured car. He did not care all about fines (any money he made above board was toast to child support).

At a certain point you have to deal with the bottom few percent who are often incompetent and fatalistic.

"At a certain point you have to deal with the bottom few percent who are often incompetent and fatalistic."

+1, that group represents the bane of both Libertarianism and Progressivism. High levels of Libertarianism tend to fall apart under any rational analysis of what the worst few percent would do without constraints and Progressivism tends to have far more enforcement and transfer costs to deal with that same group.

"Progressivism tends to have far more enforcement "

To explain Progressivism want to treat everyone the same, but the bottom few percent require high levels of authoritarianism and policing to keep their behavior in check and if you treat everyone to that level then you end up with dramatically higher levels of authoritarianism for everyone.

And eventually that excessive authoritarianism against the many end up with the, any getting upset and pushing back.
"Nothing in excess" as the ancients said.

It’s unfortunate that we don’t have an option to exile violent anti-social people such as that.

And we choose in a world of limited resources to keep people as bad as Charlie Manson locked up for 50 years, at an annual cost of maybe $50K. It’s very expensive virtue signaling indeed. I suppose the abolish prisons folks would have given Charlie a lecture, and him go about his business.

I do wonder how much the "no jail" folk and the "political and intersectional enemies straight to jail" crowd overlap.

I mean, how much do the crowd that thought men should be sent straight to jail on the basis of uncertain victim testimony alone overlap with the "no jail" crowd?

The presumably want Chauvin to go to jail. And Weinstein and Shkreli and Madoff and so on.

Allow the traffic officer to confiscate the car keys of anyone who blows over the legal limit. And if necessary (i.e., because it would be parked in a no parking spot) to call for the car of the drunk driver yo be towed.

I don't think people will do more drunk driving. But I think people will do more of the things that lead to drunk driving -- drinking and getting behind the wheel -- if enforcement is weakened.

But that's practically a tautology, so it doesn't mean that enforcement is always at the right level.

But an unarmed safety officer can still enforce a hell of a lot. When it's time to pull over, no one thinks "I have to pull over because of the gun." The gun is completely useless in getting the person to pull over.

If someone refuses to pull over, the unarmed safety officer will do what an armed cop will do: call for backup.

My first paragraph should say

"I don't think people will be more encouraged to do drunk driving because the people who might pull them over won't be armed. But people will be more encouraged to do dangerous drunk driving precursors if enforcement against those precursors is weakened."

(If I wrote a pull request with an function, would Tyler use it?)

Wouldn't the traffic folks call the police for drunk drivers?

"you have a responsibility to responsibly advocate proposals. This reads like a Facebook post."
It's a free blog post. What responsibility does he have?

This actually is defunding the police (or more accurately, "defunding" doesn't refer to a fixed set of plans but rather a spectrum of ideas related to rethinking public safety and getting many responsibilities out of the charter of police departments).

It means different things to different people; there are enough folk on even this website's comments who interpret it as literally removing funds and imposing austerity as a sort of indirect way to curb police using tools repurposed from the military and to force police to focus on core policing. (Which I doubt austerity for the police would actually achieve, since it hasn't where I've seen that happen!)

Best policy would seem not to get committed to literally anything anyone tries to smuggle in under this banner, from criminal justice abolitionists all the way to ultra mild reformists.

I would guess what you guys need is a major federal public inquiry into the effectiveness of different policing tactics, that is credibly independent from the police, Black Lives Matter and preferably the major universities, and which weighs up different tactics against their effectiveness.

Doing what the Dems have done and put in a short notice, quickly drafted bill that they know the Repubs will probably have to kill, for electoral purposes and to kill off the protests, just not gonna solve anything.

True. Yet another political 'issue' that is nothing but semantics and 'optics'. Camden, NJ, is often cited as an example of defunding, but their reforms actually increased spending on public safety... so what title do you put on that?

To these points, I recall a point made about the LAPD around the time of the Rodney King video and subsequent trials. The idea is that a relatively low ratio of police officers to population had been a contributing factor to why the LAPD had evolved to operate in a more heavy-handed, almost paramilitary fashion.

Basically, it's more time-efficient to police by riding around in cars responding to crime calls and operating with significant use of force than to engage in community policing efforts that build trust and goodwill. I assume it's probably also more time efficient to bend/break the 4th Amendment than to follow it when investigating crimes and apprehending suspects.

Personnel are far and away the biggest cost for police departments. It's therefore very possible that "spend less money on the police" pushes in that direction of a force with a smaller number of officers who rely on intimidation and "short cuts" to try to keep crime in check.

Personnel? Or pensions for ex personnel?

It's six of one, half a dozen of the other.

My point is this.

If people want for the police not to have certain types of equipment, or for a police force not to have so large a SWAT Team (or any SWAT team for smaller forces), or whatever the case may be, then get a city council to do that directly.

But big cuts to a police budget are really ultimately about cutting personnel costs. That could be fewer people, or it could be lower salaries, or it could be lower benefits (including pensions, though obviously a lot of pension costs are legally locked-in unless a municipality files Chapter 7).

> who interpret it as literally

Mr. Trump can certainly empathize. To borrow a phrase, most political commentary nowadays is just taking statements 'literally, but not seriously.'

Some people are way ahead on this, Lisa Bender (Progressive - MPLS):

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender dodged a question Monday morning on what people facing danger from criminals would do if her efforts to "dismantle" the city's police department actually succeed.

Bender has been among the most vocal politicians behind the movement to dismantle the city's police force in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. Last week she said "[w]e are going to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a transformative new model of public safety" and over the weekend she joined a veto-proof majority of the council committing to "dismantle" the law enforcement institution.

But on Monday, she struggled to answer a question from CNN's Alisyn Camerota on what would happen if a person needed help because someone had broken into their home.

Do you understand that the word, dismantle, or police-free also makes some people nervous, for instance?" Camerota asked. "What if in the middle of [the] night, my home is broken into? Who do I call?"

"I mean, I hear that loud and clear from a lot of my neighbors," Bender said. "And I know -- and myself, too, and I know that that comes from a place of privilege. Because for those of us for whom the system is working, I think we need to step back and imagine what it would feel like to already live in that reality where calling the police may mean more harm is done."

Bender detailed some of what the council's proposed reforms would mean in many cases where the police are called, but still did not answer Camerota's question directly.

"We've done an analysis of all the reasons people call 911 and have looked up ways we can shift the response away from our armed police officers into a more appropriate response for mental health calls, for some domestic violence calls, for health-related issues," Bender said.

+1 another excellent example of a leftist using the "white privilege" meme
to obfuscate.

Charter public police departments just like charter public schools. Introduce competition. Have cities introduce competition in policing: have the third ward of Mpls contract with a charter police entity that bids for the business, or have a suburb bid for the business. Introduce competition and let the community contract on a 3 or five year contract, not subject to automatic renewal.

Wasn’t that the plot of RoboCop? They didn’t really get into the details of how OCP got the contract.

Do you let movies or fiction novels guide your judgment?

Isn't that what great art is for?

Bill once again rides to the rescue with a truly asinine idea. His plan would lead to private police forces, something some areas of Detroit have tried. Or private police forces for college campuses. Which ignores entire communities that would be unable to afford such an option.

Of course, that is the way many communities will go with the Alex plan. Communities that ignore Alex will offer quality police forces and attract citizens. Communities that go with the Alex plan will see people vote with their feet and leave behind empty lots that won't need police.

Gangs will grow in importance in Alexland as people organize to protect themselves at a great social cost. Think of a turn of the century urban center full of huddled masses and under policed. They found ways to deal with the problem. Alex will recreate the ideal world of Charles Dickens - with more guns. And like all students of the period know the only thing they needed was more social workers and it would transform into Disneyland.

But Bill is going to build charter police departments even as some communities cut the budgets while they claim that the only candidates they find and employ are people who are racists that scare Alex when they falsy accuse him of traffic violations.

Just to make things better unions will be illegal for police and they will be subject to civil suits that can financially ruin the officers and any company that employs them. Where will they get insurance for that liability? What an attractive business opportunity! And you will answer to a civilian board headed by those police loving experts BLM and Antifa. I'm sure Bill will buy stock in such an enterprise.

Don't respond Bill. It's ok. Start the IPO and good luck. I'm just one of those investors who fail to see the genius in your vision


Your comment deserves no response.
Sorry I skimmed it.

Evidently your request that I not bother to respond was from a fear that I would.

Stringing words together, and including asinine, doesn't produce a thought. And, doesn't deserve a reaction.

That was harsh on my part.
I consider it unworkable and undesirable but good luck finding investors

And, in fairness to the MPLS city counsel, there are lots of places in the world with little to no police. The local residents respond in different ways....typically, it's some combination of high walls, no external windows (particularly on the 1st and 2nd floors), barbed wire, constant presence, and protection fees.

Now, I'm not sure I want to live in any of those places, but they do function OK-ish.

South Africa, Venezuela, Brazil, other parts of South America. The rich buy security the poor, well you know.

-the dictionary definition of "defund"is prevent from continuing to receive funds.
- leftists elites should use a different correctly defined word if they wanna be taken seriously

And what happens when these unarmed, non-police pull someone over and discover the smell of drugs, or that the driver pulled over has a warrant for a violent felony? "Stand by sir, while I call the people with guns."

And the exact opposite of that seems to be what happened with George Floyd. Faced with a large man having some sort of drug-induced episode, they held him down until the ambulance came to pick him up.

Didn't really help.

Ted Bundy and Randy Kraft (no one remembers him because he killed young men in up and down the Pacific Coast) were both picked up because of traffic stops. Not a good reason to leave it with the police but a reason.

Add Timothy McVeigh to that list.

Maybe McVeigh would have been picked up in a traffic stop, but we already knew who they were to look for due to analysis of the rental data on the truck he blew up. A dragnet would have found him one way or another.

The smell of drugs did not cause reckless driving, why bother. If they note the warrant, they should not tip off the person by saying anything, but send them on their way with the police getting a description of the car.

"If they note the warrant, they should not tip off the person by saying anything, but send them on their way with the police getting a description of the car."
Yeah, that will work.

