Cops running red lights

Everyonce in awhile, I’ll see a cop turn on the cherrys when a light is red…proceed through causing opposing traffic to virtually halt…then turn off the lights a couple hundred yards past the light…proceeding to drive normally.

I’m sure everyone has seen this happen on numerous occasions. An excuse the cop might use is that they had a call, then it got cancelled. Unlikely (but possible) story.

My question is, what is the legality of this on the books? Does a cop have a legal right to do this (doubt it), or is this unethical use of power (likely). Would a police station legally have to act upon this if citizens complained and provided a car #?

and cops wonder why they often have a bad name…ha.

Well, quite often cops have to get from point A to point B quickly, but for some reason running code three is not neccesary/good thing. So they might flip lights to get past crossroad/other obstacle and then flip them out to not disturb citizens/warn fleeing criminal/any other plausible reason.

Legally, they can’t. But practically, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can call in and complain all you want, but the station isn’t going to do jack about it.

Driving with sirens on is dangerous. You cannot hear the ordinary sounds of danger while in traffic. (This is why so many ambulances have accidents near hospitals, neither driver can hear the other.)

As people have realized this, the use of sirens over a prolonged period has declined. Drivers prefer to use the siren/lights only when they must to get where they are going pronto.

So, the ambulance/police car turns on the lights and siren at intersections, exit ramps and so on, but simply use flashing headlights or less on the straight and level.

The other day I sam a cop car do an illegal left-hand turn by turning on its flashing lights that way. It was on a green light from a two-way road to a two-way road, but it’s posted as “No left turn”. (You’re supposed to drive around a large block, so the cop was saving a minute or so of time that way.) Since the oncoming traffic stopped for it, the turn was quite safe. Unless you could determine that it was for purely personal reasons (e.g., to get to the doughnut shop a bit faster), it may be technically illegal, but no other cop is going to book the driver in such a case.

In Virginia, to pick an example I am familiar with, running a red light is prohibited by Va Code § 46.2-833, which provides in relevant part:

However, § 46.2-920 defines certain vehicles as being exempt from those regulations in certain situations:

So we see that in Virginia, an officer in his marked patrol unit may only legally disregard a red light if he is: (a) using the vehicle used in the performance of public services – that is, not off duty; and (b) when the vehicle is operated under emergency conditions – that is, when his department’s policy permits his actions, responding to a call or otherwise acting officially.

This reminds me of a news article from a few months ago. I don’t remember the details, but basically a copy ran a red light doing exactly as described in the OP, and when a guy stopped him to complain about it, he was issued a ticket. The cop claimed some story which sounded totally bogus to me, but the judge in the case flat out told the guy that the police didn’t need someone monitoring them. So, not only did the cop get away with his abuse of power despite someone complaining about it, but the guy complaining ended up paying a fine.

Cops get a bad name because people like you automatically assume the worst.

Think about it, why would a cop turn on the overheads if he doesn’t need to get somewhere quickly? When we are on patrol, we usually don’t have to be any particular place, so waiting for a red light is no big deal.

I’ll give you an example of why a cop would use the overheads only temporarily - Just this morning I was responding to a crash where there were no injuries, but the crash was about a mile away and causing a big traffic problem. A non-injury crash is NOT an emergency, so running code is out of the question because that in and of itself is dangerous. But in order to help the public in general (i.e. you psi freak) we turn on the lights to go through the red light to help alleviate the traffic conjestion quicker. Once we are past the red light we can resume responding at a normal speed. The motorist sitting at the intersection doesn’t see the crash that is a mile away and doesn’t see the need for us going through the intersection, but the need still exists. However, when the police do use the overheads in this manner, it is the same as if we are responding “hot” - that is we operate the cruiser with caution and due regard for other traffic. Contrary to popular belief, lights and sirens is not “carte blanche” to drive any way we see fit.

I get cynical when I see the cruiser pull into the donut shop. Some departments have a culture of abusing the rules.

I know its the stereotype, but seriously, I bet you could count on one hand the number of times you’ve seen a cop pull into the donut shop. And even if you did, is there something inherently wrong with getting a donut/coffee/bagel/juice etc. when one is hungry? Millions of people do it everyday. You say you get cynical, but it goes back to my point that people seem to assume the worst. You see the cop pull in, but you aren’t there a couple minutes later when he takes his coffee and leaves. Many people just assume he’ll sit there all day.

