The case of the two-sided speed trap

Yes, it’s a bit old, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this is still happening somewhere. It’s still an interesting case study for the law enforcement officers who read my blog on how not to run a speed trap. (Yes, I know cops read my blog.)

This post on tells the story of a Washington State Patrol speed enforcement effort using aircraft on Highway 2. The law enforcement officers caught speeding on their way to a non-emergency Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) conference were let off with a warning. The unlucky citizens caught speeding during the same operation, on the other hand… well, you probably already guessed this, but they got speeding tickets.

At least until someone who recorded the radio conversations between the trooper in the aircraft and the troopers on the ground found its way into the hands of news media. Those radio conversations were recorded by Bill Gilliam and posted to his blog.

According to this post to, any civilians (non-LEOs) who received speeding tickets had them voided. One comment to Bill’s blog post by someone identifying himself as Peter G. offers some insight into the reason why:

KOMO news reports that all the charges against civilians on that stretch of road have been dropped. Did this happen because someone was ashamed of what happened? I doubt it. Did this happen because someone knew those civilians would get the charges dropped anyway, on the basis of selective enforcement? Sure. But the MOST important reason for dropping the charges is that those civilians could go into court, allege discrimination, and force WSP and all the officers at that conference to document all the unticketed violations. And with that information on the record, those uniformed violators– the speeders and the cops who let them go– would have to be prosecuted. So in other words, the criminal justice system is allowing ALL the criminals to go unpunished in order to protect its own.

In other words, rather than let themselves be pushed into a situation where they would have to prosecute a bunch of their own, the Washington State Police decided it would be better just to void all the tickets and write off the aircraft fuel, motor fuel, officer wages, and other expenses as a loss. Yep, your tax dollars at work, Washington…

I wouldn’t be nearly as disturbed if this was nominal speeding… say, up to around 70 mph in a 60 mph (a lot of speed limits are intentionally underposted by 5 to 10 mph). But seriously, setting aside for the moment the issue that these are the people we trust to enforce the law and keep us safe… what’s the excuse for over 80 in a 60? In some states that’s reckless driving automatically (North Carolina, Virginia, Hawaii, and Arizona per John Carr’s traffic law guide; there is also some kind of increased penalty for 20 over in Missouri and 15 over in Arkansas which is not stated clearly in that guide). In Texas, the option to dismiss with a driver safety course (defensive driving) disappears if you get busted for 25 mph or more over the limit, meaning one can be stuck paying a rather large fine. (Or at least the statutory requirement that they allow it disappears; on at least one court appearance, I’ve heard an ADA working that day says they’ll dismiss it anyway even if that’s the case.)

Those are the laws for the non-badged, anyway. What happens to cops caught speeding is anyone’s guess. It might be the same rules, but more often, the badge translates to a very heavy “get away with it” card. I’d honestly like to see that change.

Rural Pennsylvania cop causes accident, kills woman, not charged (yet)

A recent post on The Free Thought Project details yet another case of inexcusable police conduct. Trooper (for now) Frederick Schimp was on patrol at 3:30 am on Saturday, July 5. He failed to yield to cross traffic before crossing an intersection controlled by a stop sign, in this case a vehicle being driven by a 57-year old woman. Both Mr. Schimp and his partner were injured. The woman was not so lucky; she wound up not surviving the accident after being transported to a hospital. The trooper was not responding to a call, making his reason for either running the stop sign or not yielding all the more baffling.

If an average citizen did this, an arrest would be made immediately. No charges have been announced yet for Mr. Schimp, and it’s entirely possible he’ll be put on leave with pay (in effect, a paid vacation) while this is investigated. Kill someone, wreck a police vehicle in the process, and get a paid vacation? What kind of message does it send when our cops screw up and that’s how it’s handled?

It’s time for the Pennsylvania State Police to set the example on how this should be handled. I think a fairer solution: Officer is put on leave without pay, and only receives back pay only if and when cleared of wrongdoing. If there is wrongdoing in this case, the officer is subject to the same criminal charges as everyone else. Enforcing the law does not mean above the law. Blowing through a stop sign and causing a fatality to get to the doughnut shop a few minutes sooner or whatever should be punished severely, ideally as severely as it would be if one of us did it. I’m quite horrified that it’s taking this long to file and announce charges.