How about just stop arresting people for possessing drugs in the first place. If some jack off wants to be addicted to drugs and slowly kill himself, what business of someone else’s is it?

Smell of drugs implies using the drugs. And using drugs while driving a vehicle is dangerous to other people and the passengers.

Driving impaired should get a pass?

m - it's a valid point.

I'd add stolen car to that list, as well as an occasional kidnapping.

There'd also be drunk drivers who decide that they want to fight rather than go to jail. (Obviously can't just issue a ticket to a drunk driver and send him on his way.) Sometimes armed, sometimes not. Sometimes alone, sometimes with one or more friends in the car.

State Highway Patrol in many states are given a task that's sort of what Alex is discussing here, and they of course carry guns. I'd put odds that Alex's proposed road safety officers would end up carrying guns within no more a couple years - if implemented nationally - after a few of them were killed and seriously injured by people who they'd stopped.

"And what happens when these unarmed, non-police pull someone over and discover the smell of drugs, or that the driver pulled over has a warrant for a violent felony?"

Perhaps when there are non-police doing traffic enforcement, the actual police could go to the houses of people with warrants and arrest them there, instead of just driving around in circles hoping that one of them commits a traffic infraction?

What does a parking lot attendant or meter maid or valet do in the same situation? Or are you saying all those people should also be armed police officers unless they come across a crime?

What about postal workers. What if they come across evidence of a crime during their daily perambulations around the city? Armed also, yes? The people who check your electric and water meter? Same?

"Because they might see evidence of a possible crime" doesn't seem like a good reason to say they should be armed police.

Unbundling or maybe rebundling--like having mental health workers ride with police and see how they defuse a domestic crisis or handle or identify a mentally ill person.

The reason that we will not see a radical unbundling is due to something called economies of scope:

"Economies of scope describe situations in which the long-run average and marginal cost of a company, organization, or economy decreases, due to the production of some complementary goods and services. An economy of scope means that the production of one good reduces the cost of producing another related good."

Should probably still have police do moving traffic violation and detection because they run across drunks and fleeing criminals; and, as most cities, have parking inspectors, just as we have transit police for public transportation.

But, you could envision community police officers who are social workers, or work with social workers, community police officers who assist with food shelves, etc. Or, have the police officer in that role report to a non-police office department, or have performance reviews from that department be placed in the personnel file.

Good points, Bill.

I was going to comment the same. Police will be making some number of traffic stops as long as we have police, because they'll be out driving around and will witness moving violations.

Police will be dealing with homeless people because homeless people tend to congregate in downtown areas - often to panhandle - and, to be blunt, people who work or patronize businesses in those areas like the idea of some police presence in an area with panhandling homeless people.

We need to have police officers who know how to deal with the mentally ill and identify them. In some jurisdictions, they know how to do that.

And, its not just police officers who need training on how to deal with the mentally ill. My wife was a librarian, and had to develop a plan on how to deal with the mentally ill, or persons who posed a risk or were disruptive. What she did was bring in a local pscyhological counseling clinic and a police officer trained on dealing with the mentally ill.

What she learned from the polices was that if you are dealing with a disturbed patron with a gun, you slowly back up and move away, because the chance of them hitting declines dramatically with each step taken backwards. And, call the police anytime you see someone with a gun in the building.

They had a lady who was in daily contact with the Pope and George Bush who told her what to do on a daily basis.

How many of the unarmed men killed by police officers in the past year — and I’ve read it was 3 black and 4 white — had mental illness?

How many were resisting arrest? Or even resisting cooperation?

An aside: Agitation can be highly cognitively disruptive. I’m very law-abiding and when I had to deal with a cop a few years ago just to report a dangerous neighbour, I almost stuttered. And I’m a pretty big, fit guy. It was strange to feel nervous in the presence of the law (and the cop was very mild mannered).

To become a state trooper in my state, the candidate must be 21 upon completion of the program and have a high school diploma or GED. Training begins with firearms, fitness, and other modes of self-defense. Then comes 18 weeks of classroom study that covers water rescue, emergency vehicle operation, accident and crime scene investigation, criminal law, and other police science topics. it caps off with eight weeks in the field with a veteran trooper. It strikes me that in 18 weeks one could not get an adequate handle on criminal justice law, and this is just a small part of the curriculum. The other thing that jumps out is this is also indoctrination into police culture run by police. Training has always seemed inadequate to me. Defunding police will likely mean less training, not more.

One way to correct that is by having certification standards and continuing education requirements.

That works for lawyers and hairdressers.

What about a compromise of using drones and ANPR, keep the responsibility under police but add tech solutions that remove intensity of police involvement, such that the only drivers getting stopped are those who repeat violate and do not respond to being served with charges remotely?

There's no reason to waste police time with the tasks that can most effectively automated, and limits degree of traffic stops gone wrong.

Alex, adding to your insights, policies governing policing are set by city councils, mayors, AGs. Yet popular opprobrium is leveled at the men in blue. Let's do as you suggest, but also place accountability where it belongs, elected officials.

+1 The racist Republicans in charge of Minneapolis aught to lose their jobs!

Chokeholds were prohibited by the NPYD but that didn't stop Daniel Pantaleo from using one to take down Eric Garner or from the union from getting him his job back.

You can have all the rules and regulations you want but if the cops can break them with impunity, some will. They are a great example of "Deep State": you can pass lots of laws but if the people under you refuse to carry them out and you can't do anything about it, they're in charge, not you.

"Impunity" is the problem, not the regs. The fact that some people get away with literal murder isn't a reason to decriminalize homicide.

"aught" says it all, or ought to.

How do organizations with bad apples get rid of them when they have strong union protection.


If you are a tenured faculty, you get assigned 7:45 am classes and a night class on the same day.

If you are a police officer, you get assigned the night shift from midnight to 8 am. Or require that they take a rigorous PT test yearly and be able to sprint at a certain speed,

But, what happens with tenured or seniority protected systems, seniority has perks: you get assigned a desk job if you are a police officer or you get assigned committee work rather than having to teach if you are a faculty member.

Organizations have subtle, and not so subtle, ways to move people on. If they want or need to,

Policemen are city employees. Maybe you can move the bad apples to a different department...like Parks and Rec where they clean bathrooms, or working on Public Works tarring roads.

You can't fire a bad apple, but maybe you can squeeze them and get them out of the basket before they spoil the rest.

If cities could actually do those things, much of the problem would be resolved. But they can't. Union rules, contract provisions, arbitration clauses, Police Federation pressure, self-staffed internal 'review' board all make it impossible for many cities to do anything other than let the cops runs themselves. That's why the whole 'defund' movement even exists - because reasonable solutions are blocked but people know something has to be done... that's when they go to extremes.

Agree. Charter police departments. A part of a city contracts for police services and sets specifications for the bidding party. Police departments today sell their services to adjoining districts. It would take much to create a business that employed social workers, mental health folks, and muscle and sell that to, say, a city which divided itself into zones which had independent contract authority to contract with the organization.

The problem is that the police union is a monopoly which protects bad members, who are willing to pay the dues for protection.

Look up NYC’s “rubber room” for teachers - a sort of holding area for teachers who couldn’t be allowed back in the classroom, but couldn’t be fired. IIRC, there were a couple of hundred of these people.

The other way to deal with the problem of bad cops is to merge the Police Department with the City Sanitation Department.

Bad cops get to work on the streets picking up garbage.

By the way, this is the way it works in corporate America. I had a client that had plants in the US and foreign countries. The CEO was concerned that the head of corporate development would replace him before he wanted to retire. So, he transferred the guy to head a Nebraska plant, where he was never heard from since.

There's no reason to waste police time

Especially when they're so adept at it themselves.

NYC has unarmed "civilian" police employees issuing parking tickets already: https://www1.nyc.gov/site/nypd/careers/civilians/traffic-enforcement-agents.page

Tabarrok's thinking isn't original, as many have observed that the police have been assigned an ever increasing list of responsibilities that don't have much to do with "policing". One example: domestic squabbles. What's behind the expansion of "policing" is the obsession with order, with violence if necessary. Combined with the obsession with the slippery slope, a peaceful protest sliding into a riot. To be blunt about the current predicament, police violence against blacks is partly due to the belief that blacks don't respect order. A little violence against blacks is intended to teach them a lesson, the lesson of order. A parent's show of a little violence against her unruly child is intended to teach the lesson of order. Of course, using violence to teach order is ironic. Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. Who said that? Issac Asimov.

" Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent - Issac Asimov
because the competent know when to strike pre-emptively" -Jerry Pournelle

"One example: domestic squabbles. What's behind the expansion of "policing" is the obsession with order, with violence if necessary. "

A lot of that is driven by Child Protective Services. Another part is driven by protecting battered women. We expanded the state into homes to protect the women and children. Obviously, that increase in state power and requirements also increases authoritarianism.

Excellent post. Makes all sense.

Maybe we need to unbundle the economists. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/09/opinion/us-deficit-coronavirus.html

"we can unbundle the police": you've been in good form recently, Mr Tab.

"the police have no expertise in dealing with the mentally ill or with the homeless": decades ago I discovered that a mentally ill student (he'd taken LSD and proposed to fly down a stair well) should be handed over to the university medical service, not the police. This was by agreement between the police and the university for those cases where the nutter had not been a threat to the safety of others.

I suspect that these proposals would produce a lot of hindsight bias. Mentally ill man gets agitated while talking to a police officer and shoots one of them: "Why didn't you send a social worker?" Mentally ill man gets agitated while talking to a social worker and shoots his wife: "Why didn't you send a police officer?" And similarly for traffic stops, drunk drivers, etc.

The lawyers will love it.

Probably would resolve by joint visits sending both to be on the safe side. Which is kind of bloaty I guess.

I agree with M that you'd probably end up with joint visits, particularly because of a scenario that Tom didn't mention. Mentally ill man gets agitated while talking to social worker and shoots social worker.

This episode of the excellent podcast Hi Phi Nation talks about this evolution.


Highly recommeded (the whole show, not just this ep)

Why not? The U.S. Coast Guard has been doing this for years and has garnered a reputation as a model for effective law enforcement. Most of the preventative interventions, in the form of dockside safety inspections, are undertaken by unarmed volunteers.

