Operation Thanks for the Warning
Idaho State Journal Editorial
When a blond woman in Houston, Texas, held up a homemade sign that had “Speed Trap” printed on it to warn oncoming motorists of a concentrated law enforcement effort ahead, logic tells us she was performing a public service.
Drivers slowed down to avoid a ticket.
In essence the woman was making the streets safer. Her behavior was likely just as effective as one of those $10,000 trailers that law enforcement park along busy streets to give automatic readouts of speed to drivers — maybe more so.
Houston police didn’t see it that way.
Upset by what they perceived to be criminal interference, an officer searched Natalie Plummer’s backpack and took her into custody for “obstructing justice.” She spent 12 hours in jail before posting bond. Police are now claiming that Plummer was standing in the street instead of the sidewalk, posing a danger to herself and others.
Plummer says she never left the sidewalk.
“He (the arresting officer) couldn’t take me to jail for holding up this sign or he would have. So all he could do was make up something fake about it,” says the early warning system in cutoff jeans.
Her story has gone viral on Facebook and has been picked up by the national media.
Aside from the obvious violation of free speech, we have to wonder what the true objective of traffic enforcement might be in Houston. Is it to make streets safer or is it to enhance revenue for the city coffers?
We like to believe that tickets for moving violations like speeding, failure to yield or stop sign violations are issued as a financial lesson for motorists and a deterrent against future bad driving.
If the reason for aggressive enforcement is simply to generate additional revenue, something is wrong.
“To serve and protect” shouldn’t have a hidden agenda of “to fine and malign.”
A simple study of the history of law making — rules put in place for the good of society — always reveals the wisdom that laws should be limited and embraced by a substantial majority of the people they affect to be effective.
We all know speed limits have to exist to limit injuries and death. We know some people break the rules and enforcement is necessary.
But how does slowing traffic before drivers fall victim to a sting-operation that targets speeders fall into the realm of criminal conduct? It doesn’t.
And neither does one driver flashing his headlights at another to let them know police cruisers are just up ahead.
Yet, Arizona and Alaska have laws on the books strictly prohibiting the practice. Again, we have to ask ourselves why?
There can only be one plausible explanation: in too many instances those who are supposed to enforce the law in this country see everything as a “them or us” proposition.
Drivers or pedestrians giving each other a “heads up” somehow smacks of conspiracy.
Cops in parts of this county must be unable to grasp the reality that peer-to-peer communication and pressure are the most effective ways to shape social conduct. One need look no further than the recent fireworks ban in Pocatello.
The city leaders may have dictated a no use rule, but it was friends and neighbors who really put a lid on how many violators felt safe to break the ban. If a rocket lit up the night, neighbors would come out of their homes and yell at the violators or call the police.
Houston could learn an important lesson from what Natalie Plummer did.
Instead of booking her on some ridiculous charge, they should have enlisted her help, handed her a brightly colored sign to hold and released a few patrol cars from traffic detail to patrol neighborhoods. They could call it “Operation Thanks for the Warning.”
Of course, there’s no money in that.