What Everyone Should Know About Laser Guns

By James Baxter, NMA President

The use of laser speed estimation devices, sometimes referred to as LIDAR, has been accompanied by a lot of heavy breathing and claims of infallibility on the part of law enforcement agencies. “Pinpoint accuracy, undetectable,” and “tremendous range” are common refrains.

Setting the flim-flam and propaganda aside, there are some things every motorist confronted with a laser ticket should know.

The number one selling point for laser guns is their advertised capability to selectively clock the speed of one vehicle that is traveling amongst other vehicles in moderate to heavy traffic. (Radar cannot reliably be used when there are multiple vehicles in its all encompassing beam.) Its ability to determine a target’s speed in a fraction of a second is another popular feature. Probably, laser’s greatest drawback is that it cannot legitimately be used in a moving mode.

So what’s the real story on laser speed guns? They work; they work if they are properly adjusted, properly used, and used within their limitations.

A quick primer on how laser guns work:

The laser gun has a “sight” where the officer can see the target vehicle and aim the device. When the trigger is pulled a thin beam of invisible infra-red light is emitted in distinct pulses. The beam gradually increases in size and at 1000 feet it is three to four feet in diameter. When the light beam hits a relatively perpendicular, reflective surface it bounces back toward the laser gun.

When the returning pulses of light are captured by the laser gun the electronics go to work and they have this kind of conversation:

OK, that first pulse took .0015 seconds to get out there and back, that means the target is 1000 feet away. The second pulse took .0014 seconds to get out there and back so now our target is 950 feet away. The third pulse went out and came back at .0013 seconds putting the target 900 feet from the laser gun. It took us one third second to gather these three measurements and that means the vehicle went 100 feet in one third second. Therefore the vehicle is going 49 miles per hour.

In actual practice the laser gun sends out far more than three pulses and measures the targets movements in much smaller increments, but this should give you some sense of the calculating processes the laser device employs.

From this elementary description of how a laser gun works you can begin to understand certain of the critical issues confronting a laser gun operator. First, this is a fairly complicated electronic instrument and it cannot be used to pound nails if a hammer isn’t available. Laser guns are more delicate than radar guns. And, because the aiming function is critical, the adjustment of the sighting mechanism is critical.

An honest and competent laser gun operator is going to take the following steps before he or she begins to use the device for enforcement purposes:

  1. Check the instruments internal testing and calibration systems.
  2. Check the sight alignment by picking an object at a reasonable distance (where the beam is still relatively narrow) like a utility pole, and then “sweep the gun past the object in both a vertical and then a horizontal position, with the trigger engaged, to make sure the laser gun records a distance reading at the same time the sight is on the testing target. This assures that the laser beam and the laser sight are coordinated.
  3. The routine external test is to shoot the laser at an object at a known distance and confirm that the laser distance reading is accurate. If it isn’t the gun needs to be repaired. However, this does not mean the gun is accurately estimating speeds.
  4. A simple test to check speed accuracy is to drive the patrol car at a fixed speed and then fire the laser at a fixed object, like the flat side of a building. The laser reading should be the same as the vehicle’s speedometer reading. Another option is to shoot a vehicle traveling at a known speed, such as another patrol car.

With a properly aligned sight and properly confirmed instrument operation the officer can use the laser gun with relative confidence that it will yield accurate speed readings, PROVIDED it is used properly and respecting its limitations.

Proper use means a steady rest, no sweeping or other movement of the gun when taking readings, not shooting through glass or in the midst of a rain storm or snow fall.

While it’s possible to clock a target that is 2000 to 3000 feet away the speed reading is of dubious accuracy and highly prone to error. On a clear day with no other traffic in sight a good laser operator can obtain reasonably accurate readings out to 1200, perhaps 1500 feet. However, if there are other vehicles present those distances should be halved.

Remember, at distances in excess of 700-800 feet the laser beam is easily large enough to not only be reflecting off of different parts of the target vehicle (which are simultaneously different distances from the laser gun), but also off of other vehicles, some traveling at different speeds. At distances in excess of 800 feet, the laser operator has no way of knowing what vehicle surfaces or entire vehicles are responsible for the laser speed readings, especially if other vehicles fall within the scope of the laser beam.

Most laser operators prefer to aim at the license plate because it offers a very perpendicular and highly reflective surface.

A vehicle without a front license plate and a low sloping hood, think Corvette, has to be much closer before a good laser reading can be made. However, at distances in excess of 800-900 feet the license plate is indistinguishable from the car as a whole and the laser beam is washing over the entire vehicle.

To put this in another context; think about the challenge of hitting a target the size of a license plate three football fields distant, with a handgun.

In an honest courtroom, any laser reading in excess of 800 feet would not be accepted for evidentiary purposes. The State of New Jersey has set the limit at 1000 feet, which is a step in the right direction. The rest of the country is oblivious to the limitations of this technology, with judges and legislators believing the propaganda, instead of exercising the caution and judgment we have entrusted them to exercise on our behalf.

Feel free to copy this blog and send it to a judge or legislator(s) of your choice.

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Leave a Comment

73 Responses to “What Everyone Should Know About Laser Guns”

  1. Eve says:

    I have a question, is it true that a laser gun cannot read if your foot is off the gas pedal? Maybe an urban legand? VBG Thanks

  2. joanne anderson says:

    Get and use a laser detector – Valentine's
    V-1. Buy a Blinder M40 laser jammer. It's very legal. Please post your results!

  3. Matt Knox says:

    Laser guns can detect the velocity of an object despite that object's proximity to the operator's appendages.

  4. George says:

    LASER guns never prove instantaneous speed.
    They only prove average speed. They should not be an 'authorized' speed measurement tool, because the speed limit laws do not say 'the average speed limit is XX miles per hour'

    If you are unfortunate enough to live in a state requiring a front license plate, you should 'repaint' the license plate so that it is no longer retroreflective to the near infrared light.
    You can check the efficacy of this by using a video camera with 'night shot' mode to determine what parts of the vehicle are highly reflective to infrared light.

    That will buy you some distance so that the LASER jammer can give you time enough to decelerate to the 'speed limit'

    Laser guns are truly the most egregious example of revenue generation cloaked in the name of 'traffic safety'

  5. joe says:

    A pdf.article(2002) from the transportation research board detailing what steps and court rulings have been used in establishing and/or fighting speed limit signage.
    The pdf. is titled "Judicial Enforcement of Variable Speed Limits"

  6. dave krause says:

    I'm a traffic cop In CA. Although laser and radar detectors are legal in CA, jammers are illegal. If you are found to be in possession of one it is a midemeanor punishiable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to one year. If you have 3 or more, you can go to state prison. So,for your own good, use detectors, but not jammers.

    Additionally, if you have a radar detector, do not expect it to save you in all curcumstances. A radar operator using equipment in the proper manner will use it in the "hold" mode emitting no signal until a speeding target is observed. At that point the radar/lidar is activated taking usually less than one second to acquire a speed. This is too fast for the errant driver to react and slow the vehicle.

  7. Scot says:

    Most lidar guns do provide an instantaneous speed reeding, not an average speed as George suggests. The Kustom Pro Laser 3 usually will acquire a vehicle and provide the vehicle speed in approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of a second and the speed will update approximately 3-4 times per second. Officers will usually track a vehicle for 2 seconds or more and the speed that is locked into the unit is the last updated speed, not the average over a distance.

    As for the beam width, both the LTI and Kustom models have beam that is approximately 3' square at 1000', substantially less than the 6-8' previously suggested. It is virtually impossible to track two targets simultaneously with a lidar due the variance in distances of the return, resulting in the returns being discarded by the internal checks of the device.

    The things work.

  8. George says:

    I am sorry Scot, but unless the laws of physics have changed, LASER guns do not provide instantaneous speed.

    The internal timebase can keep track of time, so a pulsed infrared light is emitted, reflected [off the license plate or headlights], and returned to the receiver.
    The 'gun' does this, multiple times a second, and by estimating the the change in distance over the approximate counted time, an estimated average speed is calculated.

    No where in the law does it say that 'citations' can be given for average speed.

    They work. They work at enslaving/extorting the people. Even if the speed limit was set to the 85th percentile, what about the people who can/do drive safely/politely above the 85th percentile?
    This is an enhanced money making venture, more so than POP mode radar.