The Canadian Coast Guard is an unarmed civilian agency. In suspected cases of criminal threats, they can be accompanied by armed civilian RCMP officer(s).

In the Canadian case, a significant amount of enforcement has been offloaded to the Navy because of this. It's just not practical for a ship at sea to turn around and pick up an armed officer from port for a boarding action. It's a coordination problem.

Not true. Canadian Navy has been involved in major operations in international waters, but they do not patrol the Canadian coasts, except in pre-planned exercises with their own purposes. They are not fast responders to incidences we are speaking of here. Our Coast Guard has a very good sense of when they require armed backup, i.e. separating watercraft in distress and tactical interdicting.

To sum up, I think the civilian Canadian Coast Guard as 'unarmed patrol' with backup from the civilian RCMP, as 'armed police' is a closer analog to the unbundling thesis of Alex's post than the para-military USCG.

Getting the mentally ill and homeless to move along, fine. I don't know what results anyone expects there anyway. Sure, in 20-30 years traffic safety will be like air traffic control.

But no, the guy walking over alone to confront a stranger or group of strangers in a vehicle that was speeding or weaving on the road, often late at night, is going to be armed and is going to be part of a service with a "don't mess with our people" reputation, because he has no idea if the people in that car are armed or how they are going to behave when he writes a ticket. As you note, the English traffic officers are more like AAA than your hypothetical unbundled police, and that's in a country with much less gun ownership.

The low hanging fruit on traffic stops is to stop incentivizing officers to generate fines and take property, as has been mentioned on MR.

A bit off topic, but I believe we continue to misdiagnose income-inequality angst as policing angst. Which ensures such angst will persist. (And no...we cannot expect people to properly diagnose the source of their angst)

Yes. And this is why police reform - whatever path it takes - is a very minor step. As bad as the squealing about such reform may be, it is nothing compared to what happens when you seriously try to address income inequality.

Alex, your post raises elementary issues of indivisibilities, specialization/division of labor, and economies of scale and scope, both at the worker and the organization levels. If you are going to suggest "unbundle the police", please refer us to a particular analytical framework and how it can be applied to U.S. police departments.

Reading this paragraph

"Defunding and abolition probably mean something different from what you are thinking. For most proponents, “defunding the police” does not mean zeroing out budgets for public safety, and police abolition does not mean that police will disappear overnight — or perhaps ever. Defunding the police means shrinking the scope of police responsibilities and shifting most of what government does to keep us safe to entities that are better equipped to meet that need. It means investing more in mental-health care and housing, and expanding the use of community mediation and violence interruption programs...."

(as quoted in https://althouse.blogspot.com/2020/06/were-told-not-to-take-defund-police-and.html ) I have the impression that we should not take Alex's unbundled the police literally.

Because criminals break laws? Only a portion of stops end in an arrest for more serious charges, but that's true of most things.

In about 20-30 years, all the cars will be self-driving anyway, and there won't be much need for traffic police.

In the meantime, this idea is a nonstarter so long as the War on Drugs is in force. A major use of traffic policing is to intercept drugs.

I agree with notion that the police have been subject to a kind of mission creep that has reduced their effectiveness and lead to unnecessary confrontations. However, I'm not convinced traffic stops are one of the areas they should be removed from. You have chosen the most simple traffic stops.

Drunk driving and driving under the influence are an major cause of accidents, and those drivers are likely to be belligerant after being pulled over.

Many confrontations occur when a person doing something else illegal is pulled over. For example, driving a stolen car. Will they really react calmly to being pulled over by the nice "traffic patrol" or will they panic and start a confrontation? I suspect the latter and the police would be better prepared to handle that.

Traffic stops are intense and unpredictable. The 'traffic patrol' idea won't solve this problem.

Perhaps we start by not using the 'traffic stops' term so broadly. Examples such as equipment violations, expired tags, rolling through a stop sign and the like are not the same as dealing with a weaving car on the highway at 3:00 a.m.

It's more about efficient use of manpower. It doesn't make sense to have one set of officials out driving around only looking for equipment violations and another set out looking for weaving cars.

The one area where we do it, parking enforcement, is generally limited to a few high-volume patrol routes.

To a certain extent this already happens. Here in Chicago you are damn pressed to find CPD pulling *anyone* over for a moving violation. Blatant violations: rolling through stop signs, extreme speeds, double-parking of all shapes at colors. I've seen it all and all the time, in front of parks with children at play. Granted these infractions are typical *in front of CPD*. I'm not sure of the calculus of what determines when they'll act and when they won't. Sadly, many of the moving violations I described are performed all too often by the police.

I think the larger point is that moving violations are not top of mind for many communities. In a large city like Chicago, people just don't care if people are double parked. If I'm a business owner, the double parking flexibility makes my business easier to run. Same for other infractions. This differs significantly from a smaller communities where there isn't any violent crime or major domestic situations. In those communities you so much as blip the throttle in a school zone and you are looking at $100 bucks and 45 to an hour of your time.

A sane response OLD. The marginal cost of police doing traffic stops is small. You want them in a community. Also, many police departments already specialize in tasks. I knew police officers who went twenty years without every writing a traffic violation.

If traffic patrol senses an escalation from polite, or other clear peril, police can be dispatched, and the traffic patrol's dashcam and body cam are the evidence. Also, police officers (expensive) have to be in court for contested tickets, and that could easily be traffic patrollers (less expensive). This stratification should be experimented.

Sure, experiment with it. I doubt it will work, but I'd be glad to be wrong about this.

I wonder how much it will cost two have two groups of people on the roads doing complementary jobs. (You'll still need lots of police for emergencies. I'd guess you can cut 1 regular police per 5 traffic patrollers). As it is now, cops are only pulling people over for tags and broken lights in their spare time. So, we'll have another agency whose entire job is to do that. I'm sure taxpayers and drivers will appreciate the benefits of this arrangement.

" So, we'll have another agency whose entire job is to do that. "

And since that's their primary mission, they'll be far more aggressive about enforcing the regulations.

I think Tyler’s bringing up Dirty Harry is quite insightful. We decided - maybe even rightly - in the 70s to start taking the gloves off. This melded with a certain sort of anti-elitism; the rules are stupid and enforced by incompetent wimpy desk-bound higher ups. Us, the simple beat cops (or fatherly working class male), know right and wrong and how to enforce justice.

It also goes without saying that this homespun form of justice tends to be hyper focused on criminality among people of color. If you spent any time listening to rap music you’d know BS traffic stops have long been a pretext for harassment of “the wrong sorts” or indeed planting evidence. The jurisprudence is designed to empower cops-on-the-beat and to make their own judgments about which situations need to be “elevated” from simple traffic stops.

This attitude, with its “anti-elite” undertones, has somewhat ironically been validated and even legally sanctioned (see the jurisprudential point). In Dirty Harry, our protagonist is always being reprimanded and at the end we’re meant to think perhaps he will be punished for his plausibly righteous act. Over time, the sergeants and higher ups have stopped asking questions and just want our heroes to lower the body count, but the propriety of their outrageous ways is taken for granted.

An alternative morality for “necessary” violence is seen in the Dark Knight. Batman’s vigilantism is (in straussian fashion) denounced in public even as it is harnessed for the benefit of legal law enforcement. Batman ultimately respects some - though not controlling - guidance from the proper civil authorities, and even expects there to be an honest effort at legal sanction for his more extreme actions. It should also be said that he avoids killing, ultimately delivering his targets to the normal legal process rather than dispensing final judgment himself. The Dark Knight is explicit that, even if Batman’s methods are necessary expedients, the only sustainable solution is a proper transparent legal and accountable system of law enforcement. Indeed keeping his abilities away from the normal authorities is a feature not a bug - this kind of power could all too easily tempt the “good guys” into dangerous behavior. Batman himself knows he isn’t immune or lacks the need for some (admittedly thin) oversight. In addition, it is as much this strict code of behavior as his bad-ass equipment and skill that elevates Batman above the many copy-cat vigilantes who mistakenly try to take up his mantle.

"I think Tyler’s bringing up Dirty Harry is quite insightful. We decided - maybe even rightly - in the 70s to start taking the gloves off."

Violent crime started to rise rapidly from 1967 and Dirty Harry was from 1971. However, there was little change in the incarceration rate from 1960 until 1975 when there was a steady climb through 2002.

elite liberal sociologists never want to talk about how violent crime
went down after the incarceration rate went up (post 1975)

Welcome to today's installment of "Why does Alex have a job? Has he ever actually been outside? Seriously, has he?"

>But why do we need heavily armed men (mostly) to issue a traffic citation?

Classic. So now, in your mind, a pistol is "heavily" armed? If one pistol makes you "heavily" armed, under what conditions would you ever call someone merely armed? And what descriptor would you use for someone with an M-16 or an RPG launcher? Would they be "wicked heavily" armed?

You use words for a living, and you're very bad at it.

Now, to answer your deeply, wicked deeply, stupid question -- the one whose answer is very obvious to anyone who has ever been outside -- is that a big part of the job of "enforcing road safety" is identifying the violators.

Are you with me so far? Stop and read that again. Take a breath, and proceed to learn more.

Because now, here comes the big leap you need to make: Many people who get pulled over do not wish to be identified. At all. Can you think of any reasons? I'll tell you: They may have arrests warrants out for them. Or be violating parole. Or drunk. Or stoned. Or be deadbeat parents. Or have a stolen lying openly in the backseat. The reasons are as numerous and varying as your university's diversity outreach board.

Such folk need not just be cited, they need to be detained. And they are highly inclined to resist, fight, and even shoot. Your laughable plan to send out Meter Maids to cite people changes NONE of that, except perhaps to create more corpses of law enforcement officials along the nation's highways.

Hope that helps.

Wow, pants guy. It must be pure mayhem where you live.

Pants guy's point is strongly expressed, but he's not wrong.

Inevitably some number of these traffic patrollers are going to be seriously injured or killed by armed people (in stolen cars, etc.).

I'll put it this way: would you sign up to be an unarmed traffic patroller in Baltimore? Or Chicago? And, you don't get to pick what part of the city you patrol, of course, so assume that you rotate around over the course of a few months.

