Military and Police

A 40% Decrease in Traffic Tickets Since 2015—But it Goes Back Further Than That

A reduction in police proactivity, particularly in perennially leftist-run cities and counties, is becoming the norm in many communities. It’s not that cops don’t want to work, it’s that their civic leaders and community activists won’t let them. This is leading to an increasing onslaught of dire consequences.

One consequence is the growing anarchy on the streets of many communities where law enforcement is intentionally lax. Just look at New York City alone. Disrespectful thugs are still assaulting NYPD officers. The most recent, instead of water, some puke threw a jug of milk at an officer. But, I’m sure the worst mayor in America’s view is Milk is good for you, so where’s the crime?

How can officers work under such conditions?

They can’t!

In Seattle, The Seattle Times is reporting a huge drop in cops writing citations to drivers for traffic violations. Columnist Gene Balk reported a 40-percent drop in traffic tickets. This despite “motorists regularly disregarding every traffic law on the books, the streets of downtown Seattle can feel a bit like the Wild West these days.” So, not only are the city’s sidewalks like Calcutta but also its streets are now like Tombstone.

In fact, even traffic light and speed cameras are issuing drivers many times more citations than the city’s police officers. What’s worse is this drop follows previous reductions in tickets issued.

In my latest book, “De-Policing America,” I wrote “[Steve] Miletich [ of The Seattle Times] pointed out that between the first quarter of 2010 and the same time in 2011, calls for service had increased by 9 percent, yet officer proactivity dropped by 44 percent. During the period from 2007-2013, officers filed 71 percent fewer complaints (infractions and misdemeanors) with the…court.” These include traffic citations.

This is not a new problem, folks, but it is getting worse. The Times story points out that fed-up drivers are filling the police enforcement void. Some drivers are getting out of their cars and expressing frustration by trying to direct other drivers to not break driving rules such as blocking bus-only lanes. Balk calls this “traffic vigilantism.”

According to the Seattle Municipal Court, between 2015 and 2018, “Inattention to Driving,” the citation issued most often, went to 2,629 from 4,484. I can make a pretty good guess even without looking at the numbers that 4,484 in 2015 was down from whatever it was in 2011.

When I first became a cop, officers would hit the streets after roll call. Then, after handling any pending calls, you’d start hearing officers going out on traffic stops.

Officer: “Two-Charlie-One, on a stop.”

Dispatcher: “Charlie-one, location?”

Officer: “15th Avenue East and East Union Street on Washington plate…”

The officer would then give the dispatcher any other relevant information, and the dispatcher would come back with any pertinent computer information pertaining to the car or driver.

By the time I retired, hearing the above radio conversation at any time of the day was rare.

Now, people might blame the cops for this, but not if they think it through. Police officers are human beings. They respond accordingly to situations with not only physical survival in mind but also career survival. They understand the complaints they get often stem from routine, proactive tasks such as traffic stops.

They also understand that if any contact with the public goes sideways, and there is a complaint, their jurisdiction’s leaders are likely to side with the complainer and not the officer. If an incident ends with a use of force, officers do not expect city leaders to support them. Whether consciously or subconsciously, it’s in a human being’s nature to avoid harm when possible.

And for many cops these days that harm means the threat of discipline, being fired, or even going to prison—for doing what their communities have asked them to do and what they’ve sworn to do via the training provided by their very own departments.

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Steve Pomper

Steve Pomper is an OpsLens contributor, a retired Seattle police officer, and the author of four non-fiction books, including De-Policing America: A Street Cop’s View of the Anti-Police State. You can read a review of this new book in Front Page Magazine and listen to an interview with Steve on the Joe Pags Show. Steve was a field-training officer, on the East Precinct Community Police Team, and served his entire career on the streets. He has a BA in English Language and Literature. He enjoys spending time with his kids and grand-kids. He loves to ride his Harley, hike, and cycle with his wife, Jody, a retired firefighter. You can find out more about Steve and send him comments and questions at www.stevepomper.com.

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