A recent article by John Stossel examined a Michigan police officer’s penchant for giving out stop sign tickets as a means of increasing his income.
Day after day in Warren, Mich., people wait in a long line to pay traffic fines. Many are there because police say they didn’t come to a full stop at a stop sign. Often the policeman saying that is Officer David Kanapsky.
On last week’s “20/20,” you heard a motorist in court insist that she did come to a complete stop. The judge replied, as judges there often do: “I find Officer Kanapsky’s testimony to be credible. He is an unbiased witness.”
But the officer is not really unbiased. The more tickets he writes, the more overtime he gets. Last year, Kanapsky spent so much time in court he increased his pay by $21,000. Rolling through a stop sign in Michigan puts two points on your driving record. That hikes your car insurance premium. Fighting the ticket could cost even more. So to avoid the points and legal fees, most people plead guilty to a lesser offense: impeding traffic. The court sounds like an assembly line, ” … no points … $135 … “
Last year, the town made half a million dollars from such fines. Some drivers told us it “seems like a moneymaking scam.”
The city denies it, but Stossel is skeptical:
[Police Commissioner William] Dwyer denied the tickets were a moneymaking scam. He said he didn’t think it odd that Kanapsky wrote thousands of tickets. “It’s not unusual for a traffic officer to write 10 to 20 traffic violations a day, if not more.”
Please. I’m all for highway safety, but I suspect that America’s roads have too many rules, and that gives cops too much arbitrary power to harass people or profit off them. As the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao-Tse said, “The more laws that are written, the more criminals are produced”.
At the end of the article, Stossel references recent accident statistics that poke holes in the “it’s for safety” argument:
Remember the stop sign in Warren, Mich., where Kanapsky wrote many of his tickets? It’s been changed to a yield sign. One result: fewer accidents.
Police say, “[b]etween Jan. 16, 2008, and May 21, 2008, there have been no accidents reported. During that same time frame in 2007, there were four crashes reported.” Good. Let’s get rid of more signs.
And to all the cops who eagerly punish us for doing what they do, give me a break.
You can view the report from the local news station that originally broke this story below:
Additional Note: In November of last year, the city of Warren made our list of the worst speed trap cities in the United States.