    The government doesn't own the electromagnetic spectrum, and the IR is regulated by the FDA not FCC.
    An illegal law is just that, illegal [which renders is null & void]
    So go ahead and get that jammer, get that trial by jury, and get that acquittal, and then submit your bill to the state. It is your right if the government brings up a frivolous charge against you.

    Bring back freedom, bring reasonable and prudent back to the highways.

  9. Inquirer says:

    I have a question. What would make someone want to become a traffic cop? If you want to help people, become a firefighter or emt. If you wanna use a gun, join the military. So that leaves…"I want to issue speeding tickets and sit with my flashers on at construction sites." Wow what a valuable asset to our communities.

  10. scot says:

    If the speed of light, 186,282.4 miles per second, is not as close to instantaneous as possible then you could call the measurement with lidar an average speed.

    George, in California, a citation is issued with an approximate speed, which is exactly what a lidar, radar and speedometer provide. I suggest that you pay attention to the speedometer and you won't have to worry about the lidar or radar.

    As far as those who can drive safely above the 85th percentile, maybe when every driver on the road has equal abilities, training and equipment so that while sharing the roadway there is no chance of collision, and roadway design speeds are not exceeded, then yes, let everyone drive as fast as they want. Until the day comes where this happens, a limit is needed. While I can appreciate the skill and ability of professional race car drivers, I don't want them driving 200 mph on streets and highways.

  11. Matt says:

    I got a 66mph in a 60mph on HWY 85 in South Carolina. I was behind a state trooper doing exactly 60mph for approx. 25 miles. When my exit was approaching, I had no safer option than to accelerate and change lanes, as traffic was backed up in all three lanes about 1/4 mile back at the time. At the first court appearance the officer did not show and I was told that I had to reschedule, At the second court appearance He showed and I was given the option of a bench trial or a jury trial. I chose a jury trial and the date is set for Mar 12 @3pm in Spartanburg. I have never been to a jury trial before and am a bit nervous. Any advice would leave me in your debt. Thank you, Matt

  12. George says:

    Radar works on continuous doppler measurements.
    LASER works on discontinuous, and hence average measurements.

    An approximation of an instantaneous speed, not an approximation of average speed.
    I suggest a review of the fundamental theorem of calculus is in order.
    LASER isn't legal, but that won't stop its usage.

    To drive safely at 200mph in a BMW M6 or M5 [M6 is a smidge more aerodynamic] you need tire pressure to be about 50psi.
    The ride at low speeds with tires inflated to 50psi would be unacceptable. [it would be a cruel sick joke on US roads]
    175mph would need 45psi, again the ride is too harsh.
    150, 40 psi, that would be just acceptable.
    You could drive an M5 all day at 100mph at 30psi.
    though I would inflate to 35 psi [for mileage & crisper steering] so 125mph is possible.

    I don't watch the speedometer when I drive, I watch the road.

    Speed isn't the cause of accidents, it is not paying attention [not giving respect to the seriousness of the activity. 125 feet per second, 20 tire revolutions per second]

    I wish the police would actually patrol, and pull over people with underinflated tires. Don't ticket them [what does that solve, and that has been done to death], go to the trunk and pull out the tire compressor, or compressed air tank, and fill them up. You can sell them a tire pressure gauge for $5.
    again, ticketing someone for a burned out headlight. That doesn't do anything, sell them a pair of headlight bulbs for $20 (take the non-burned out bulb so that the cop can have a supply), and sell to someone who can't afford the $20 for a new pair of bulbs.

    I want to free the police from the politicians [police chief] to that they can be the best problem solvers they can be. [release their inner MacGyver]

  13. Rachel says:

    to Inquirer …

    Ask someone who has had a loved one hit by a driver in a constructions zone if the traffic cop's job is important.

    Let's please show a little respect – If you break the law … even the speeding law, and get caught – that's life. So get over the rancid attitude and be grateful that there are people out there watching for erratic drivers. It might just save you at some point.

  14. Doug says:

    It's mathematically impossible for an average speed over a period of time to be above the speed limit if all of the instantaneous speeds during that period are at or below the limit. Therefore, average speed in excess of speed limit proves instantaneous speed in excess of speed limit. It's the law.

  15. David Krause says:

    In response to Inquirer:

    The mission of traffic officers in my department is to reduce the property damage, injuries, and deaths associated with traffic collisions. This sounds far from useless to me.

    I was a patrol officer for several years. I became a bit disenchanted with murderers, dope dealears, and thieves being allowed to to continue to victimize the residents of my community in spite of being convicted. I switched my enforcement efforts to traffic where I could truly make a difference. Automobiles kill far more people in any given year than handguns or any other weapons. Automobiles kill more cops too. If one feels this is not important to address, then read no further.

    As a traffic officer in northern CA I ride a motorcycle. I have never sat at a construction site with my flashers on. Part of my job is to investiagate fatal/major injury collisions. This part of my job is a challenge that I accept and embrace. This also gives me a perspective on what causes these collisions.

    I also enforce traffic laws. I use the discresion afforded me by state law to determine whether or not I will stop a violator and whether or not I will cite a violator. I stop about 10% of people I see violating the law. I choose to stop those who do it in the most egregious manner, and I usually issue those I stop a citation. The 90% that I do not stop can consider my failure to stop them a blessing, as they too have earned a citation.

    The purpose of citations is to modify behavior. This works for a period of time. If one is cited, one tends to be extra careful for some time aftewards. If one witnesses an enforcement action, one makes a note of that and usually their behavior is modified as well.

    The major cause of traffic collisions in the US is mortorists innattention IE: "I didn't see the sign," "I thought I stopped," "I looked away and the car in front of me had stopped," "I didnt see the child in the crosswalk," "I was looking for the grocery store," etc. The issuance of citations causes motorists to pay attention to signs, traffic, pedestrians, the roadway. and to be vigilant for other cops that may issue citations. This vigilance is effective in reducing collisions and thereby reducing property damage, injuries and deaths.

    If this is not a valuable function, I'm not sure what is.

  16. Joe says:

    David Krause, thanks for enlightening us. Since your the expert here would you give us a rough percentage of speeding violations that's cited compared to other violations your department cites annually? What percentage of reduction in accidents do you think your department effects by speed enforcement. What's your favorite weapon against “speeders” and what allowance do you give, if any?

    The last report I saw, cabin distractions were responsible for about 70% of vehicle accidents.

  17. James Young says:

    {If this is not a valuable function, I’m not sure what is.}

    That is certainly a valuable function and one that LE should follow, fulfilling the educational element of their mandate.

    Unfortunately, what you outlined is a rarity, noted more by its absence than by its commonality. There are literally thousands of village whose “police force” exists only to write traffic citations, usually just speeding and the ancillary charges that can be tacked on once a driver is stopped. There are even large cities who maintain traffic divisions whose singular function is to raise revenue. Tulsa, OK, is one such city as Joe, who still lives there, and I, who returned there for a year.

    While we agree that inattention should be the sine qua non of traffic enforcement — since it and not speeding is the primary culprit behind crashes — it is well down the priority list because it is difficult to identify and quantify, unlike speeding which is simple. Pursuing speeding because it is easy rather than because it is effective is reprehensible and is one reason for the public disdain for traffic enforcement and LE in general.

  18. Dave says:

    I do not defend the practice of randomly issuing citations just because an arbitrary speed law has been violated in most cases. On local roads in California, it is necessary to not only articulate what speed the vehicle operator was traveling, but additionally that the speed was unsafe considering all conditions at the time. If a car is traveling at 35 MPH in a 25 MPH zone, this is not, on the face of it, illegal. However if the car is making multiple lane changes to pass, going by a school with children present, is on a narrow street, traffic is heavy, there is a dust storm, or an number of other conditions, it can be articulated why this speed is unsafe.

    On roads with speed limts of 55 MPH or greater in CA, it is illegal to travel above the posted speed, regardless of safety. The reasons for thes laws are not mine to judge. My job is to enforce them. I have latitude in how I choose to do this.

    I personally allow at least 10 MPH over the posted limit before I will stop a car and issue a citation; however each officer has to determine what they believe is reasonable. Sometimes I allow even more than 10 MPH over the limit depending on the circumstance. I have to go home at night and live with myself. If I chose to arbitrarily enforce the law without exercising judgement, I would not be proud of the job I do.

