…and sometimes they catch someone.
So I just finished reading the DH story on a 33 year-old Elgin woman, who despite (or maybe because of) being surrounded by Elgin Police officers in the course of a traffic stop, refused to exit her vehicle. And let’s just say the decision to hunker down didn’t work out too well for her on any number of levels.
First, the EPD proceeded to break one of her rear passenger windows to retrieve her. Second, it did not prevent the police from arresting her for four outstanding warrants and a revoked driver’s license, and third, a charge of obstructing a police officer was tacked on for good measure which carries up to 364 days in the slammer.
And I thought I had a bad day.
But here’s the thing. Though our intrepid motorist most certainly brought this misery on herself, the reason for the traffic stop was a malfunctioning rear license plate light.
Yes! The statute is clear on this kind of abject criminal endeavor, but the truth is, it’s the Forrest Gump of traffic stops because “you never know what you’re gonna git.” Put more simply, the police use the bad bulb theory as a pretext for reeling in a potentially bigger fish.
It certainly worked out in this case.
And that’s not nearly the only card law enforcement has up their lengthy sleeve. Remember that 2010 Illinois effort to eliminate the front license plate requirement? It would’ve saved this cash strapped state at least a million dollars a year. But HB 4888 didn’t even make it out of committee because the State Police, Illinois Sheriff’s Association, and the Illinois Associations of Chiefs of Police went nuts.
You see, along with a burned out light, a missing front plate, not uncommon on Illinois vehicles, is yet another ploy to pull someone over. And these tactics are going to hit minorities harder because they’re less likely to have the resources to keep everything in tip top shape. (And this driver was a minority.)
Please don’t get me wrong. My brother’s a cop so I know how hard the gig can be. But what police chiefs don’t seem to understand is, when you outright abuse or simply contort a law, then you’re really no better than the person you’re pulling over. The end result is people generally don’t trust the police anymore.
I suppose the question is, is it worth selling your soul to catch even one crook? And sadly, I think I already know the answer.