|Background: The speed limits on the freeways in Wyoming are 75 mph. It's reduced to 65 where the freeway goes through a tunnel. More than a mile past the tunnel the speed limit returns to 75. One weeknight, I went through one of those tunnels at 65, then (more than a mile later, remember) I sped up to 75 (just before the sign that said 75 mph). Right by the sign was a cop. As soon as I passed the headlights came on and the police car came charging after me. (I later did the math, (oh yeah, I'm your classic whiny motorist) from a standing start to overtake me at 75 mph in the time it did, the police car was traveling over 100 mph). So I'm looking in my rear view thinking "I'm busted" but the cop stayed in the passing lane without the overheads on, almost blowing past me. I figured it must be after someone else (the freeway was deserted). When the police car was almost alongside me, it suddenly slowed down and pulled in behind me and the lights came on. Now that I have gray hair, I'm less intimidated speaking person-to-person to a barely pubescent cop making 7.50/hr., so I told her she should be ashamed of herself. She said "I'm sorry, Sir, I don't have a choice." I sent in the ($100!) check with this letter:
Circuit Court of XXXXX County
RE. Citation No. XXXXX
Try this. Walk into your standard American grade school. Go to the front office. Ask the child sitting outside the principal's office if he is guilty. Chances are between 90 and 100 percent he'll launch into a treatise about why justice is not served by his being punished.
So I don't expect you to be shocked to learn that I feel like this check is for a citation that should never have been written. In fact, I don't expect you to finish this letter. But the purpose of this letter is not to plead my case.
I already expressed my opinion to the officer about the propriety of issuing a citation under the specific circumstances. I already asked her if she wasn't ashamed of herself for participating in such a scam. You don't have to be Mel Gibson to sense that her self-actualization as a peace officer wasn't being fulfilled. I mean, really, does the kid exist who, amidst his fantasies about being a soldier or a firefighter or a pilot, dreams about someday radaring motorists while hiding behind a speed limit sign? But I understand that speed traps are commonly used to raise revenue in these small towns. That's why I won't suggest that the public safety might be better protected by checking speeds closer to the tunnel where the hazards ostensibly require the reduced speed limit.
No, my beef is with the amount of the fine. Had I indeed been doing 10 mph over the posted speed limit, I might have expected a 30 or 40 dollar fine for the infraction. Now, I am as concerned as anybody about the grave dangers imposed on society by middle-aged family men dashing around in their compact cars on our interstates at 10:00 o'clock on Monday nights, reaching the posted speed limit 150 yards before the sign. But do you really think that 100 Yankee greenbacks is a proportional answer to that offense? Lets put it in perspective: the officer on duty made less in her whole shift than I was fined for covering that 150 yards 5/8 of one second too quickly. If that's the way you treat an overweight, balding tourist with two small children asleep in the back seat, God help the truckload of drunken youth comparing body piercings at 90 mph.
So this letter accomplishes . . . well, absolutely nothing really, other than giving me a chance to vent what I should be saying to a judge. Had I been an area resident I would show up in court to protest the use of trained peace officers for collecting extortion. But had I been an area resident I would not have been pulled over. Because then I would have been in a position to contest this, you see. I'm a little slow on the uptake, but I eventually did figure out the anomalies in the officer's actions before she finally hit the overheads to nab another Ubanghi (sp?). It's clear that she was verifying that my plates were out-of-state before deciding to make the stop.
Come to think of it, maybe the drunken youths aren't in that much danger after all.