Unarmed for how long? The problem in America is if you take guns away from police officers, or quasi-police officers, they will just bring their own.

So instead of trained officers with officially issued firearms, you have "civilians" with whatever junk they can beg, borrow or steal. Maybe even buy.

I am not sure this will improve things.

I think, like many jobs, the employees would not be able to be armed on company time and in company vehicles. How this would work in practice, I don't know. Traffic stops are often a high hazard situation for police.

Many retired law officers regularly carry firearms and sometimes use them, as in this case. In fact, there are many more "cops" around than we might think.

Think of tow truck drivers. In many cities, they get CCL to carry guns.

BTW if I remember Alex is a big supporter of zero bail movements, which is a big mistake

That was a creative piece. And we do need creative thinking right now.

As a note, would the fully libertarian solution be letters of marque and reprisal?

No, the libertarian version would be police. This shouldn’t be difficult. Policing is a public good. You have an extremely difficult time processing basic concepts.

For an AnCap solution, look to David Friedman’s the Machinery of Freedom.

But libertarianism is not the same thing as AnCap

You have an extremely difficult time processing jokes.

And FWIW, I'm old enough to remember when libertarians recommended letters of marque to replace *the military*.


So the joke isn't much of a jump.

Letters of marque would seem to have a lot of advantages in some situations, anti-piracy operations of the East Coast of Africa being a case in point.

Defunding the police is stupid. As I see it the issue isn’t really about the police (although cops acting like hard asses that can do and say whatever they want is... but body cams that can be turned off could fix that).

The issue is we have so many damn laws. When 1/3 men are arrested for something by age 30... seems the real issue is how many things people can get arrested for.

I suspect this proposal, for popularity with the general public, re things we must change because black people must be infantilized - e.g. not expected to to not drive while high, or behave normally during a traffic stop, or an arrest for passing counterfeit money - will fall somewhere between "get rid of admissions tests to university because some do not care for studying" and "you must pay for beer or Prada handbags, but one group must not be expected to ...". And those windows on your store - that's on you - that was a liability waiting to happen, all that glass.

Certainly I can get behind no traffic cops, no DPS - but you must know, that it will slow things down. We will have to close the freeways and highways. And your beloved NAFTA highways.

Which is fine with me - I'm in no hurry. Dismantle the doubledecker interstate through town, and return the boulevard. It was more civilized anyway. It is even sometimes framed as a "social justice" issue.

A voice of reason, again. Liberals suffer from the bigotry of low expectations.

This post makes an interesting point of sorting, sorting out the types of jobs we expect our police forces to address. Is a traffic stop the type of activity that necessitates a weapon? Another sorting might be to scrutinized is the activities that allow some cops to conflate their police power into self-aggrandizement. That seems to be the point where certain situations have triggered a tragedy.

Consider the scenario around the death of George Floyd. A cop with a history of aggression is making a mundane arrest. His side-kick has a similar history. But more importantly he has two rookies watching him—one of the former officers on trial, was on the job for less than six months (again lots of false info floating around but I think this is accurate). Perhaps officer Chauvin had to show them how it was done. Being filmed only enhanced his sense of stardom, making him draw it out so appallingly.

And to give this further thought necessitates the analysis of the obligations of the audience, or an audience in general. All four former police officers were booked as three participated as an audience, they had an obligation to act. The obligation of the audience to act has been the missing piece in pursuit of social justice. Everybody puts on their Black Lives Matters T-shirt and walks in the rallies. Then they return to homes behind a row of blooming petunias and point their fingers at Antifa or KKK to the latest scapegoat dictated by their respective political parties. Wipe their hands free of crumbs—done.

The audience is a player in this drama. Both as one who can amplify and set a scenario for a bad actors to act, as well as a control mechanism to slowly squash out all the little acts that led to this one very big one.

Chauvin had a history of complaints
Floyd had a history of violent crime

Let's create charter police departments.

Let's ask: what would a police department look like if the citizens for the third ward in Mpls could contract with a charter police force, rather than be forced to take what Mpls gives them.

Gated communities have their "charter police force".

Why can't a collection of wards in a city contract for police service from competing offerings, even from adjoining jurisdictions, or from startups that offer better services.

The way you kill the beast is give it competition and a predator who goes after bad performance.

The other benefit from the charter police company model is that the good cops, who are typically younger, can move to the new police force, leaving the old guys behind. If the old force continues to fail, it won't get contracts and will die on the vine.

Do you worry about the moral hazards involved with having a privatized or corporate police force patrol a community? I mean, profit motive may lead to a market failure for safety in that the private force may not be able to over invest in security the way that police departments often do. Also, the financial "reach" of a private police force is considerably lower than a state or federal budget. So, if a major temporary threat arises, like the looting or some sort of national threat, the private force will have less ability to scale up security to meet the challenge. Lastly, I am hesitant to say that it is ever a good idea to entrust corporations to do the RIGHT thing when it comes to black people and minorities. America has a long, sordid history of exploiting black people for financial gain -- especially in matters of criminal justice, law enforcement and social opportunity. I envision that a private, contracted force will be more mistrusted than the government sanctioned force. Afterall, the government force is accountable to its own laws and regulations whereas corporations setup their own policies and procedures for the most part.


Good questions:
1. Market failure is addressed by contract specifications and oversight.
2. Externalities, such as the need for reinforcements, can be addressed by Sherrif department being called in as a reserve and also by joint venture assistance agreements with adjoining police forces, state troopers, or national guard.
3. I think there could be more integration of the charter police organization than a public organization. If you look at police force membership, you will often find the same names...dad is a police officer, and so is the son. Starting new avoids this and exposes the organization to new, rather than relationally informed, applicants.
5. You should ask yourself these questions:
How do charter schools differ from charter police departments?
What is wrong with contracts. The city could own the cars, walkie talkies, etc. and they simply contract with an organization that has hard infrastructure and soft infrastructure (people) to perform services. I am not envisioning something like a building contracting with a janitorial service, but I am thinking, and you might as well think about, what structures can we create that are more flexible and responsive to community needs.
Finally, these entities will be subject to the law, and not be above the law.

I would also consider havingeach officer of the force to purchase their own individual malpractice insurance. Insurance companies can make it more expensive for a bad apple to work, as they would ask about prior complaints, pending matters, and patterns of practice. And, I would have state level officer review, and not just local level. And, I would make sure due process rights exist for everyone, the police as well as the complainant.

Don't forget that some jurisdictions contract for police services from adjoining jurisdictions...for complete or for partial services as well.

Thanks for the well thought out response. However, I am failing to see how this model will address the core issue of police misconduct and accountability. Cops carrying insurance may disensentivize the cop from acting properly. If they have too many strikes, and mouths to feed at home, perhaps they will not run into the school so fast to adress an active shooter issue. Or perhaps they will be less likely to act on their legitimate instincts for fear of reprisal. Also, it is unclear how a private police force will be more accountable or less racist than the government body police force. Sure, you may be able to put in the contract certain measures that address the issue, but those same measures could be implemented more cleanly and vigorously if the state implemented it directly. It seems like your solution adds a lot of layers with even more unintended consequences and does little to address the core issue of accountability and misconduct. Instead I propose setting up independent review boards with elected independent prosecutors. The review board would also have the power to suspend officers and maintain records of misconduct which would be admissible in any officers misconduct investigation. Essentially, I am advocating for building an internal justice system for police just like the military has its own process.

1. Well, if you have insurance, it might work the other way: someone else is paying for this incident, but, insurance selection and payment would arise after the fact. You could have high deductibles which could raise a problem.

2. Private police forces will be accountable to the residents in the community that contracts with them. So, third ward community council contracts with charter police force.

3. It does address accountabilty, and if you think about it, it undercuts the police union, because, if the union bargains for terms that the community doesn't like, the community can contract with a different provider.

4. I was in a JAG unit in the army after awhile in the reserves. I would not advocate that system to anybody. It's a closed system. No, you want something outside of the system, and not subject to the pressures of the system. In addition, police organizations already have internal review procedures, and they are not pretty. Take it out of the hands of the overseen and give it to an outside entity.

Thank you for engaging in a civil discourse.

3. I doubt there will be enough competition to allow for the community to just select a better provider that works. Especially with the Union invlovement, there will be certain common standards and practices that cannot be substituted away from. I think your plan is only workable in a scenario where all actors are responsible and sympathetic towards each others needs. In other words, your plan requires communities and police to want the same things. The plan itself does not contain an adequate incentive structure or necessary checks and balances to ensure that bad apple police do not have the power to summarily execute or otherwise unjustly punish citizens.

What I think you fail to address about the problem is that this problem is even more so a legal or constitutional matter than it is a market-match issue between citizens and police.

Police are given far too much latitude to make mistakes and those mistakes are constantly upheld judicially. Cops are not required to know the law before enforcing it. Also, prosecutors, who work closely with police in all matters, have a conflict of interest when it comes to prosecuting those that they have formed strong relationships with.

Having a chartered force will not change police brutality because the justice system still does not allow for the appropriate level of accountability.

In regards to point 4 -- thank you for this insight. I did not know that the JAG system operated like this. However, this is not what I had in mind when I made the point. I was not thinking of a closed system, rather a more open system of review that did not involve the same actors that are normally involved in prosecuting cases. I think it is wrong for the DA to prosecute cops. I also think it is wrong for justice for the wrongful death of unarmed minorities to fall in the hands of the same people who unfairly prosecute them for a living.

3. First, I don't accept without proof or evidence that there would not be competition or entry. There are adjoining districts. There were no charter schools before there were charter schools either. The way you deal with competition issues is to facilitate entry. This might be to divide a department into competing units, or subsidize the creation of new units by holding out exclusive contracts for a 3 or 5 year period. Or, you could have competing units seek support and sponsorship from local organizations, including hospitals and clinics, that would assume some duties.

As to the market match that is addressed with this proposal, and is the heart of it, as the deciders are the local communities who choose which police force they want.

As for accountability, that would be a requirement of the contract.

As for DA's they are elected; as are state prosecutorial office holders. I believe in democracy and checks and balances. So I would give concurrent jurisdiction to the DA and the State AG.

Anytime you have a proposal, you have to ask, what might be the downsides.