    As far as adding additional charges, I usually will only cite for one moving violation on a ciattion unless the driver is particularly difficult. I sometimes will add equipment violations, which are able to be dismissed upon correction.

    As far as revenue is concerned, I work for a municipality. The money collected from citation I issue is sent to the state. The state then returns some of the money to the municipality based on criteria that does not include the amount of money generated by the citations. This is to avoid a conflict of interest.

    As far as percentages of speeding tickets versus other violations, I do not know the exact number, but a guess is less than 50% are speeding tickets.

    As far as the effectiveness of speed enforcement, the last study I saw was old and I do not have it with me. However when the maximum speed limit in the US was increased from 55 to 65, fatal collisions increased 17%. Additionally, severety needs to be considered. Momentum increases exponentially with speed. Therefore so does destructive force. An object traveling at 60 MPH has twice the momentum (kinetic energy) as an object traveling at 30 MPH. This means that the destructive force and likelihood of loss of life and injury in collisions is compounded exponentially with speed.

    I can not quantify the specific results of enforcement in my city, however I think we can agree that the anarchy that would result from no enforcement would result in more crashes, injuries, and deaths. Therefore reasonable traffic and speed enforcement is necessary.

    The tool I prefer to use is a Kustom Signals Pro Laser III. It is accurate and target specific. I aslo use a mounted Kustom Signals Golden Eagle radar unit for times when my bike is moving.

  19. Douglas Guerra says:

    The ONLY true study of the effectiveness of a General Speed-Limit was done in Germany some time ago. A Limit of 130Km/h was placed on Limit-Free Autobahnen sections and later removed. These Limits were then moved to other Limit-Free Autobahnen sections. The Autobahn test areas covered different types of terrain and included those with multiple lanes. I believe the study lasted 3 years but it could have been 18 months.
    The result was there was no measurable difference in deaths. Sometimes the test areas went up slightly when a Limit was imposed and sometimes it went down. The same occurred in the Free areas.
    Today, Germany Autobahnen have a death-rate of 3,22 per 100 Billion Kilometers traveled. The United States has a death-rate 38% higher at 5,22.
    Last year, total deaths on all streets, highways and Autobahnen in Germany were less than 5000 – the lowest number recorded since record keeping began in 1953.
    In 1970, the United States ranked 1st with the lowest road death-rate among industrialized nations. Today, with probably the most draconian traffic enforcement system in the civilized world, it ranks 11th.

  20. James Young says:

    Dave writes:

    {I do not defend the practice of randomly issuing citations just because an arbitrary speed law has been violated in most cases.}

    That is by far the exception. The rule is that any speed in excess of the posted limit is fair game without regard to design speed, 85th or 95th percentile, or any mitigating factors. There are just too many CS little villages that make their budget with speeding fines.

    {As far as revenue is concerned, I work for a municipality. The money collected from citation I issue is sent to the state. }

    Again, that is the exception and if these little villages had to send their money to the state, they would simply disband their police department. I am currently working on introducing legislation into OK and TX legislatures that would remove all fines, fees, administrative costs, etc from ALL local jurisdictions and sending that money directly to a public corporation at the state level that would then distribute the funds as scholarship to state colleges. Without speed trap money money, place such as New Rome, OH, Big Cabin, Stringtown, Kiowa, Calera, Caney, Moffett, Roland, Luther, Hulbert, Achille, OK; Waldo, FL; Selma, TX would disincorporate.

    {As far as percentages of speeding tickets versus other violations, I do not know the exact number, but a guess is less than 50% are speeding tickets.}

    That is a well-guarded secret. LE agencies do not disclose that kind of information because they don’t want it known. Texas DPS called it “proprietary,” even though it is gathered by public employees at public expense using public equipment. With that said, TX DPS had to respond to a federal court in a racial profiling case in 2002(?) wherein they disclose that in 1 year DPS had issued 1,000,000 speeding citations, outnumbering all other violations, including commercial and ancillary violations by more than two to one. Think of it this way: that’s one year for one agency in one state. It’s also about $250,000,000 and probably upwards of 90% of those citations were for perfectly reasonable albeit technically illegal speeds.

    {As far as the effectiveness of speed enforcement, the last study I saw was old and I do not have it with me. However when the maximum speed limit in the US was increased from 55 to 65, fatal collisions increased 17%.}

    That’s just not true. NHTSA has shown a steady decline in crash, injury and fatality rates for decades. The Parker Report (1993?)told us that changes in speed limits (up and down) did not change driving habits. We also know that the recent increases to 75 throughout most of the West (80 in West Texas and soon Utah) did not result in the “bloodbath” predicted by Claybrook and Martinez (NHTSA) and that our key rates just kept improving.

    {I can not quantify the specific results of enforcement in my city, however I think we can agree that the anarchy that would result from no enforcement would result in more crashes, injuries, and deaths. Therefore reasonable traffic and speed enforcement is necessary.}

    I believe that the anarchy argument is overused because the fundamental premise of sound traffic engineering practice is that drivers act in their own self-interest and do not do ordinarily do things that would result in injury. There is little doubt that we could do away with rural and Interstate limits without harm and likely with an improvement in flow. Since we have never really tried “reasonable traffic and speed enforcement,” it is difficult to assess our need for it. Speed enforcement is currently aimed at in excess of an arbitrary limit (and the $100 billion a year it generates) and virtually ignores truly dangerous behavior.

    {The tool I prefer to use is a Kustom Signals Pro Laser III. It is accurate and target specific. I aslo use a mounted Kustom Signals Golden Eagle radar unit for times when my bike is moving.}

    Just think how cool it would be it if we had a remote, instantaneous device to quantify fatigue, sleep deprivation, stupidity and suicidal intent . . .

  21. Mark says:

    Question for Dave Krause, traffic Cop CA (or anyone else for that matter)- you state that jammers are illegal – I've heard that Radar Jammers are illegal, and hence NOT sold as the use of Radar is governed by the FCC and is therefore, as you state, truly illegal and to my knowledge you cant buy a RADAR jammer. But, I've also heard that Laser jammers are NOT illegal as they are NOT governed by FCC or other gov't entity, hence they are sold on the market today.
    Anyone care to comment?

  22. Joe says:

    It's amazing James, you just have to keep re-educating them. I figured that would be Dave's answer. He's been institutionalized like all the rest. I agree however that he would not make a good Okie cop. Not revenue minded enough. Enforcement vs accident rates…. most recent example I like; “Virginia Traffic Fatalities Hit 17-Year High. One thousand motorists died on Virginia roads despite crack downs on motorists and massive speeding ticket fines.” http://www.thenewspaper.com/news/21/2148.asp

  23. Dave says:

    This section is directly out of the California Vehicle Code. Of course other states may have different laws.

    Jamming: Electronic Speed-Measuring Devices
    28150. (a) No vehicle shall be equipped with any device that is designed for, or is capable of, jamming, scrambling, neutralizing, disabling, or otherwise interfering with radar, laser, or any other electronic device used by a law enforcement agency to measure the speed of moving objects.

    (b) No person shall use, buy, possess, manufacture, sell, or otherwise distribute any device that is designed for jamming, scrambling, neutralizing, disabling, or otherwise interfering with radar, laser, or any other electronic device used by a law enforcement agency to measure the speed of moving objects.

    (c) Except as provided in subdivision (d), a violation of subdivision (a) or (b) is an infraction.

    (d) When a person possesses four or more devices in violation of subdivision (b), the person is guilty of a misdemeanor.

    (e) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a person who has a valid federal license for operating the devices described in this section may transport one or more of those devices if the license is carried in the vehicle transporting the device at all times when the device is being transported.

    Added Sec. 1, Ch. 493, Stats. 1998. Effective January 1, 1999.

  24. James Young says:


    it may be on the books in CA but that doesn't make it legal. It may be the case that CA does not have the authority to regulate light waves. It will certainly make for an interesting test case.

    Along those same lines with another well-known case that went to SCOTUS, the State of Texas implemented a law that required pregnant females to carry their pregnancies to term. On who wanted to terminate her pregnancy sued and the court decided that the plaintiff — Jane Roe as in Roe v. Wade — was correct because the State of Texas did not have that authority under the Constitution.

