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Our Emerging Police State

March 23, 2011

The following was brought to my attention by loyal reader Jco. As reported by Gothamist, the police set up an early morning speed trap in Central Park. The cops were camped out at the bottom of a hill with a radar gun issuing tickets at 6:45 AM. The tickets were being given to bicyclists and only bicyclists, because at that hour the park is closed to cars. At this hour the place has got to be pretty empty, particular on a fairly chilly morning like today. So why were they doing this? The question becomes even more interesting when you consider that, according to the Central Park Conservancy, the speed limit in the park is 25mph yet people were being ticketed for exceeding 15mph. Having pondered this question and the many issues surrounding it I come to the conclusion that the whole thing is big steaming pile of horseshit.

I’ll tell you why they were issuing tickets: it’s the same reason why dogs lick their balls, because they can. And they can because the police can pretty much count on the unwillingness of most people to question them, and on the rare occasion when people do challenge them the courts will back them, because all of our lives are lived in the shadow of constant and horrible dangers. Dangers surrounds us at every turn and we must be protected from them. But why exercise this awesome power here? Well, the police can be pressured too. They have ticket quotas to fill (whatever their denials, of course they have quotas) and the city has revenue to raise.

And lest you think I’m being paranoid or over the top, check this story out.

City officials on Monday unveiled an online alternative that allows residents to submit written rebuttals and upload supporting materials, like snapshots of where a missing traffic sign should be, to make their case.

“It means that you won’t have to zip out of work to contest a parking ticket on your lunch hour,” Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said in a news conference.

Well thank you, Mr. Mayor. This may look like it argues for the opposite of what I am griping about, it being easier to challenge the police in court. And so it now is, but look at this little bit of information casually dropped into the article:

The city issues nearly 10 million parking tickets each year, and about 1.2 million are contested in hearings. Nearly half of disputed tickets are eventually dismissed.

NEARLY HALF!!! That’s more than 500,000 tickets that the City acknowledges should not have been issued. There are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, more that go unchallenged because it’s not worth the effort to do so. Do you pay an $80 ticket or take a day off from work and lose $120 in pay, use up a personal day, etc.? So pardon my tempered enthusiasm for this new program. All they are doing is lowering the rate of an already excessive and indiscriminately applied tax.

I wrote this post yesterday but could not post it because wordpress was down for much of the late afternoon and evening. I’ve since lost my anger about all this and will just post this as is. I already see a couple of leaps in logic that are maybe a little wider than they ought to be.  I just don’t feel like editing or rewriting, sorry.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jco permalink
    March 23, 2011 2:01 pm

    I’m still pissed off about it. As NWA liked to say, Fuck tha Police. And, not to pile on, but they were also ticketing bikers in the park for running red lights in the park when the park was closed to cars. Now some city councilperson has to spend their time introducing a bill to make the lights flash yellow in the park when it is closed to cars. Because the cops are not capable of exercising common sense. Morons. When they cut the force I hope they cut those guys.

  2. Fat Al permalink*
    March 23, 2011 2:44 pm

    The whole thing is so fucking stupid. What’s their point in all this? Discourage people from biking? Okay, done. Now what?

    Let me just chime in on the quota thing. I have no problem with ticket quotas. Who cares? I think there should be a substantial quota for issuing tickets to double-parkers, to cars going over 30 MPH in the City, to people blocking crosswalks and bike lanes, pedicab jackasses riding, parking, idling, stopping wherever they want, etc. And, frankly, if they want to go after bikers who are actually doing dangerous things, I don’t care about that either.

    But targeting people who aren’t even breaking a law, and, even if they were, are breaking the law under a circumstance where it is guaranteed to do no harm, is stupid and rightfully causes everyone to question their motives.

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