So, here are some.

The downtown merchants, in their district, wants black teenagers and whatever kind of panhandler off the street.

The district that contracts doesn't want enforcement of some laws--marijuana, after hours drinking, etc. and encourages lax enforcement.

Some of this can be addressed by state standards that have to be included in a contract, but if breaches are overlooked, maybe you have to revoke the charter.

I think in some areas, this private protection service organization was called the Mafia. The actual charter was a bit informal.

The Mafia would have a hard time getting elected and would be prosecuted by other parts of a federal or state system.

The closer analog to the Mafia is a police department without oversight.

Since automobile travel is a feature of daily life across the fruited plain, how to do it should be a feature of the educational process. High school students should attend classes that include real cars in rooms designed and equipped to mimic the experience of being stopped by the police. In darkness they would be exposed to disorienting flashing lights, shouts, uniformed men waving guns around, spot lights, demands for identification, all the normal events of an evening traffic stop. They would be taught to keep their hands visible, be polite and make no threatening gestures. Then they can go on to learning how to actually drive a car and obtain a license.

It seems to be common across the world to have a traffic police agency that is responsible solely for road safety -- it may or may not be part of the same bureaucracy that contains other police forces.

There is a degree of logic in this for big cities but it's hard to justify in smaller towns or rural areas, where there may not be much to do aside from police the roads and respond to the occasional vandalism, domestic violence, or underage drinking complaint.

Is it just me or are Alex and Tyler getting more and more racist as time goes on? The opinions expressed on here are increasingly de-facto trumpian in nature and have a distinct Russian flair...meaning, the content often deals with a heavy or important subject matters with fantastical ideas or commentary. There is a distinct smugness about REAL issues on this site. It is incredible that this is even a post. OBVIOUSLY police need to be involved in traffic stops. Vehicles are 2 ton steel contraptions that can travel 100+ miles per hour. The people inside them may be carrying drugs or be out of their mind, or have other nafarious intents. Sure, most motorist do not fall in this category, but enough do that you would not want PARKING ENFORCEMENT carrying out traffic stops.

--'are Alex and Tyler getting more and more racist as time goes on?'
I say no, but this is a kinda liberal post, so maybe a little.

-- 'increasingly de-facto trumpian in nature'
Yet you go on to seemingly support the police, so that's a complete turnaround in tone within 2 sentences.

"a distinct Russian flair" is surely a sign that the comment is meant sarcastically? Or maybe he'd been at his father's whisky?

Its more than sarcasm. It is mockery veiled as rational, intelligent thought. It is insensitivity veiled as concern.

This is the problem. Because the post was so fantastical in effect, you think that me saying something RATIONAL is me "supporting" the police. I do not generally support the police, however, I also know that having parking enforcement officers perform dangerous duties without protection or the physical force of law is a bad idea. to even suggest it as plausible is fantastical. So somehow, me disagreeing with an insensitive, ill-thought out fantasy of an idea turns into me "supporting" officers. Do you see the power of the Russian influence methods? It totaly destroys established social mores and all sense of conversational logic.

Both Alex and Tyler are guilty of pushing the conversation around important issues towards insensitive, illogical entertainment. They are making it a mockery to take anything too seriously. This worldview turns into racism when applied to the struggle of black folks because they are mocking their suffering and legitimate claims of injustice.

A Black Lives Matter leader in New York revealed in an interview with the Daily Mail that the activist group is developing a highly trained "military" arm to lead the "war on police."

Hawk Newsome, chairman of BLM's Greater New York chapter, said the organization has military Special Forces officers training and advising members who will "patrol" black communities and challenge law enforcement.

Newsome said:

"We are preparing and training our people to defend our communities ... We are prepared to stop these government sanctioned murders by any means necessary.

We pattern ourselves after the Black Panthers, after the Nation of Islam, we believe that we need an arm to defend ourselves. We will build and train peace officers to keep the peace in our communities, to defend our communities, to keep our communities safe."
The activist said money has been flooding into the organization from wealthy people and celebrities, specifically naming Rihanna and Nick Cannon as large contributors.

"It's our obligation, it is our duty to provide people with a pathway forward," he said. "We want liberation. We want the power to determine our own destiny. We want freedom from an oppressive government, and we want the immediate end of government sanctioned murder by the police."
Asked about the riots happening across America, Newsome refused to denounce violence and looting, saying:

"Black Lives Matter didn't create this violence. Black Lives Matter is a product of this violence. The rioters are the product of the violence."

"We want the power to determine our own destiny. We want freedom from an oppressive government"

So is there where I should point out the number of years that various cities - Newark, Baltimore, Detroit, etc. - have been run by African-American mayors? (Probably also majority of African-Americans on respective city councils).

Interesting. I see that Mr. Newsome is doing his part for the Trump re-election campaign.

Various White MR commentators, for years on end : "BLM aren't like the Panthers. They're not like Panthers. They're not...".

An actual BLM senior activist, in 2020: "We're going to model our paramilitary arm on the Panthers"?

I think a post outlining Carl Schmitt's thoughts on hostis and inimicus would be useful here. This is because the BLM activists seem to be working from this perspective. Black Lives Matter doesn't concern itself with intra-racial crime or with the high levels of inter-racial crime (90% Black on White), only with the deaths attributed to the police (2% of Black totals). They treat X shooting Y in the hood as an instance of "personal enemies", but the police killing a Black person (rightly, or wrongly) as an imposition from an illegitimate institutions answering to a foreign power imposing behavioral norms that are illegitimate to the community. Therefore, the state institutions are "hostis", a public enemy or a tribal one. Even if it is part of a broader effort that reduces the actual death toll of the violence inside the neighborhoods afflicted. They would rather have more deaths as a result of underpolicing, than face the few extra deaths attributable to accidents, malfeasance and abuse on the part of the policeman or abuse on the part of the ultimate victim (unarmed men attacking women cops, people trying run over cops with cars etc.).

So long as a substantial portion of the community (Black, White etc.) considers state institutions performing legitimate functions to be hostis, nothing can be resolved.

So... you mean... defund the police? Because this is what a lot of people in the movement are talking about. Some of them want no police at all, but most want exactly what you’re talking about.

I would still like to see a Tyler vs. Alex debate on this or maybe you two actually agree and are just confused about what many protesters want and are really into going after straw men suddenly.

Such as more than 300 Americans dying every year due to police actions, with a third being totally innocent - "This story is, unfortunately, not atypical of the outcomes of police chases in the United States, which kill an average of 355 people every year, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. About a third of those killed are innocent bystanders, like Myah Jones. Chases kill police officers, too — about three a year.

Those numbers mean that police chases kill more people every year than tornadoes, lighting and hurricanes combined, the Washington Post reported in 2015. And chases kill blacks — both as bystanders and as the target of a pursuit — at three times the rate of the overall population, according to a USA Today investigation.

And the chases are almost always excessive. The same Post report revealed that 91 percent of police pursuits like the ones that killed Robert and Myah Jones are in response to non-violent crimes.

Many police chases begin simply because the officer is incensed, said retired police Captain Tom Gleason, of Florida, who sits on the board of Pursuit Safety, a group started by the families of victims of police chases.

Police may witness a driver do something in traffic that makes him angry. When the driver adds to the insult by not stopping, “it becomes personal,” added Gleason, who spent 30 years in law enforcement in Florida and Alabama.

“You automatically say, ‘How dare him.’ You get into the mindset of, ‘I’m going to catch them,'” he said.

Many police departments now have policies for police chases — and that’s critical, said Gleason. Just over 70 percent of local police departments have adopted policies that restrict where and how police chases occur, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. These policies make a big difference in whether police get involved with high-speed chases.

Agencies that leave pursuits up to police discretion have about 17 chases a year per 100 officers. For agencies that “discourage or prohibit” police chases the rate is much lower — 2 in 100, BLS reported."

"chases kill blacks — both as bystanders and as the target of a pursuit — at three times the rate of the overall population"

Put otherwise, chases kill blacks at a substantially lower rate than would be expected from their proportion of the criminal population.

More than 100 totally innocent Americas have died every year in the past several years as the result of high speed pursuits. That figure has absolutely nothing to do with being part of any criminal population.

From 2015 - "More than 5,000 bystanders and passengers have been killed in police car chases since 1979, and tens of thousands more were injured as officers repeatedly pursued drivers at high speeds and in hazardous conditions, often for minor infractions, a USA TODAY analysis shows.

The bystanders and the passengers in chased cars account for nearly half of all people killed in police pursuits from 1979 through 2013, USA TODAY found. Most bystanders were killed in their own cars by a fleeing driver.

Police across the USA chase tens of thousands of people each year -- usually for traffic violations or misdemeanors -- often causing drivers to speed away recklessly. Recent cases show the danger of the longstanding police practice of chasing minor offenders."

The total over 30 years, according to USA Today in 2015 - "Analyzing each fatal crash, USA TODAY determined that at least 2,456 bystanders were killed, although the death toll could be as high as 2,750."

I suspect that a doctrine of "If the suspect speeds off, don't give chase, it's against regs" would probably greatly strengthen the incentives of suspects to speed off.

This may or may not be good for how many innocent people are the victims of crash fatalities resulting from suspects fleeing the police.

I'm guessing it would be bad!

But hey, "so long as the cops aren't doing any violence or force directly, any collateral damage goes", seems to be the new prime directive of 2020.

The USA Today reporting is more than 5 years old, and the first article is also based on 2015 data. Americans have been concerned about the carnage resulting from high speed pursuits for years before 2020.

And 91 percent of those chase were for non-violent crimes, leading to the simple ratio that those pursuits cost the lives of around 100 innocent bystanders per year, for example because a driver failed to signal a turn.

And this figure is pretty impressive, from the same USA Today article - "Those numbers suggest that chases nationwide may have injured 7,400 people a year — more than 270,000 people since 1979.

The uncertainty about the death and injury tolls obscures the danger of police chases, said Jonathan Farris, who became an advocate for pursuit safety after his son Paul, 23, was killed in 2007 by a motorist being chased for an illegal driving maneuver. "If the public understood the number of pursuits that were going on and the number of people who were being injured or killed, there would be a much better dialogue as to what types of crimes should be pursued," Farris said."