  25. Joe says:

    Mark, I'm almost surprised you ask that question. Anything that might help you defend yourself against this technology is going to be illegal be it radar, laser, or any other part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
    States will certainly try to intimidate anyone from such use. It sounds like the CA penalties for jammers are light though. As a side note, Oklahoma has a law as I'm sure many states do that disallows the use of a laser for just about anything other then low power pointers. Even with low power pointers you must be careful where you point it to keep from breaking the law. I don't think you can even point it at a building. If your experimenting with a visible laser outside you better check the law. You may find some cop breaking down you door and arresting you for illegal use of a laser. Governments use the technology to enforce laws that the citizens don't approve of but that's seems to be alright.
    All of this is part of a bigger picture. Citizen involvement. Again, most citizens have set on the sidelines and let this sort of stuff become law and as a result just about anything is illegal now. Citizens better wake up before we're all forced by our nanny government to run around in a straight jacket. I'm not an alarmist, I'm just a realist.
    James and I are old enough to remember when a lot of these laws and regulations would have been laughable …..well not anymore. Problem is the younger generations have never experienced the freedoms that James and I have so the younger generations believe this is the way it's always been thereby becoming becoming part of the pacification process of the populace.
    It may help to explain why many of us who are becoming part of the older generation are more outspoken about traffic control issues then the younger crowd. I know a 80 year old that lives near Stringtown OK that is one of the strongest advocates against speed traps, that I know. Why? We remember the times when cops were not revenuers. Cops were respected because they earned that respect. But that's a subject for another blogg. I'll add this discloser; Some of my observations might not apply to all cops across the country but it damn sure does Oklahoma law enforcement. It's ashamed they make a mockery out of traffic control.

  26. AJ says:


    I have a question. What would make someone want to become a traffic cop? If you want to help people, become a firefighter or emt. If you wanna use a gun, join the military. So that leaves…”I want to issue speeding tickets and sit with my flashers on at construction sites.” Wow what a valuable asset to our communities.



    "Wow what a valuable asset to our communities."




  27. James Young says:

    AJ writes [yelling removed]:

    {As a police officer I will remember your disdain towards the police officers who are trying to save lives the next time your house is being burglarized or you are being held at gunpoint.}

    AJ, let’s keep things in perspective here. Burglary and threats to lives (presumably the occupants of the edifice being burglarized) are two different species of animals. Even when you show up to a burglary it is usually too late so I’m not sure that you want to use that comparison. Finally, how many people are held at gunpoint except in the movies?

    { . . .We dont like having to be exposed to some of the worst things in life that no one should have to endure……………but……..we do these things because we care about our fellow man. }

    We could debate about the motivation of people who become LEOs all day and never gain any useful knowledge. To me personally, the very thought of controlling people’s lives through the use of force and authority is reprehensible. I’m sure many LEOs began their careers with the best of intentions but times have changed.

    Virtually the only contact an ordinary citizen will have with a LEO is a traffic stop and chances are 2 out of 3 that it will be for performing a reasonable and benign albeit technically illegal act.

    {I will write a ‘good’ citizen a speeding ticket in a heartbeat because it will slow them down, and just maybe prevent a fatality accident. When I write a speeding ticket to someone driving near you on the same road, I am preserving your right to live.}

    The facts do not support you. Citations do not affect driving behavior, especially speeding citations. When you write somebody a speeding citation you merely extract money from them for no legitimate public policy reason.

    { I sincerely hope that you change your mind about police officers. You dont have to like us, but you should show some common respect for the fact that we are doing our jobs.}

    Respect must be earned and LE lost all reason to respect it in 1974 when they prostituted themselves to the dollars gained from NMSL. That disrespect has grown from the traffic cop to all cops and LE as an institution has done nothing to counter it.

  28. Carl says:

    Lidar is just another tool that can be used to measure speed. It's accuracy and effectiveness still depends highly on the user.

    As for AJ, what you are doing is all voluntary. Change careers if you do not want it. I appreciate the effort done to keep the community safe but do not let the privileges given by the badge get in to your head. As you had just demonstrated, it seems that you are misusing your authority by yelling in this forum. I definitely do not want you to be the one responding to an emergency as it appears that you no longer have a good control of yourself. Who knows, you might be trigger happy too.

    I second James, respect is something you have to earn. By the look of things, AJ, you had lost it.

  29. Ken says:

    Sounds to me all you people out there just want the police to go away and let you drive as fast as you want to on the roads. Well let's look at that: increased traffic crashes, increased traffic deaths, increased insurance premiums, loss of time at work,….. "I was looking down when I hit the car", "I was talking on my cell phone when I ran the red light", "I was eating my burger when I ran the stop sign and got sideswiped"….endless excuses, just because you want the "freedom" to drive as fast as you desire because you were too lazy to get up in time.

    let's just do away with the police all together. Then, when your house gets broken into at 3am, who are you going to call…the fire department? Yeah, give me that, "I'd take care of the burglar myself" line. How would you take care of him after he shot you dead?

    You people need to wake up to reality and get a life. 99% of cops do the job for serving their community; it's certainly not for the money…most underpaid profession there is! So you got a ticket for speeding; boo hoo. Go cry on somebody else's shoulder. Maybe that ticket will make you think the next time you get behind the wheel and slow down; maybe that cop just saved you from a serious traffic crash in the future.

    Would you like some cheese with your whine?

  30. James Young says:

    Ken writes:

    { Sounds to me all you people out there just want the police to go away and let you drive as fast as you want to on the roads. Well let’s look at that: increased traffic crashes, increased traffic deaths, increased insurance premiums, loss of time at work,….. “I was looking down when I hit the car”, “I was talking on my cell phone when I ran the red light”, “I was eating my burger when I ran the stop sign and got sideswiped”….endless excuses, just because you want the “freedom” to drive as fast as you desire because you were too lazy to get up in time.}

    Ken, you’re confused. You are confusing or conflating higher speed limits with increased crashes and fatalities. The facts do not support your assertion. You also conflate fast driving, which is benign, with inattention, which is deadly.

    {You people need to wake up to reality and get a life. 99% of cops do the job for serving their community; it’s certainly not for the money…most underpaid profession there is!}

    I strongly disagree. Cops are not our friends, a situation that they brought on themselves. As to the motivation to become a cop, no doubt some, perhaps many, did so out of a sense of public service. Just as many no doubt did so for the rewards of controlling others through force. Cops are paid relatively well (LAPD recruits are paid $51,114 annual) and I support paying them professional wages . . .in exchange for professional behavior as directed by public review commissions.

    Teachers are far and away the lowest paid profession, especially in light of their educational requirements.

    { So you got a ticket for speeding; boo hoo. Go cry on somebody else’s shoulder. Maybe that ticket will make you think the next time you get behind the wheel and slow down; maybe that cop just saved you from a serious traffic crash in the future. }

    Perhaps, but it’s far more likely all he did was collect some money and create animosity toward real LE.

  31. Joe says:

    The question has been raised as to who would want to become a cop. James has suggested that it may not be useful to explore this subject but it has intrigued me for a long time. Like James, I also believe that these people may have started out with good intentions but it doesn't take long for them to get corrupted by what has become the current us vs them police culture. There's no doubt that there's a psychology at work. There's a profile that can be drawn. I'm sure there's a book here if someone wanted to pursue it. There's probably already some out there.

    I was particularly interested in comments by David Krause in one of his comments when he stated; {I was a patrol officer for several years. I became a bit disenchanted with murderers, dope dealers, and thieves being allowed to to continue to victimize the residents of my community in spite of being convicted.}

    What can we infer from this statement using his logic? That all police officers should become traffic cops because they've given up on taking care of the criminal element? Damn I hope this mentality doesn't spread. If I had ever wanted to become a law enforcement officer that exactly where I would have wanted to become involved….helping people and fighting crime. If there's nobility in law enforcement it's the guys who do the good fight with the criminals, not the guys at the end of a radar gun. If anything, the crime fighters are the hero's.

    As James pointed out, most of the time cops arrive to late to impact a crime situation. Just look at the current hunt for the killers of two college girls, at least one killed and dumped on a public road. Where were they? The traffic cops?

    {I switched my enforcement efforts to traffic where I could truly make a difference.}

    That's a highly debatable issue. Even Dave himself admits he's doesn't have any firm grip on the data of the issue of enforcement vs accident rates. Few good studies have been done to ferret out this data. As James has so stated, enforcement data is almost impossible to obtain as it's treated almost like a state secret. That alone should give us reason for suspecting something doesn't pass the smell test.

