Friday, December 27, 2013

State laws should always be enforced - except when they shouldn't

The New York Times is having a field day with the silly people in the city of Los Angeles. You see, the Los Angeles Police Department is strictly enforcing California state law, including the portion that says that if you step into a crosswalk when the "Don't Walk" sign is flashing, you are violating state law - and can earn yourself a ticket of around $200.

Naturally, the city of Los Angeles is intent on enforcing state law, because that is what cities do. In a comment on a Facebook thread, the LAPD offered this advice to citizens who were angered about these tickets.

Our best advice for avoiding adding to our "revenue" is to not cross the street in violation of the California Vehicle Code. That way you are safe AND we have no reason to stop you.

Yes, the city is ALWAYS interested in enforcing state law...well, except when they aren't.

Under the terms of Special Order 7, if officers stopped an unlicensed driver who met several requirements — including having auto insurance, valid identification and no previous citations for unlicensed driving — officers could no longer invoke the part of the state vehicle code that allowed them to confiscate the vehicle for 30 days, a punishment that came with fines and charges often exceeding $1,200.

Special Order 7 was challenged (so far, successfully) by the police union, because the primary goal of the police union is to always make sure that state law is enforced. Always.

In reality, a police department, or any governmental organization, responds to business and political interests. If downtown businesses raised enough of a stink, strict pedestrian enforcement would go away. Look at what businesses did in Huntington Beach a few years back.

At a time when red-light cameras are proliferating across Southern California, Huntington Beach is bucking the trend.

The cameras have become a controversial part of the streetscape in recent years, taking photos of drivers who run through red lights and sending them tickets....

Some business leaders in town are ... speaking out against the traffic cameras, including some car dealers who fear the cameras might drive customers away.

This, of course, was a city law and not a state law. But the premise still holds - when strict enforcement of a law has negative consequences for a locality, the law is not enforced. If people were to say, "No, let's not go to L.A. Live. The police hassle pedestrians," the same thing will happen to pedestrian laws.

Or, perhaps, some one may find that the burden of pedestrian tickets falls heavily on the city's immigrant population. Then we'll see what Chief Beck says.

Thanks to Shaun Nicholson for alerting me to this story.
blog comments powered by Disqus