The sad thing is that the number of police who die in vehicle accidents - though not only high speed pursuits - is the roughly the same amount as police who are killed by gun shots. That's right - high speed pursuits are basically as deadly in the line of duty for police as criminals using guns to murder police.

"because a driver failed to signal a turn."
-you cherry picked a benign hypothetical. we bet there are very few fatal car chases that begin with a failure to signal a turn
-then you conflated "no. of police who die in car accidents" with "no. of police deaths in high speed pursuits "
we bet that most police who die in car accidents do not die in high speed pursuits.

"don’t make any sudden moves, be polite etc. and I am a white guy"

DeBlasio, after some incident a couple of years ago, that he's need to tell his son, a minority, to do this. I was thinking, 'no shit, just like every other person out there.' White people already know this, why does this still surprise anyone? Cops deal with the worst of humanity everyday, you don't want to make them skittish and a little respect goes a long way. I'm glad I don't have that job.

Increasingly I'm wondering if white parents are the ONLY parents that tell their kids how to deal with the police. There are too many videos you see where the person pulled over goes from 0 to 10 in 20 seconds, and for what?

> Why Are the Police in Charge of Road Safety?

Your question is backwards. At least where I live, the police aren't in charge of road safety. The "Department of Public Safety" is. Which makes sense, roads are public and safety is safety so why shouldn't the Department of Public Safety be in charge of public safety. The real question is, why is the Department of Public Safety in charge of the police? There's a word of difference between "safety" and "law enforcement"

I'm pretty sure police would object to unarmed traffic stops because they're dangerous, as several commenters have said.

This article argues that traffic stops are not very dangerous.


"Under a conservative estimate, the rate for a felonious killing of an
officer during a routine traffic stop was only 1 in every 6 .5 million stops..., and the rate for [any] assault against officers ... was only 1 in every 6,959 stops.

Among other interesting points, it argues that most cases of violence come from either (a) a priori criminal enforcement activities (e.g. stopping a suspicious vehicle on some broken taillight pretext), or (b) an officer choosing to escalate beyond just issuing a ticket (smells weed, etc.).

Do we need cops doing a bunch of highway stop-and-frisk? I don't know.

"Under a conservative estimate, the rate for a felonious killing of an
officer during a routine traffic stop was only 1 in every 6 .5 million stops..., and the rate for [any] assault against officers ... was only 1 in every 6,959 stops.

Im sure if the police were unarmed, that number would go way down, right?

You mean because meter maids with cars might provoke violent confrontations less often than armed and armored enforcers of order and authority looking for criminal activity? Maybe - there's evidence in the paper that points that way.

There's nothing in that paper that proves people wouldn't start killing meter maids to avoid speeding tickets if only they weren't out-muscled, but there doesn't seem to be much evidence for it, either.

"and the rate for [any] assault against officers ... was only 1 in every 6,959 stops."

How is that not dangerous? if you assume 16 stops a day by someone who's entire job is traffic stops and 250 working days a year, that's 4,000 stops a year. So that person is going to be assaulted on the job once every couple of years. That sounds relatively dangerous.

Out of every 2,000 such employees, 1 is going to be killed every 21 months.

Sorry that should read: Out of every 2,000 such employees, 1 is going to be killed every 10 months.

Your correction is provably wrong.

Number of police in America in 2018 was over 686,000
Number of police killed in line of duty in 2018 - 144

Not all police do traffic stops, and not all line of duty fatalities involved traffic stops, however the raw number is 1 in 4638 in 12 months. You were much closer the first time.

Yes, good catch. The 1 death every 21 months was the correct figure.

Not for police, but for a group of people doing only traffic stops. And that's assuming 16 stops a day. If the number is 4 stops a day, then it would obviously be one forth the size.

Granted, taking your numbers, which come to 60 deaths per 100,000 per year, that would put "traffic cop" on this list of top-10 most dangerous jobs, at about the same place as "airline pilot," and somewhat higher than "roofer" or "garbage collector."


I think it's debatable whether they need to be armed and armored for that risk level.

(Perhaps more importantly, it's unclear how well that statistic applies to the pure meter maid scenario.)

This is a provably wrong - "which come to 60 deaths per 100,000 per year." The total number of police fatalities in 2018 was 144, and total number of police was almost 700,000. Not all police do traffic stops, and not all line of duty fatalities involved traffic stops, but the raw number is a third of that, around 20 per 100,000.

"Provably wrong" is too strong. Your numbers just show that JWatts' hypothetical full-time 16-stops-per-day traffic cop is at 3x higher risk than the average police officer. How many cops have desk jobs? The numbers are pretty consistent - you're arguing whether the job is dangerous like being a construction worker or dangerous like being an airline pilot.

Of the police that died in 2018, 47 were shot. Assuming that every single one of those police officers was shot during a traffic stop, and only a third of police are involved in traffic stops, the numbers remain basically unchanged.

If you think traffic stops are about safety, well, you're not being a very good economist. Follow the incentives.

New Zealand, where I grew up, had an agency entirely for enforcing from the police for traffic enforcement until the early 90s.

The agency was ultimately merged with the police, with most Traffic Officers becoming sworn police officers. Basically, the government of the time felt that funding a second sort-of-police agency just to cover traffic enforcement was not an efficient use of resources.


What happens when the non-police stop a wanted criminal?

What happens if a meter maid encounters a wanted criminal?

A meter maid is dealing with a parked car. Parked cars are usually pretty benign.

What if a food inspector encounters someone wanted for murder?

Relatively few restaurant owners have active warrants, owing to the fact that restaurants are easy to find.

Also, restaurants usually aren't swerving all over the road creating an immediate safety hazard that requires someone be arrested.

You can see why it might be problematic to tell the non-police to handle an unsafe, uncooperative driver without even knowing whether that guy maybe has an active warrant out for murder.

If a car is "swerving all over the road" a gun is of no help in getting it to stop.

And when cops face someone who is unruly, they can call in back-up.

If you think of this as "we used to have 100 cop cars, now we have 50 cop cars and 50 not-police" I get why you are concerned about the loss in numbers and maybe status. But by splitting off this job, you can send out people with cheaper skillsets, so there may be 60 cop cars and 60 not-police.

who said anything about guns? your non-cops cannot use ANY force

the problem is you have a very exaggerated notion of what non-cops can accomplish w/o force

I think there are some complications you're overlooking here. Right now, traffic stops are bundled for a reason. All traffic stops are at least a little bit pretextual: an opportunity to check for warrants, look in the window and see if there's a dead body in the back seat, etc. Police rely on traffic stops as a tool for enforcement of other laws, and "unbundling" would force them to do without that. Not an insurmountable problem, but one that any serious discussion needs to address.

tried to calculate even very roughly what percentage of violent crimes are solved by traffic stops, but NCSBI wasn't much help there.... have no idea if it's closer to half or to 1% but it's an important question

This would likely be a feature not bug for some of its advocates. Remember the arguments that stop and frisk leads to disproportionate discovery of minority criminality that distorts true offending differences.

Obviously we all know this effect is not very large when compared with *actual* raw offending rate differences, but it is an enthusiastic point for some. And to these people, less potentially biased discovery of crime seems to be worth less prevention of crime?

Readers have by now become familiar with the history of Democrat-led cities and their demographics and tax bases. Pushing some 'new' policing model, with accompanying levels of bureaucratic oversight, will cause accelerating relocation by those who can afford to leave.
In the meantime, those who really do want and need effective policing are left with neither.
See how far Minneapolis, the latest unwanted experiment in social engineering, gets in its quixotic delusions. Then ask if those who push such changes are ever held accountable for ruining lives. Oh, yeah, they get voted out, but not before a lot of unnecessary angst.
Alternative approach: Look at cities where policing works, is supported by an engaged citizenry and helps with those traffic stops and all manner of other activities.
There is surely enough econometric or other talent at GMU and elsewhere to look at the multiple factors, to tease out the contributions and put everything on an objective and transparent basis for comparison.

Can you think of any part of the United States where a white person would be afraid of a majority black police department?

Where a white mother would have to tell her white son to be careful if pulled over by a black officer?

there certainly are areas where it is dangerous for honkies to go to, the make-shift police that run those areas are unkind and more vicious than police.

But, they are not the police, are they. Stick to what was posited.

Example of deflection response. Didn't answer the question.

Also example of sockpuppetry.

statistically speaking it makes no sense for young black males to be more afraid of police than other young black males, they are in about 100x times more danger from each other

but perpetuating a dangerous, counterproductive myth is useful to both race hustlers and criminals

officer bill - that is some sophistry+1

can you give us an example of a majority black police dept.?

No, I can't, so what does that tell you.

And, don't confuse sophistry with just a good argument.

Look up the word sophistry: the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving..

how about baltimore p.d. about 43% african american with a reputation for below average policing and above average number of problems. it is plausible that a white/nonwhite mom would warn her
white/nonwhite progeny to be "afraid" (whatever that means) of
white/nonwhite police

Sockpuppy cornpops,

It is easy to argue with lies, and you prove it; there is a reason you are a sock puppy. You don't want your regular moniker to show.

"A review by The Baltimore Sun found that minority groups are underrepresented among police officers in Baltimore City and Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel counties.
In Baltimore County, 80% of sworn police officers are white, while whites are just 57% of the county’s overall population, according to census data. Similar disparities are found in other counties."https://www.baltimoresun.com/maryland/bs-md-pol-police-diversity-20190911-2zozdposu5hebo6tnkxjjcb7ji-story.html

I don't take sock puppy words for anything.

google claims "During Martin O'Malley's administration as mayor, the department was made up of 43% African American officers."
it could be wrong or out of date but we did answer your hypothetical about moms,sons,&fraughting.

Sockpuppy cornpops,

No you didn't answer it at all. And, you relied on misinformation to make a point. 80% white does not leave much room for blacks, asians and Hispanics.

Now that you have new information, you will probably not adjust your opinion.

I suspect you had the opinion before you had the facts.

we suspect lawyers have lower standards for what constitutes sophistry.