    Where's the transparency? Conversely, isn't it interesting that we can find all kinds of data that's been massaged in every conceivable method on vehicle accidents? Why the disparity? I think that alone leads to some juicy speculation. Wouldn't you think that logically we would also want that information to compare enforcement vs accident rates? I believe we all know the answer as to why we don't see this information readily available. It's one of the laws I plan on proposing to my state representative…before he laughs under his breath. He's a former municipal judge so you know how well this will be received by him. But I don't give a damn it's not his job to judge it's his job to act. Why not require annual reports from all traffic court activities in a state, for starters…..categorized by jurisdiction and enforcement reason. E.g. We need transparency in traffic enforcement. Who knows, it might even give some creditability to some kinds of enforcement actions.

    Further, as has been exhaustively demonstrated over and over by all kinds of studies, observations, and statistics including the sponsors of this web site, setting on the end of a speed measuring device does nothing to effect truly bad (accident prone) drivers. Regardless where the revenue ends up. It does however lighten a billfold or purse of many good drivers, driving perfectly safe speeds, albeit technically illegal. And it doesn't do anything good for law enforcements' image but then again, they don't care. Hmmm, I can't image why. In my observations it has in effect actually worsened the problem of bad drivers by diverting attention away from all those drivers, the majority of whom stay below the speed limit but exhibit truly dangerous facets of driving behavior. Further, the fascination with speed enforcement has had the negative effect of sending the WRONG MESSAGE. It says to drivers that if they stay under the speed limit anything else is game. Maybe David Krause is one of the rare forms that use his speed measuring device conservatively and gives liberal tolerance to drivers beyond the speed limit. We badly need a serious dose of common sense (what ever that is) in speed enforcement. Isn't that legal lingo for “reasonable man standard”? That term has probably been changed to “reasonable person standard” to comply with the current political correctness mentality.

    I don't believe anybody is suggesting we don't need traffic enforcement but the way it's done, at least in my driving environment, is absolutely wrong headed and the whole system is in bad need of reform. Problem is too many drivers are willing to turn their heads the other way instead of getting fired up (I wanted to use another term) and writing, communicating, and agitating the politicians who make the rules and can change them…what ever it takes to get some change. Isn't “change” the current pop phase in the current presidential race. We could sure use some of that in favor of the driving public.

    Contrarily, cops won't change and have demonstrated a zillion times over they don't give a damn what you or I think of their activities. We see plenty of examples right here in these blogs. Generally their mindset is “no compromise” or “my way or the highway”. Your ether breaking the law or your not. There's no room for reason. The law is digital and humans are analog. We're not compatible with strict interpretation of laws. It's not in our nature. We reason, the law doesn't. In electronic terms; law enforcement is acts as the analog to digital converters. We need more digital to analog converter cops.

    Some cops will tell you that they MAY cut drivers some slack, but there's no guarantee of that. Even if you present the utmost respect, their mood at the moment may have a lot to do wheter you get a citation or not. Warnings used to be common, now they are rare.

    Few like the sticky business of politics. At this time here's a little civics lesson. Isn't it scary to think that politicians actually make and change laws? So change has to come from within the political environment (that's what the sponsor of this site, the NMA is about) and everybody who values their right to drive reasonable speeds and be treated with respect needs to get off their butts and start hollering. It just can't be overstated; It's fun to blog and debate but turn that word processor and email towards your state legislators. Phone calls are even better. A personal visit is the best. As drivers, we've got to get a lot more assertive.

    It's becoming a common theme by some academics and people in political circles who study and write about politics that we the people, the citizens, are the missing element in this democracy and it's worsening. Things such as traffic control has gotten out of control because of our absence. There's a lot of talk about lobbyists and theres a valid reason for that. The lobbyist's have taken our place. It's time to reaffirm our presence at the legislative table. The sooner we learn this message, the quicker we will send a message to the Dave's and the AJ's of the country. They won't tell you this but rest assured law enforcement and their bosses the municipalities don't want us to participate so they have the full run of the playing field. It's been a highly productive field for them so far. Wouldn't you like to spoil their little party? So lets quit acting like a damn bunch of sheep.

    For about half the price of a tank of gas you can join the NMA and pay your annual dues. I know, hell it's like pulling teeth to get drivers to do anything. All your favorite people hiding behind those radar or lidar guns are dues paying members of some law enforcement organization that lobbies for them, most likely against us the driving public. Isn't it about time we took a tip from them and joined our own organization that helps equalize the playing field? Yes, I've heard all the pessimists that say it doesn't do any good. It's easy to get discouraged considering where we stand. But setting around doing nothing, if you think it's bad now….. wait, look over the horizon. With the advent of new technologies combined with new laws (conceived and pushed by lobbyists) and activist courts, it's gonna get a lot worse.

  32. Brent says:

    I totally respect our police officers, but I wish they would spend more time making sure that big trucks(18-wheelers)are traveling in the proper lanes for long hauls and not impeding traffic by traveling in passing lanes for long periods of time, causing traffic to pill up behind them. Also making sure that big truck drivers or not impeding traffic to benefit themselves, again causing large amounts of traffic to gather behind them. I find that 18-wheeler drivers will communicate with each other, via CB's, to dictate the flow of traffic. I most often find this at construction zones where the road is reduced to one lane and two 18-wheeler drivers will block two lanes of traffic to prevent traffic flow to the construction zone. I don't see where they are helping the situation. All I see is a lot of really angry drivers and to me that is worse than anyone driving over the speed limit.

    You won't to lower death rates on the highways? Crack down on big truck divers and their methods of driving.

  33. Ken says:

    Some cops are well paid I will give you that. However, the majority of cops work in small towns and ARE just as underpaid as teachers. Do you have any friends that are cops? I do. They are people just like you and I. They have a job to do. They put their pants on the same way as you do. How much would you want to be paid an hour for wearing a bullet resistant vest and carry a heavy duty belt with a gun; stand on the side of a highway at 2am exposed to people who are either speeding by you or not paying attention and the great potential to get hit/hurt/injured/killed?

    If you want to change the speed limits and the "technically" illegal speeding issues, talk to your legislators, don't blame the cops. They just enforce the law, they don't write it.

    Question: If something is "technically" illegal, at what point does it go from illegal to legal? Does technically illegal mean it doesn't count? "You caused the accident sir, by running the stop sign, but that's only technically illegal so I'm going to let you go; by the way, the person who hit you is going to the hospital; but they should have been looking for you to run the stop sign anyway."

    That kind of mentality is dangerous. If it's "technically" illegal, you know what…it's ILLEGAL. News flash for you I know!

  34. James Young says:

    Ken writes:

    {They are people just like you and I. They have a job to do. }

    No, they’re not like you and me. They have been given massive authority to affect others’ lives — even to the point of using deadly force — but have abrogated the responsibility attendant to that authority. As I have written many times, LE has gotten itself into this mess and now they want to blame the public.

    {If you want to change the speed limits and the “technically” illegal speeding issues, talk to your legislators, don’t blame the cops. They just enforce the law, they don’t write it.}

    I have talked to legislators in 4 different states (and written to more in other states). I have also been refused an audience by legislators in OK and CA because I had not contributed to their campaigns. The insurance industry, anti-motorist lobby groups, law enforcement agencies and unions, and municipal leagues have regular, invited access to these legislators because they offer financial and/or political support. So, it’s not quite true that LE doesn’t write the law.

    Even given the tilted playing field, we in the NMA got the hated and dangerous NMSL rescinded and limits have risen to as high as 80 mph. The anti-destination league types predicted a “bloodbath” were this to happen but it didn’t happen. We were right and they were wrong, yet they keep trying to revert to a bad system, albeit one in which they benefit to the tune of billions of dollars.

    {Question: If something is “technically” illegal, at what point does it go from illegal to legal? Does technically illegal mean it doesn’t count? “You caused the accident sir, by running the stop sign, but that’s only technically illegal so I’m going to let you go; by the way, the person who hit you is going to the hospital; but they should have been looking for you to run the stop sign anyway.”}

    Wrong question. If it is true that speed limits affect traffic safety, then should we not set those limits at the point where crashes minimize? That is exactly how engineers determine what limits should be: the 85th percentile speed (95th on Interstate-grade roadways). And that is exactly what those legislators (who won’t listen to the public) ignore when they set limits based on what is politically safe for them. Should limits not be set at the point – more realistically a range – where anything faster would elevate the crash rate? What we have, however, is technical limits that prohibit perfectly reasonable behavior and that generate nearly $100 billion a year in fines.