But back to the OP. Cops don’t go through red lights just because they have that power. That makes no sense. The first time you respond lights and sirens to a call, the thrill of being able to “break the rules” and go through stop signs and red lights is anti-climactic. And unless there is really a need to be on the other side of the intersection right now, they don’t do it.

I’m not bothered by them stopping at the donut shop for a snack. What bugs me is seeing them blast by me on the road, way over the speed limit, ignoring traffic laws, and then pulling into the donut shop. I have this archaic idea that police officers should set a good example for others while operating a vehicle.

WARNING: Dumb, personal anecdote:

I was coming back from Atlanta, on I-85. I was going a little over 10 over, because everyone else was, so I was trying to keep up with traffic. I’m in the lane one over from the fast lane, on the right of course. A cop goes flying past me, atleast 10mph+ more than myself. Well, monkey see, monkey do…

As for the OP, I’d automatically assume that they weren’t trying to break the law. What’s a few more seconds out of a patrol?

Could you please recount a specific instance when you have witnessed this scenario, including as much detail as you can recall?

I used to work in the County Government Center, and it was common on Fridays (payday) to see police cars with red lights flashing cruise thru the stoplight and pull up into the loading area on the street under the building, and then see a cop jump out and walk into the City-County Credit Union office that was on the first floor to deposit their paycheck.

They certainly have the right to do that, and I don’t even object to them doing so during working hours (I did too; the office is closed other times).

But I don’t see that going to deposit your paycheck is something that requires running with the red lights and flashers on!

I’ve seen it happen several times on Route 1 in College Park, Maryland. It’s a long, straight road, so you can see quite a distance. There’s a lot of traffic, and traffic lights, so it can be slow. Due to all the college students, it has more than the normal number of bad drivers.

I can’t speak for the OP, but I often tend to assume the worst because I know the attitude a lot of cops have. I’ve seen, and it pisses me off to no end. I’ve been pulled over a few times and seen cops look me in the eye and blatantly lie to me. No officer, I was not going fifty and you know it. No officer, you do not smell burnt cannabis and you know it. No officer, I waited until the light was green before I started going and you know it. (Actually, that time he didn’t know it til I explained to him how the lights at that intersection worked, and it was amusing to watch him realize I was right and still try to pretend like he was being nice by letting me go.) So when I see a cop turn his lights on to go through an intersection when I know there’s a Krispy Kreme with a “Hot Donuts Now” sign up lit up a mile down the road, you’re damn straight I’m going to assume the worst.

I have seen, personally, a cop going through a red light late at night (or early in the morning) by turning on his roof lights, but no siren. In all of the cases I’ve witnessed, The cop’s actions didn’t affect me whatsoever, so I didn’t care. I actually thought “I wish I could do that…”
Live and let live, even with the cops.
On the other hand, I have a friend who saw an SUV run a red light in a manner similar to drunkeness at around closing time. In an effort to avoid what he thought was a drunk driver, he was “caught” going over the speed limit. The SUV was actually a cop. Things didn’t go well during the stop, so my friend ended up with a ticket for speeding because a cop didn’t use his light when skirting the law.

Yeah, I liked this gem from

Yes! Those things will make your waistline blow up like the goodyear blimp. Howsabout a nice green salad or veggie plate? :slight_smile:

That old saying about just a few apples spoiling the bunch? That’s probably more to do with things than anything else. We only hear about the very few bad cops that are out there, and hear little about the majority of cops, the good ones.

My experiences with cops have always been good, even when getting a ticket. I don’t know why, but since, oh, 2000 or so I’ve not gotten a ticket (and I better not be jinxing myself now) despite having been pulled over no less than four times for speeding – once (according to cop; I don’t know myself) for doing 90 in a 65. I’m always polite and curteous and I genuinely respect what they do.

Abuse of authority (not just cops), though, pisses me off to no end, right down to the roots of who I am. Luckily I’ve only ever heard about it involving police second-hand, and have never experienced it myself.

So, the sub-discussion at hand: yeah, I’ve seen cops run red lights plenty of times to get into doughnut shops. It’s always been at night or otherwise abondoned roads, and they’ve never had to impede cross traffic to do so, and they have the means to do it safely. I’ve never considered this abuse of authority, because if it’s the right road and conditions and there’re no police around, I’ll do the same thing myself, under the (non-defensible) guise of “spirit of the law.”