Is police 'professional courtesy' justified?

Watching an episode of CSI, last night, it is said that a cop was pulled over for speeding but wasn’t issued a ticket because of ‘professional courtesy’. I think it was Jim Brass that said that cops and their families can avoid citations through this ‘perk’.

Now, I’ve known for a while that a cop won’t tend to write up a speeding fellow cop (unless he was particularly straight) but always assumed it was an unspoken, unwritten, under-the-table kind of deal. However, after searching for a few threads (which were in GQ as opposed to debating the validity of this courtesy) it seems that it is institutionally encouraged and that there are special cards or even license plate markers for this purpose (more for the family it would seem, as the cop has his badge, I guess).

Now, I can’t for the life of me figure out how this can be justified. I don’t mean to be a party pooper, but this isn’t exactly littering. The point of speeding being illegal is that it is a safety hazard. Now, I’m no saint myself; I creep above the limit fairly often, but do so in the knowledge that if that cop tags me or that camera flashes me I pay the fine and ‘do the time’, no excuses. Is it fair that a cop can speed safe in the knowledge that when he’s pulled over he can flash his ‘get out of jail free’ card and ‘clear up the misunderstanding’?

Ok, perhaps I can understand for the cop himself. It’s a tough job after all, they take a lot of shit, put themselves on the line, perhaps the deserve a little leeway…but his wife? What involvement does she have in ‘serving and protecting’ besides wrapping her lags around a copper (and vice versa for a female officer)?

Perhaps they only get off if the speed infraction is small. It’s not really that much of a difference or risk, you might say. Somehow I doubt that will work for a lowly ‘civilian’ such as myself when I get pulled for 34 in a 30 zone.

I’m not particularly outraged, more curious. I know there’s got to be some coppers and their spouses/offspring here, so it would be interesting to see what they say and how it works. What say you?

By definition it’s unjust and corrupt, even if it’s only mildly corrupt. I have heard of cops being arrested for drunk driving, but yes, an FOP sticker will get you out of milder infractions.

I don’t think it’s justified. I see officers speeding without their lights all the time.

There is a REASON for the pretty lights on their cars: they are supposed to be turned on to inform the public when a police officer is going to be driving above and beyond the regular traffic laws. When officers simply break them without those signals, they are putting other people at risk. But for some reason, there is this attitude that they can do anything and it doesn’t matter. It’s a minor thing maybe, but telling.

When an officer pulls somebody over, especially for a minor infraction, they often have not decided whether they are going to issue a ticket or a warning. They make that determination later based on a number of factors, like whether the person’s paperwork is all in order, how polite the person is, and probably a number of other factors, including whether the person is a LEO. If it is improper for an officer to let another officer out of an infraction, is it also improper for an officer to let a civilian off the hook because the civilian was respectful and considerate?

And then there are those cute times when they come to a red light, turn their lights on, go through the intersection and then turn them off. Talk about the spirit of the law…

I have posted this story before but I have a good friend who is in the Highway Patrol. His first duty station was in Gilroy which is just south of San Jose and along Highway 101. The CHP had pulled over a woman who was married to a San Jose city cop a number of times for speeding but had never given her a ticket. Apparently she seriously abused the “professional courtesy” and would haul ass down the freeway everyday on her way to work. After repeated attempts to get her to slow down, the decision was made to give her a ticket (a decision which had to be made by a sergeant). This touched off a “ticket war” between the two forces which wasn’t settled until the Captain placed a personal call to his counterpart in San Jose.

I think it’s a little different. With a civilian, usually a warning is enough to get them to cease a potentially dangerous behavior. With LEO “professional courtesy” it seems to be a reinforcement of an attitude of being above the law. It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that attitude extending to other “professional courtesies” like being on the take or firing 50 bullets at an unarmed suspect.

It’s not so much a matter of deciding, at the time of the situation, to let the fellow officer go with a warning. It’s more the idea of “I will NEVER give a ticket to another officer.” There is a website www.copswritingcops.com where they “rat out” cops who write tickets to other cops.

I read that website and the forum some months ago, and took away an idea of why the police think this is reasonable. From their perspective, a traffic ticket is just about the most minor thing they do in a day. They’re not investigating a possible break-in, or a stolen car, or dealing with the aftermath of a fight, it’s just a dopey little ticket. Letting a fellow officer off is nothing more than a smidge of courtesy. You can’t let everyone off with a warning, but letting a cop off is practically nothing. This attitude can be a bit different with Highway Patrol officers who’s jobs are more focused on traffic than other units.

From my “driver” perspective, getting a ticket is very serious. I’m not going to get in trouble for breaking and entering or assault, a speeding ticket is just about the most legal trouble I expect to get in. The idea that a group of people can get out of this trouble just by who they married doesn’t sit as well with me as it does with the police.

It should be. Think about it - the only consideration should be whether the driver violated the law. What does ones demeanor have to do with that? Cops should not have the power to base their ticketing decision on their personal opinion of whether they like you or not (or by your race, gender, sexual orientation, political orientation, whether they were physically attracted to you, whether you cried, whether you argued, what kind of car you drive, etc.)