    I also find your conflating an arbitrarily low limit (which has no effect on improving traffic flow) with a violation of a fundamental organizing rule more than a little disingenuous.

  35. jj says:

    I was stopped for going 45 in a construction zone (dry pavement, no other traffic, clear skies, evening – no construction activity). The normal limit is 45. The construction limit was 35 with triple fines, and triple points for speeding. The cop was very self-rightous and huffy. He calmed down when he saw I was giving him no back-talk, and in fact, kept my responses to an absolute minimum, with no admission of guilt.

    I contested and the prosecutor, upon seeing I had a spotless record, was willing to lower the offense to a parking ticket, but would leave the fine up to the judge. The judge kept the triple fine and lowered the offense to a zero point parking ticket. I figured this was the best I could do.

    I am stopped very very very infrequently for very minor things. Usually, they see I have a spotless record, and let me off with a verbal warning.

    I have a friend who has applied to be a cop. He says "They have bitchin uniforms and get to carry a gun!". I have heard other people say they have heard the same expression from cops, and cop wannabes.

    So, while I slow down in construction zones, it is primarily to avoid some cop from using the zone to forcibly coerce money out of me to fatten the collective (think Borg) coffers. Also, my experiences related above indicate there are cops who make the digital-to-analog conversion rather well. There are also cops who do not.

    Finally, data connecting speeding tickets to traffic safety should be a) gathered, and b) released to the public. Evidently, such data is gathered, but not released for bogus reasons. That it is not released is damning evidence that a) there is indeed an us-vs-them mentality in traffic LE, and b) perhaps the data is not favorable to continued use of speed traps, and cops running out in front of you holding up a clipboard with a stop sign on the back, except as a money-generation technique.

    It is up to the people to demand their government comply with releasing public data for public inspection and judgement concening effect on traffic safety. I suspect most members of the driving public would agree, if asked. Do any cops reading this board disagree?

  36. Joe says:

    Ken, “technically” illegal is just that. You performed a illegal act by breaking the law but you were otherwise a safe driver. I believe most people could digest the term just fine. When I hear some co-worker get a traffic ticket I try to ascertain the circumstances that it occurred. If I sense it was one of the revenue tickets then I usually tell them “even though you were a driving safely technically you were breaking the law, that's all the ticket is about.” I guess you could say the term sanitizes a dirty act.
    James certainly knows what he's talking about. It's easy for you guys to say “if you don't like the law get it changed”. Making a statement like that, it's pretty obvious you don't have a clue. I too have been involved, not as much perhaps as James, but I certainly understand some of the complexitys behind the politics that can affect this problem. As James eluded to, there's a line of lobbyist waiting to pounce on any bill they don't like. They deal with these congressmen all the time.
    Take'em out to lunch, contribute significant sums to their campaigns. Do you really think an average citizen has a chance in Hell of changing anything under those circumstances. Were you born yesterday? But just because it's a law doesn't make it right. So under the current circumstances, it's easy for cops and their sympathizers to say “change the law”. Rest assured when you look into why speed limits are set they way they are, enforced the way they are, and the politics behind it all, it all boils down to money and has very little to do with safety. Put quite simply, the system is broke.
    You can start a blog on just about anything on this web site. There's one on the value of old cars. But even on those blogs speed always pops up. No matter what subject you pick or where you go on this web site, speed enforcement is always part of the discussion. Why do you think all these people think there's a problem…..because there IS. Many of us see it every day. We get tired of seeing a senseless law enforced while leaving the laws that could REALLY affect safety, alone. That's why I talk about it at length. I'm constantly reminded of the problem on my 50 mile trek back and forth to work. I'm sick of the situation. My friend, as John McCain would say, you can set there and slice it or dice it anyway you want. You can massage it any way. You can justify your actions anyway you want, you can try to sanitize it; it doesn't' make it right. It may not be true all over the country but at least in my driving environment the system is clearly broke.

  37. Dave says:

    JJ wrote: It is up to the people to demand their government comply with releasing public data for public inspection and judgement concening effect on traffic safety. I suspect most members of the driving public would agree, if asked. Do any cops reading this board disagree?

    I agree that as much LE activity as possible should be made public. If I need to hide my work for any reasons other than safety of compromising an investigation, I would expect the distrust of the public. Therfore LEOs need to have transparency.

    I joined this blog not to defend any particular practice of LE, but to provide a cop's perspective. One thing I've noticed is that cops tend to be painted with a very broad brush. We actually are all individuals that are admittedly affected by the culture of the orginizations for which we work. I do not look for people to pity me because I'm possibly under paid, or people act hostile toward me, or I might die at work. I chose to do this work and chose all that comes with it. I am not bitter or jaded because of my job. Every day I go to work and do my best to be fair, reasonable, and just as I exercise my duties. I'm not a badge heavy jerk, but I know many cops who are. As long as humans are part of the LE community, there will be errors. We need to strive to improve the way we relate with people.

    As for the wannabe cop story, all I can say is that for every 100 applicants at my department, only 1 is hired. And about 1/3 of those are unable to complete field training.

    This is not the case everywhere, and a higher percentage of unsuitable individuals are hired in other areas.

    I believe LE should be supported, but I also understand the need for courtesy, professionalism, and compassion when we carry out our duties.

  38. Joe says:

    Well the number thrown up here sounds like a large number until taken within the context of the billions of miles driven by the millions of drivers of every driving skill level, across the entire country annually. Then the numbers begin to look pretty subtle. Throwing these big numbers up there without providing the context is always a trick used by those who want to gain from more enforcement.

    We seemed to have reached a plateau in which these numbers are not changing much in recent years despite more laws and enforcement. This fact has not gone unnoticed by groups wanting more enforcement and the resulting revenue. Here's a snippet from a recent article by the AP.

    “In announcing the fifth-annual report by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Judith Stone, the group's president, expressed "professional frustration" over how little has changed in recent years as the nation's road-death statistics remain unchanged or rise. "Where's the outrage?" Stone asked. "Enough is enough."

    I have a theory about that. I believe we've reached the point of what might be called diminishing returns. A point that no matter what we do we are only going to see small incremental changes.
    Under the current circumstances I don't see anything significant happening that will change those numbers. I probably can't explain it but I guess I would call it the human factor, maybe something like a constant. I haven't studied risk assessment but I surmise that there's a point at which a given number of drivers will always error a certain percentage of the time. Out of this percentage there will be a certain number of fatalities. You can shake it, bake it, massage it all you want but it's not going to change significantly.
    This is good news for groups such as the aforementioned that want heaver enforcement and more laws to generate more money. They realize that this means there will always be a constant supply of revenue. It goes without saying that higher enforcement and more laws will kick up the revenue but have little discernible effect on the accident/fatality rate. You could hand a speeding ticket out to every other driver in the country and it won't make a difference. But, keep your eye on the money.

  39. Joe says:

    The last post actually belongs to anouther blog "More Silly Numbers From AAA" but it won't hurt to read it anyhow. My mistake.

  40. Quin says:

    For all of you who dislike LEOs what would you do without them? Who would you call to assist you in handling your problems. This country was built on a set of rules. Why is it necessary to bash the men and women who uphold the laws that your elected leaders have placed on the "books".
    Yes, when officers are called to a scene, most of the time they arrive after the crime has been committed. However, that is why they also have investigators. Also for those of you who hate traffic officers, how often do you swear at the guy that just cut you off on the hwy, endangered your children as they played in your neighborhood or just finished off the 12 pack and is now doing 100 mph through your so-called speed traps.
    I guess this is where you take care of the situations on your own. No, you will do just as everyone else does and call your local police agency. Whether it's a traffic officer or patrol officer, I am sure you will be more than happy to see them.
    As most of you have said LEOs have a job to do and it sounds to me that if they do it well, then its something illegal (speed traps)or they are trying to pad the pockets of the of the municipality, county or state government for which they are employed. I am sure that most of you know that once you receive your drivers license, you agree to follow the laws that govern your state or any state you drive in. If those laws are obeyed, I don't think you would have a problem with any LEOs despite their enforcement practices. Driving is a privelage!

