Thursday, November 19, 2015

Bad tickets? Too bad, considering the reason for issuing them was the revenue

I remember an early-morning (as in about 1 a.m.) moment I had a couple of decades ago in the South Loop when I took a wrong turn down a one-way street, and got pulled over within a half-block by a Chicago police officer for driving in the wrong direction.

Too overactive?
I got ticketed, and actually showed up in court about a month later – only to get one of the biggest breaks I ever got in my life.

FOR IT SEEMS that the officers in question who pulled me over had issued a few tickets that night whose legitimacy was questionable.

What wound up happening was that the state’s attorney’s office had to dismiss the charges against every single person who got a ticket on that particular night.

Including myself. My wrong-way on a one-way street wound up being tossed. The court clerk in that courtroom handed me back my driver’s license and I didn’t have to pay any fine.

I still recall the look of disgust on the face of the assistant state’s attorney in that courtroom, knowing she was going to have to repeat the same drill for so many cases because of a cop screw-up.

I WONDER IF she’d feel just as appalled at the Chicago Tribune report on Wednesday that said the video cameras erected at Chicago intersections to catch traffic scofflaws had managed to screw up, and that some $2.4 million in fines were not valid.

I’m sure there’s somebody within municipal government who had already spent that money, and is now desperately trying to figure out how to make up the lost revenue.

It seems the problem lies with cameras that were still active, recording traffic activity and issuing citations, even after hours when they were supposed to be turned off.

For it seems some of those locations only had restricted traffic flow at certain times of the day. Or in other cases, signs warning people of parking or traffic restrictions were written or erected in such a confusing manner that it could be argued that motorists really didn’t know they were doing something improper.

I’M SURE THERE are some people out there who are dismissing this as a petty flaw. There probably are some people outraged that I got away with driving for half-a-block the wrong way on a one-way street.

But it really does come down to that legal principle that we hold our law enforcement officials to a higher standard and will not allow flawed cases to proceed.

These improperly-operating cameras can’t be allowed to take over and impose all these citations upon us – even though I’m very sure the big reason for having those cameras is to catch as many violations as possible as a municipal revenue source.

The fact that catching those offenses might make our streets more safe for the public is probably a secondary concern.

ALTHOUGH I HAVE to confess that reading the Tribune report about all those tickets being tossed out and the revenue lost amused me in the same way that watching television re-runs of “Hill Street Blues” does.

How many times did the officers of the Hill Street station in that Chicago-like city (even though the real-life Maxwell Street station’s outside was used in select scenes) do some minor gaffe that wound up resulting in their whole case being thrown out?

Usually with the voluptuous public defender Joyce Davenport delivering the lethal legal blow; leaving her boyfriend-turned-husband Captain Furillo as frustrated as anybody else!

Think of these flawed cameras as the 21st Century equivalent of a police gaffe, and we have to wonder how little some things change at all.


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