"Where a white mother would have to tell her white son to be careful if pulled over by a black officer?" How about any officer? Let's say anywhere. Just common sense. Everyone knows this, besides DeBlasio. Who the hell doesn't exercise some amount of self control when being pulled over?

I had a white mother who told me how to react to being pulled over by the police. Be polite, don't argue, remain calm, keep conversation to a minimum with direct answers to direct questions, give non-committal answers like "I don't think so" "I wasn't aware" "I thought I did" Do not lie. Be pleasant in tone and body language. Be respectful. If a problem occurs record the officer's name, note the date, time, location, and deal with it later.

I grew up in a high crime area. I was stopped on an almost weekly basis. I had my car searched numerous times. I was arrested three times. Yet rarely received a moving violation. Once the officer told me to go to court and contest the ticket - that it would likely be dismissed. Another said he was sorry but they were under orders to tightly enforce speeding near the school zone and under-reported how fast I was going on the ticket. I was stopped by Black and white cops and sometimes interracial partners. I had two Blacks cops solicit a bribe. I had one white cop ask me about my teachers as I sat handcuffed in the squad. We laughed at the time.

I just thought that was normal. Just as I now treat the TSA process as normal. I don't find the people doing the job as awful. While not pleasant it was not the worst part of living in a high crime community or a world with terror threats.

This solution is balderdash.

Cars are lethal weapons and poor driving is literally a life or death issue for other road users.

Having a complementary agency able to enforce road safety does make sense, but this agency must have full faculties to enforce the rule of law and protect vulnerable road users.

Road accidents are one of the single biggest causes of deaths; decriminalising, marginalising or minimising road safety will be a massive regression in human and property rights.

Any agency tasked with road safety is going to have a heavy police component. Lots of States already have Department of Public Safety and Highway Patrol enforcement. After all, who else is capable of turning on strobes, making the offender pull over, and dealing with whatever comes next?

The "libertarian" proposals I'm reading in this thread are enormous, technocratic schemes involving drones and surveillance cameras. But who collects the fines levied? Who keeps the offenders off the road? The answer, ultimately, is tough guys with guns. And all the earnest ideological debate on earth won't change that.

Basically, the ideological/cognitive class to which Tyler belongs is having to cope with the fact that classical liberalism is burning down all around us. Hence we get these fantastical, technocratic schemes to deal with the billion marching morons.

- heres why elite leftist harvard sociologists shouldn't be in charge of
road safety. when police do a traffic stop for a moving violation they
are tasked with the difficult job of evaluating whether the violation is
due to some physical or mental impairment and assessing the drivers
risk to others and themselves if they continue driving. erratic behavior
and speech are objective clues.

So far comments have mentioned “police presence” just once. Strange.

It once was thought that having ordinary people actually see a cop (not actually doing something like making an arrest) made it less likely that crime would occur in that neighborhood. Has that concept been disproved?

And, while we’re at it, when cops aren’t engaging in law enforcement, who takes over their role of encouraging social norms? In places like South Italy, it’s often the Cosa Nostra. Is that what we want?

While we're at it, do we get to abolish Title VII and business and property owners with actual skin in the game can decide who they want to live and work around so as to require minimal policing and conflict-resolution?

And while we are at it, let's outlaw unintended consequences, too!

I'd be careful, Dan. That could lead to some problems that aren't obvious at the moment.


This city disbanded its police department 7 years ago. Here's what happened next

Cappelli credits the improvement to new "community-oriented policing," which prizes partnership and problem-solving over violence and punishment.
It starts from an officer's first day: When a new recruit joins the force, they're required to knock on the doors of homes in the neighborhood they're assigned to patrol, he said. They introduce themselves and ask neighbors what needs improving.
Training emphasizes deescalation, he said, and the department's use of force policy makes clear that deadly force is the last option.
Now, police host pop-up barbecues and pull up in Mister Softee trucks to get to know residents, Cappelli said. They host drive-in movie nights -- recently, the movie of choice was "The Lion King" -- along what used to be known as the city's "Heroin Highway."
The community-first initiative has made improving diversity within the force a priority, too. Whites are the minority in Camden, so Cappelli said the new department has hired more black and brown officers to serve black and brown residents. (Cappelli didn't have exact numbers for the increase, but said it's improved.)

Yes, but the quality and price of cops went up as they had to learn new skills. They have the responsibility of social workers.

Is it a net cost savings? Not for all communities. And it depends on the trade, who pays and what was the Coasian price. If it had sticking potential I might try it is some impoverished communities when the price of riots exceeds my bound.

So Camden, NJ took to a certain extent the opposite approach than what the Minneapolis council is discussing. They increased funding to the police department and added a lot of extra training and duties onto the officers.

Alex, love the thought but I think we miss a great opportunity. How about cops enforce traffic laws but they don't carry weapons. They learn how to interact with the populace, learn how to de-escalate situations and begin to learn how to read people. All valuable (and sometimes missing) skills for our detectives and riot police. Forcing them to work unarmed in a low-threat job (starting out) would give them great skills for harder jobs in policing. Disconnecting the roles robs them of the opportunity. We just now need to create it for them.

Here is the highest multiplier for the inner city prosperity.

Have free dinner twice a week for parents at the local schools. One hundred percent, this is step one and provides the greatest number of options going forward. Solves about five different critical problems.

I have several responses. Firstly, anybody who knows the first thing about how police departments are actually run know that while many officers rotate through 'motors' which is the basically the traffic law enforcement part, there is most definitely a different selection of officers. It doesn't take a great deal of reform to make these rotations optional.

Here in Los Angeles, there are officers who have been very well trained to recognize people with mental disorders. These are in the local PDs as well as with the Sheriff's Dept.

One of the biggest problems with BLM is their totalizing effect on national thought. Isn't that fascist by definition?

In the UK, private civil enforcement companies have appeared to enforce parking regulations. Their employees are often garnered from ex-convicts whose crimes were so horrible that no one else will employ them. Whereas traffic police are highly screened and educated in tact and diplomacy, these civil enforcers got their experience from running extortion rackets and the suchlike. They get income from their companies by going after people deemed to be weak and wealthy, who pay up without a fuss to avoid trouble. An example would be as an old lady of 80 struggling out of her legitimately parked BMW in a parking space for disabled people outside a hospital for her arthritis treatment and then Zimmering across into the entrance. The demands for payment are often highly threatening, eliciting visions of bailiffs early in the morning with door rams smashing their way into houses.
Real traffic police are highly critical of their tactics, although they employ an army of lawyers to keep just within the law.

Thirty years ago, I asked a National Marine Fisheries Service Enforcement Special Agent in Charge why they carried guns. After all, they were just looking for people illegally taking lobsters, killing marine mammals and such.

My instruction was quite humiliating as he explained that while they might approach a boat suspicious it had illegal fish on board, but instead of a hold full of illegal catch, it is full of smuggled drugs or people being human-trafficked. The kind of thing that the "bad guys" will shoot someone for poking their nose into.

Same for traffic stops, might be running a red light, but there might be a body in the trunk or drugs.

Traffic stops are very dangerous for police officers. You didn't notice, but a well-trained officer will touch the car rear fender area as he approaches the window so that should he be shot, they can prove that was the car by his finger prints.

An unarmed traffic warden may not be able to arrest based on what they see in a traffic stop, but they can be a witness. And witnesses get killed, especially before they can report what they've seen.

why do they loot ?(what a stupid ass question) https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=310&v=sb9_qGOa9Go&feature=emb_logo

This sounds appealing, but let’s imagine some scenarios.

A stopped driver gets belligerent. What happens next?

Why would drivers be more accepting of being stopped by this new agency?

We had cars doing 200 mph on the highway here just two weeks ago. That seems like a police matter to me. Why am I wrong?

We have a random alcohol check program here sometimes. It catches a fair few drunk drivers. Seems like a police matter to me. Why am I wrong?

Highways England's traffic officers and PCSOs (Police Community Support Officers) were two innovations of the Blair government to replace trained police officers with cheaper alternatives. They've not been a great success. One UK police force, the Norfolk Constabulary, has already stopped using PCSOs.

In the UK context the question would be why the police are involved with investigating social media posts. Look after your first amendment!

Defund the police? ... well, it depends

"LOS ANGELES – While LA City Council President Nury Martinez was filing a motion last week seeking to cut $150 million from the LAPD budget, she had an LAPD unit standing watch outside her home providing her family with a private security detail since April.

Multiple LAPD sources confirmed the units were directed to provide 24/7 security beginning April 4 at Martinez’s home, almost always staffed by two officers. As of May 6, we’re told the detail decreased to 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. with roving patrol checks overnight."


Defunding for thee but not for mee!

The results of the "mostly peaceful" protests in Minneapolis ...

"The city’s first survey of property damage shows that nearly 1,000 commercial properties in Minneapolis were damaged during the riots, including 52 businesses that were completely destroyed and 30 other locations that sustained severe damage.

Owners and insurance experts estimate the costs of the damage could exceed $500 million. That would make the Twin Cities riots the second-costliest civil disturbance in U.S. history, trailing only those in Los Angeles in 1992, which were also sparked by racial tensions with police and had $1.4 billion in damages in today’s dollars."


That's the results of the riots, not the peaceful protests. Let's keep it honest.
Also, let's remember that, incredibly, the only death directly related to the whole thing was the Floyd killing.

Policing costs related to driving are an underexplored aspect of potential switches to road pricing from non-variable sources of transport funding. Bundling those costs into property taxes doesn't reflect road usage, particularly amongst the least fortunate who drive the least. We tend to think of policing as a social cost, which is fair, but if a large part of the job comes down to enforcing road rules and responding to collisions and administering reporting for insurance claims, those costs seem like potential candidates to move away from general taxes towards a more user-pay model, with potential benefits for congestion and certainly less subsidy of the most frequent drivers by those who do not drive at all.

What you have described is what some activists describe as defunding the police. The problem is that, like a lot of political buzzwords, there is no real definition. It's similar to how some self-described socialists want a stronger welfare system, but not actual socialism, while others are nostalgic for the Soviet Union. Personally, I agree with your idea to "unbundle" the police, as would many activists I know. I think people advocating such reforms shouldn't use the term defunding, or worse abolishing, police. It is counterproductive as many people who may agree with the substance of these reforms would oppose them because of their extreme name.