  41. Joe says:

    There's a ton of text and detailed posts here that should answer your question. If you can't glen your answer from those then I don't believe any further explanation is going to help you. As far as {Driving is a privelage!} is concerned, Mr. James Young as eloquently answered that question several times on these blogs. Look'em up. Sounds like you already have your mind up and you just want to make a statement or your trolling so move on.

  42. AC says:

    I know this may be off top. But I think most cops should be required to have a degree in psychology or sociology. The job needs more training than I think is currently required.
    There is a crisis where LE view themselves as monitors watching a room full of kids running around with scissors in their hands, instead for facilitator or their fellow man’s good will.
    The powers that be also have pitted LE and society against one another. I’m sure LEO want to make a different but there are too many laws that are based on “opinions” and not “fact”.
    I see when this is pointed out LEO go on the defense and say what if there was no one there to protect you or your loved ones. No one wants to get rid of LE, but personally I don’t want unless your helping me.(And pulling me over hunting for violations is not helping me). Turning law-abiding citizens in to “criminals” over minor-traffic infractions is not helping.
    I lost my stepson this fall to an idiot driving 85 down a 35mph street who hit him as he was getting off the bus. I you’d like to fix something. It would seem like common sense in this “age of information” for a person who has a suspended license in one state to not be able to get a license in another. Currently most state do not communicate this information. But he was issued a license. Not saying that would have stopped him from getting behind the wheel. But one could only hope.
    Personally I don’t care what the speed limit is. It’s would be hard to make sure every car on the interstate was capable of operating safely at higher speeds. But the gov’t could generate extra revenue by having an annual inspection! LOL

  43. Ken says:

    The problem with requiring cops to have a degree in some social science is this: Cops are not meant to be sociologists or social workers….there is another agency for that…social services! Cops are Law Enforcers….plain and simple. If you want someone to coddle you because your momma didn't treat you right as a child and that's why you beat up your wife, talk to a social worker…the cop is there to arrest your ass.

    Many very bad people have been caught on "simple" traffic stops..for instance, the guy who blew up the Oklahoma City Federal Building was stopped for a simple license plate violation. nuff said?

    Your suspended license comment, while heart rending and tragic, is not in the power of cops…but yet again…legislators.

    Perhaps a cop might have been able to be there and catch that guy before he sped through the area….but wait…you don't want them there in the first place….and oh wait…they were probably dealing with somebody's barking dog complaint because that person was too lazy to talk to their neighbor and ask to have the dog shut up. Some states do have inspections…however, like anything else the government requires, less than stellar citizens of our country have come up with ways to get around those inspections by going to shady people who run shady businesses and just hand out inspection stickers for X amount of dollars.

    The bottom line is people don't want cops to do their jobs unless it's happening to somebody else or they actually need a cop. Right? I thought so. AND….if you require all cops to have degrees, are you going to foot the bill for higher wages?

  44. Joe says:

    {Cops are Law Enforcers….plain and simple. If you want someone to coddle you because your momma didn’t treat you right as a child and that’s why you beat up your wife, talk to a social worker…the cop is there to arrest your ass.}

    Wow, take out the brain, install the computer. Hitlers dream. No feelings, nothing that makes you uniquely human. I'm right, your wrong. My way or the highway, case closed. Black and white. Digital vs analog. Certainly no understanding of human nature here.
    I know you guys in law enforcement have a lot of enforcement latitude. If this is such a robotic business as you seem to suggest, there's no need for latitude. The many driving laws I see broken out on the public streets everyday makes things start looking like a lawless society. Arrest'em all!!

    And AJ how true {too many laws that are based on “opinions” and not “fact”}. Laws are a human creation and thus subject to human interpretation. If laws were so “black and white” as Ken seems to be leaning towards, we wouldn't need judges in the justice system.

    I've watched politics long enough to observe that a phrase occasionally is uttered in the hallowed halls of the legislature “enforcement in the spirit of the law”. E.g. {Conversely, when one obeys the spirit of the law but not the letter, he is doing what the authors of the law intended, though not adhering to the literal wording.} (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia) Neither does this seem to suggest that law enforcement is “plain and simple”. Even Gods laws (physics) seems to suggest a linearity instead of hard, fast, digital rules. Computers that are designed to effectively operate with humans operate with something called “fuzzy logic”.
    If your working with rocks you wouldn't need psychology or sociology in law enforcement. Law Enforcement is one of the most human jobs I can think of. To think that you can enforce laws in a robotic manner, as Ken seems to be suggesting is counterintuitive.

    And Timothy McVeigh was caught driving down I-40 away from OKC after the bombing by a trooper who noticed a vehicle with NO license plate. E.g. McVeigh might as well been running around with a big sign on his car saying “CATCH ME, I DID IT!”

  45. Ken says:

    I will say it again for those of you who didn't understand…if you need counseling, see a counselor not a cop. The cop isn't there to rationalize what you did or didn't do. Yes, common sense comes into play, but I ask you, should a cop stand around, or sit around, rationalizing why a person hits his wife and try to "work it out" or do his job by arresting said wife beater? Apparently Joe thinks the cop should just sit around and become a social worker…lots of cops have gotten injured or killed by being too much of a social worker and not enough of a law enforcer. Check out the ODMP.org website and browse through the officers who have been killed and how they have been killed. Think about that the next time you don't like the way a cop treated you. They may not know you…they are doing their job and want to go home at the end of their shift…alive, to their own loved ones. Cops have been killed by so-called "friends" who just committed a crime; but the officer let his guard down because he or she knew the person.

    "No license plate" violations happen all the time…that in of itself is not a sign that the driver blew up a federal building. Once again, those with no insight or forethought rationalize and minimize the work of law enforcement officers.

    And for your information, I only write about 35 to 40 percent of the people I stop…if that high a percentage…i.e…the spirit of the law is what I use. When a state law says an Officer "WILL" arrest, then by God we do…or we can lose OUR jobs. We have a lot of latitude and I personally use that.

    I know when I write tickets I am giving them to people with children just like me…but maybe, just maybe, by me reminding said citizen to obey the traffic laws or whatever they may be, I might be able to affect that person's life in such a way as to save it in the future. Once you've had a person come to you and thank you for saving their life in this way, keeping them from speeding in the future and getting run over by a train, you realize you can do some good. If one life is saved, it's worth it….isn't it? Perhaps that one life will end up being yours…or somebody you love.

    Bottom line: As I have said before, Cops are people too. They have families and little league practice and PTO/PTA meetings, etc, etc…like everyone else. If they were firemen you'd love them, but they aren't…they are the law enforcers…and people don't like getting caught…simple as that.

  46. Joe says:

    Geesh, you read a lot into my previous post.

    {if you need counseling, see a counselor not a cop.}
    Don't think I said that, certainly didn't mean it that way. It's pretty obvious to even the densest of us that a cop is not a councilor. Maybe I can spell it this way. If I work as a chemist, I need a educational background in chemistry. If I work in aviation, I need a background in aeronautics. If I work in any aspect of the medical field, I need a background in medicine. If I work with humans (that's you guys), I need at least a basic understanding of psychology. Human actions are based on psychology of some kind. A good understanding of the subject should make you a better cop. That's all I'm trying to say….not that you need to be councilor or become a social worker. You must have read that into my comment… {If your working with rocks you wouldn’t need psychology or sociology in law enforcement.}? There's a fundamental difference between a career in psychology or social work and ….only having a basic understanding of the subject to help you do your job better.

    {And for your information, I only write about 35 to 40 percent of the people I stop…if that high a percentage…i.e…the spirit of the law is what I use}
    Good for you, I salute because the damn cops around here rarely ever give anybody a break. They would be respected a whole lot more if they did. Your obviously no Okie cop. Now your beginning to make sense. When you said {Cops are Law Enforcers….plain and simple} that meant to me that you used no latitude in your job, a scary scenario to me.

    {keeping them from speeding in the future}
    Out of all the possible violations you could have mentioned why did you choose speeding. There's a psychology there.
    If you talking speeding in a residential area, school zones or some municipal streets then I agree with you to some extent on enforcement. But if your talking major expressways or similar type road the dynamics change and then I disagree with you.
    Speeding has been exhaustively debated in these blogs, I'm not going to reiterate myself but I would recommend you look at some of them. Not saying it doesn't happen but….I've been driving 40 + years and I have never heard a driver thank a cop for writing them a speeding ticket. That's a new one on me.