As for the OP’s question, of course “professional courtesy” is wrong. It’s corruption, plain and simple. The people who enforce the laws exempt themselves from following some of those laws, simply because they can.

Agreed 100%. Now, the more relevant question is, how do you stop the cops from behaving this way? I don’t really see an easy way, except by dropping the hammer in a big way, with sting operations and the like. It would get politically ugly, and fast. Not many politicians would be eager to take such a cause on.

Good question. I’ve never thought about it. I just consider it a fact of life. I don’t know if it would be possible to stop it.

My wife had one of those get-out-of-ticket-free cards that she got from her boss who was married to a PO!. Talk about no connection. I think many PD’s see traffic tickets as more of a fund-raiser than anything else and that’s why they allow themselves to be so lax about the whole thing. It may be a big thing for the driver but for them it is peanuts.

It is not fair that I get a ticket just because I am a LIBRA.

The penalty for speeding is to marry a san Jose city cop? You’d think it would be a ticket.

My cousin is a police officer. He does not have any sort of identifying mark on his car (police bumper sticker/license plate frame/etc) and if he gets pulled over he doesn’t identify himself as a police officer for exactly the reasons people mentioned - he considers that an abuse of his position. While off duty he doesn’t expect any kind of special treatment, and he doesn’t let someone out of a ticket simply because he knows that they are also an officer.

A friend of mine is a cop. I was riding with him in his SUV one time and he was at a red light, about to turn left. The vehicle rolled forward and the suddenly slammed on the brake. He laughed and said, “I’m so used to just rolling through the stoplights in my squad car, that I almost did it just now.”

The first thought that ran through my head was that if you have to violate so many traffic safety laws in order to going around enforcing them, I don’t see the point of having the laws, or enforcers of the laws. He also told me of a time when he was in training and his superior was driving the squad car onto private property marked “Private Property - Do Not Enter.” When he said , “I don’t think we should go down this driveway,” the other officer said, “We ARE the police.”

To someone who has been issued a ticket for “unlawful u-turn” when my Anti-Lock Braking System failed, the brakes locked at 20 MPH, and the car slowly did a 180 on an empty road, I can’t help but think there is something seriously wrong with the law enforcement system as a whole. The biggest problem being the “we ARE the police” attitude.

Come off it. The point of speeding tickets is revenue generation. People slow down just long enough to get out of sight of the police officer and then floor it as soon as they’re out of sight. If anything, police on the prowl for speeders is a hazard because everybody tromps on the brakes the moment they see one, and that both packs up traffic much tighter and has the potential to cause a collision.

Anybody who can get off from a speeding ticket should every chance they get. Hell, I wish I could. It wouldn’t make me drive any faster, all it would do is make me relax a little more instead of pacing traffic and having to be on the prowl for the revenooers at the same time.

Speeding tickets may have become a revenue generator, but they are still a safety issue and it is wrong to claim that they aren’t. People going radically out of the general flow of traffic create accidents. Also people that roll through red lights, etc.

You’re absolutely right. But, 72 in a 65 because you’re at the head or tail of a train is NOT a safety consideration. I have no problem with nailing the guys that pass you like you’re not moving.

Oh yeah. It stretches pretty far. In my wilder days I avoided a weed possession arrest because the driver of the car was…the son of a civilian coworker of a former cop. My understanding was the former cop was pretty high-ranking, but I was still amazed. They didn’t recognize my buddy, either–he had to drop the name. Totally perplexed me. We had just finished smoking and the car reeked. I mean, it was blatant.

BTW–you guys watch CSI over there? What did you guys do to deserve us sending you that crap? Is CBS still pissed about King George’s stamp tax?

I don’t know about your side of the pond, but I’ve never heard of this. Cops ask for your license and registration when you get pulled over–it’s not tough to figure out whether or not you’re family from the names on those documents, right?

You really think cops should treat drivers who spit in their face differently from drivers who clearly understand they were in the wrong and treat the officer with respect? I’m as big a proponent of equality and justice as you’ll find, but I think that’s a little extreme.

California’s tough on speeders.

Seriously, though, this “professional courtesy” really doesn’t bother me that much. Government corruption is scary, sure, but equally scary is the modern desire to remove the human factor from every interaction and let rulebooks and computers decide things. Do all of you guys live life strictly by the book at work? You’ve never bent a rule just slightly, maybe to give a single mother a break on the coupon policy or waive a little fee on Christmas?

I disagree in general, although I agree that it can be taken to extremes that are very unjust. The fact that being friendly and respectful to police officers might help you get out of a ticket provides a good incentive to drivers to make a potentially threatening confrontation much smoother. Several times in the past people have mentioned how random traffic stops can and do result in serious violence, and that police officers are on high alert when pulling someone over. Giving the driver a financial and legal incentive to be civil makes things safer for themselves and for the police.