Instead of defund the police, how about we defund the municipal unions?

The pension promises are bankrupting the states and cities.

The police unions block the attempts to toss corrupt and brutal cops off the force, including policemen who kill unarmed black men.

The public teachers union keeps mediocre teachers on payroll when they should be dismissed. Black kids get worse education as a result.

It could be worse. Private corporations often keep mediocrities and incompetents in high level management posts and spend a lot more on their salaries and in damage to the company.

So, like NYC Traffic Enforcement Agents?

The Traffic Enforcement Agency was an independent city body until it was moved under the NYPD in 1995, and Traffic Enforcement Agent is still a civilian job whose personnel don't carry weapons or handcuffs, and don't have warrantless arrest powers.

NYC has traffic enforcement officers, sometimes called "brownies" because they wear brown uniforms. They enforce low level traffic violations and direct traffic. They train at the police academy, and they are peace officers, but they are not regular police. NYC is big enough to afford all sorts of specialized police officers.

If you want any traffic enforcement at all, you are going to have to use peace officers. If someone is going to act for the government, they have proper training, and they have to accept certain risks. The US is a heavily armed nation. Every time an officer, approaches a vehicle, there is a good chance in them being seriously harmed. Just because someone has a bad case of unmedicated schizophrenia doesn't mean he or she can't drive a car and carry a gun.

Our problem isn't with the idea of having law enforcement agents or traffic enforcement, it is with training and consequences. A lot of governments in the US wanted their peace officers to enforce the racial and sexual status quo which is why they beat up blacks and homosexuals and ignored women's charges of domestic violence and rape. That should have been over a long time ago. It isn't.

I'll add that if you've ever driven in a nation with minimal traffic enforcement like Iran or Congo, you'll appreciate having armed goons trying to maintain some level of order.

We need cops to do traffic stops, DV interventions and other issues because the US is awash in guns. It is just that simple.

Oh, I see.

Weird, though, that the guns end up in cars that get pulled over for virtually no reason, and then go off all by themselves, in the direction of the officer (or Meter Maid) conducting the pull-over.

Maybe if we made it so that you had to break a law to get a gun, none of this would ever happen. Excellent point by you!

In the city in Australia where I live (Canberra), the police don't make traffic stops. Speeding tickets are handled by some city agency which parks little vans with speed cameras around the city. They've found the sweet spot where you encounter them just enough, and the fines smart just enough, that you don't want to risk speeding. So everyone drives the speed limit. Much more civilized this way. And no one hates the cops.

I think Police unbundling is a very appealing idea. I currently live in South Korea where most traffic enforcement is done through speed and red-light cameras. While they can be a little irritating, my impression is that they are fair and probably do make the roads safer. The cameras are also a national rather than local system which prevents the US problem of inconsistent standards and the tendency of some localities to use cameras as a revenue grab.

I think dropping traffic enforcement could allow the police to become more proficient in more important tasks, like investigating crime. I think the police will hate it because it would naturally lead to a decline in the number of police and would replace easy tasks (writing tickets) with difficult tasks (solving/preventing crimes).

I am a white American and though I have no particular reason to fear the police, all of my interactions with Police have been negative (speeding tickets, expired tags, ect.) and I am therefore not inclined to stand up for them now.

Good idea. Anything that decreases the interactions between armed (and particularly militarized) police and the general public should be encouraged.

If you create agencies devoted exclusively to dealing with the mentally ill, the homeless, and traffic tickets, I'm willing to wager that a majority of the employees will be at least "unofficially" armed with whatever it's legal for them to carry, and maybe more. If not on their first day, definitely after their first encounter with someone who doesn't respond to sweet reason and de-escalation techniques. And since they won't be trained to use those unofficial weapons safely, effectively, and appropriately, there's an excellent chance the results could be worse for all concerned.

When I was delivering pizza back in the Eighties, Corporate Management made a big public fuss about how drivers were forbidden to carry any form of weapon and instructed not to resist when faced with robbery; give them the pizza, the money, your car, and the company will take care of it.

Every driver who wasn't already carrying something immediately purchased "keychains" and "flashlights". If pepper spray had been widely available and legal, they'd have carried that, too, "for dogs".

Because the reality was that every petty crook in the country knew that it took just a phone call to send some dumb college student out into a bad neighborhood alone in a brightly-colored uniform carrying food, money, and car keys.

Every store I worked at had areas that they would not send female drivers. Some had places they would not send anyone alone. Several had exact-change policies to limit the amount of cash a driver had, which weren't that useful after a major sporting event.

I was only threatened twice, once by a feral dog and once by someone trying to scam a free pizza, who got aggressive when I didn't fall for it. The dog got whacked with my "flashlight"; the scammer was given a good look at my "keychain" and stopped trying to cut me off before I could get to my car.

(the next time we got an order from that address, we sent our two largest drivers; he didn't give them any trouble)


"Traffic Stops Don't Need Cops!"

Good for putting on signs, chanting at protests, etc.

This is one of those peculiarities of the US system, whereby Americans think it is normal because of american exceptionalism, and general lack of knowledge about other countries. In the UK traffic rules are generally enforced by speed cameras; very rarely you will see a traffic officer with a radar gun or patrolling the motorways. I have never been pulled over by the police.

+1. I do think Ricardo makes a decent point about different setups for different circs; small communities in much of US, where lowest density is lower than UK, could still have direct police patrol car enforcement making some sense for US. (Plus excuse to eye up any suspicious non local vehicles, interact with local troublemakers, etc). But putting this in the hands of impartial machines, enforced remotely as possible, must make sense for dense, multi ethnic, anonymized US cities.

And if it turns out that universal, impartial enforcement of US driving regs by machine is too strenuous for US to bear, then reform the code.

I generally agree, but there are some parts of Atlanta where, if you are doing a traffic stop, you'd want someone armed.

I lived in Germany in the mid 1990’s while in the US Army and they did not really use the police to write a bunch of speeding tickets. I was under the impression that if the police were called, that something bad had happened (crime, traffic fatality).

If they did want to monitor speeding, they would use cameras that were randomly positioned. I saw the same thing in England. It made speeding very cut and dry and removed the human element.

Here's some data on traffic stops from the US Bureau of Justice Statistics:

Only 3.7% of traffic stops result in search of arrest (Table 12). Presumably, Alex's proposal is intended to reduce costs and risks for the other 96%.

I would like police to continue making stops for perceived impairment and other criminal violations, but think unarmed moving violations enforcement makes a lot of sense.

"It was uncomfortable–hands on the wheel, don’t make any sudden moves, be polite etc. and I am a white guy."

Where do you people live where this is normal? I've been stopped in San Fransisco, San Diego, All over Arizona, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Louisiana . . . - never been in a situation where I thought that it was necessary to sit, hands on the wheel, not making a move.

I swear that this is (at least for us whites maybe - I can accept that non-whites may not be in the same position, although getting stopped in the middle of the night by a cop who zoomed up on your tail with his highs on doesn't let him know your skin color until he's alongside the door anyway) all in your head. Its like hearing seeing the hoopla over the 'smile' thing on Twitter - I have never, in 40+ years, ever seen a dude tell a strange woman to smile. But to watch social media you'd think it was a plague.

Speeding has been seen as a legal problem since cars were invented. (Although it wasn't much of an issue with the very first one in 1807 that could only do 3 mi/hr.)
However since the 1960s or 70s it could also have been seen as an engineering problem. Initially for a car to "know" what the speed limit is was a bit of an issue. However now with modern cars that have "driver assistance" this is no longer an issue. Many of them can flash up warnings if the driver exceeds the limit, but as far as I know none impose anything more, such as slowing the car or just vibrating the throttle.
It is time engineers took over and spoilt the fun lawyers are having over this issue.

This twitter thread captures Alex's point very well https://twitter.com/ess_trainor/status/1269748616895348738

I lived and drove in Germany for over 20 years. There you rarely interact with the police for traffic violations unless there is an accident. Radar cameras are widely used, and you get your ticket in the mail. I know many Americans don't like the cameras, but have never received a ticket for when I wasn't speeding, and the cameras surely are better than dealing face to face with a cop. Also Germany has many fewer stop signs. There are yield signs, traffic lights, traffic circles, and intersections with none of the above (you yield to anyone coming from your right). There are far fewer opportunities for rolling through a stop sign, and you usually only have to come to a complete stop when you are obligated to yield the right of way. I am constantly frustrated by all the stop signs in this country. Most could be replaced by yield signs.

Yeah, I've never been pulled over in Australia apart from two random breath testings, which were random. Of course, if you make a habit of breaking the road rules it will eventually happen.

New Zealand used to have the MOT (Ministry of Transport) that enforced traffic laws, wrote tickets and all that, but they were not cops.

The police didn't concern them selves with traffic unless investigating crashes or something involving criminal activity which the MOT would call them in for when needed.

Under this system the police had a much better public perception - they were the good guys that solved crimes, the MOT guys were the ticket writing "bad guys" everyone loved to hate.

That all changed in the 90s, traffic enforcement was given to the police and the MOT traffic enforcement ceased to exist. Now like everywhere else the cops have a largely negative public perception twice over because they're the ones writing out stupid tickets when people think they should be spending their time solving real crimes.

Late to this, and someone kind of mentioned this above, but it's the police's job to generate revenue. They have ticket quotas they have to meet. They spend their nights looking up the license plate of every parked car in the hopes of finding a stolen one. Not because they want to help the owner, but because if they find a car, they can notify the owner, who has something like 20 minutes to come get the car. If they don't, the car is impounded by a company that pays the city a lot for a privilege.

Meter maids are common in areas where most of the infractions are parking related, so no danger and worth the extra cost.

Cops are a revenue center. Detectives are a cost center.

As to why we don't do camera tickets more, well, mostly because America in general links traffic violations to insurance, so tickets = more expensive insurance. Even red light cameras are controversial and pulled out in more places than not. I think Americans like the idea of mostly getting away with violations.

If I ran the world, cops would only give tickets in the event of an accident fault. But then I get a lot of tickets.

Just pull them over give them a ticket and a copy of the video of the incident and move on....stop harassing people for minor shit

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