    [“No license plate” violations happen all the time}
    Wow, I don't know where your a cop but I ordinarily drive about 50 miles a day round trip to work and I can't remember the last time I've seen a vehicle without a tag. So maybe in your case a missing tag wouldn't raise a red flag but it would around here esp. if a major crime had just been committed such as the bombing. When Tim McVeigh was driving near a crime scene without a tag it certainly would have caught the attention of anyone, not just a LEO, thereby just asking to be caught. If I would have been him, I would have been the best driver on the road and certainly not had a missing tag like he did.

    {Bottom line: As I have said before, Cops are people too.}
    I thought so. Pretty much the same failings many of the rest of us have. Nobodies perfect, even you guys. If you'll keep that in mind when your enforcing traffic laws, then you got my vote. Again, not the action I see around here. My driving environment is obviously not the same as yours and thus our experience may not be compatible. I just know what I personally observe nearly everyday or hear in the media.

  47. AC says:

    I agree with you the second point I made is more of a legislation issue.
    But being a cop should be treated as a career and not a job. It's not a brainless position. And your threat of do I want to foot the bill? I had to pay for my college degree why do I have to pay for someone else's. Because they're a public servant? I think that what this is so heated. What public do they serve when issuing BS tickets. No one complained about them picking up the bad guys(wife beaters, drug traffickers, or terrorist). I'm not even complaining about people who get caught do 20 mph above the speed limit.
    Case in point I received a ticket picking my child up from school. I parked went in, came out. 10 min at best. The sign posted said "No parking, only loading and unloading" My interpretation was that I was "loading", I was able to catch up to the cop that issued the ticket. She said because my car was unattended she wrote the ticket. Her arrogance was evident. The ticket was mine to keep, and at just the right dollar amt. where contesting it isn't worth it. I watched her afterwards and she would park around the corner and then quickly drive through and issue tickets. THAT'S GENERATING REVENUE!!! There's no safety issue!
    There was no sign stating that unattended cars would be ticketed. It's interpretation. Oh well
    Now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

  48. Ken says:


    Thank you for your last comments. I don't spend a lot of time on the highway, most of my enforcement is in town…stop signs, seat belts, speeding in school zones, the like. I try to spend time each day in positive contacts with the public as well. I have a lot of EMS assist calls too.

    Yes, we are indeed human. We ALL have our own faults and failings like anybody else, as well as having our strong points like everybody else. It just so happens our job is law enforcement….but for me, law enforcement coupled with compassion for those I come into contact with. There are actually many among us (cops) who feel as I do. Thank you for realizing we are just human beings like everyone else.

    AC, as for your statement, I'm sorry but some officers are indeed like that. I, for my part, am not, however. I like to err on the side of caution and judgment. I am human like those I see every day. If I call a person on something and they give me a lame brained excuse that sounds like a fifth grade excuse, then yes, I will write them a ticket. If they have a real genuine reason for doing something and it is indeed plausible, I will usually just warn them, increase their own knowledge of traffic or city code, and we go about our business, confident they won't do it again – and if they do…they should know and expect a ticket if they get caught.

    There are a lot of cops out here like this, but unfortunately, the "shining" examples that we ourselves use as "what NOT to do or how NOT to act" are the ones who get spotlighted.

    Case in point: The recent You Tube of an officer yelling and pushing around a teenage skateboarder. My first impression after seeing that was, "he needs to be fired." Guys like that give those of us who actually do this because we care a very bad name. All I am saying is don't put all of us in the same cart with the bad bushel of wheat. Give us credit for having brains and using common sense.

    The problems lay mostly with agencies who hire unqualified persons just because they have a college degree in this or that discipline. I've seen plenty of cops who should be saying, "would you like fries with that?"; and plenty of people in other professions just as critical that should be pushing a broom too. So, the breakdown is really an administrative situation to put it in simple terms.

    Some cities and administrators get caught up looking to "fill a spot" with a "warm body". That's where the danger comes into play. Where I work at, we strive to avoid that. It does happen, but we work to keep it from happening. Are we perfect? No. Do we try our best? Yes.


  49. Steve says:

    I just wanted to say that I have been reading these NMA blogs over the last 2 days and am really impressed with Joe and James- you guys rock! You both know your stuff and present very logical and scientific arguments. Kudos to you guys for fighting the good fight!

    I am also impressed with a couple of the LEOs on this blog- they seem to be more level headed than many cops out there.

    I live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and will add that, unfortunately, the situation here is as bad if not worse than you describe for many US cities or municipalities. Despite the fact that we are an oil-rich province with a 17 billion dollar surplus, this city has to be one of the worse in Canada for over the top traffic enforcement – mainly speed traps (in the truest sense of the word), approx 50 red light cameras set up in the city, and photo radar everywhere ( especially in areas where is is very easy to exceed the posted limit). It's truly sad, and as you mention, people just bend over and pay these ridiculous fines. I wish the cops on traffic duty would at least do something useful by setting up in playground zones or stopping distracted drivers on cell phones, but instead they always hide behind poles or bushes in areas where it is downhill, open road ahead, no danger to children or pedestrians, where the limit changes from 70km/hr to 50km/hr, ie places where they know they can maximize profit. Calgary is aleady one of the most expensive cities in Canada to live in, so I resent this extra "road tax" just for the sake of even more revenue. Greed, greed, greed…

    I myself have been driving for about 25 years, with maybe a half dozen traffic violations (all speeding tickets) in that time, and 1 speeding ticket in the past 8 years. None of those was for dangerous driving in any sense of the word- all for 10-30km/hr (6-18mph) over the posted limit in open stetches of roadway. Not bad for a guy that has been driving a shiny red sports car for the past 16 years :) I simply paid all the previous ones but have decided from this day forward I will plead not guilty to all future offences and have my day in court. At least make the city pay if I'm going to have to…

    James and Joe- do you know if there is an organization similar to the NMA in Canada?

  50. Joe says:

    Steve thanks for the comments. I live where James was raised but no longer lives. The fact that both of us are passionate about traffic control issues probably speaks to the fact that we are/were both influenced by the same policing mentality.

    I don’t know of any organization for Canada but I would recommend contacting the NMA or do some searches. I have to agree that I’ve seen some reasonable LEO’s (law enforcement officers) on these blogs. Also noted the other kind. The more reasonable ones are willing to strike up a dialog without getting defensive. The others are probably acting the same way they would at a traffic stop e.g.….my way or the highway. I’ve never seen much benefit to butting heads with LEO’s just to be butting heads. If you’ve got reasonable LEO’s we should work with them to improve traffic safety. By the same token I believe we should vehemently oppose abusive behavior and that goes for motivation such as revenue generation. One thing I must stress. The municipalities who hire the cops and can affect their behavior are just as responsible, if not more, for bad LEO behavior.

    There are a few laws that I believe should be standard on every states’ books. Anti-quota laws. Speed trap laws. Transparency by requiring detailed reporting of traffic enforcement data. There would be a number of benefits resulting from this disclosure. Speed traps laws could be automatically triggered. A related comment; Speed trap municipalities would be quickly discovered simply by comparing similar sized cites or towns to the number of citations they issued…and what they were issue for. If you start out with a good disclosure law you can build laws based on that. Information is power and that’s why you don’t see this information published. It’s obviously very revealing.

    Using my best guess’ta’mate, the question I haven’t heard any LEO satisfactory answer is why 95% of the citations issued are for speeding when speeding (might) account for as much as 5% of the total accidents. I think we all know the answer to that question. Throughout this whole debate the most fundamental question still remains …..why we allow this huge conflict of interest to persist namely allowing a enforcement entity to keep the revenue derived from it’s enforcement.

    They are laughing all the way to the bank at the driving public. Their brashness is such that they don’t even bother to deny it anymore.

    The driving public really is in a state of paralysis. I guess what has surprised me, maybe more than anything else throughout all my years studying traffic control issues is how drivers who do get screwed by the system will gripe about it but fail to respond in any meaningful way. If you feel violated after a traffic stop why not join other drivers who suffered a similar fate and start a political effort to actually affect the problem. Bloging is OK but it doesn’t solve the problem. Failure to respond in my mind amounts to getting hit in the face psychologically and turning the other cheek. Symbolically, someone who would no more put up with a slap in the face somehow allows himself or herself to be belittled, sometimes repeatedly, without any response. It amazes me.