Friday, February 15, 2008

The Plunder of the Lumpencitizens Will Continue

Senate Committee kills Rep. Neil Hansen's citation quota prohibition bill for the second straight year

It’s a little far-reaching for any legislator to pass legislation that micro-manages how we implement the laws we make.

John Greiner
Utah State Senator
Ogden City Chief of Police

Standard-Examiner
February 15, 2008

The law perverted! And the police powers of the state perverted along with it! The law, I say, not only turned from its proper purpose but made to follow an entirely contrary purpose! The law become the weapon of every kind of greed! Instead of checking crime, the law itself guilty of the evils it is supposed to punish!

Frederick Bastiat
The Law
1850

To our considerable disappointment, this morning's Standard-Examiner reports that state representative Neil Hansen's HB-264, which would have prohibited Utah law enforcement agencies from requiring officers to write a set number of citations in a specific time period, was killed in the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee yesterday, by a 3-2 vote, with Ogden's own police chief and state senator (who sits on the committee) delivering the fatal coup d'gras.

The plunder of the lumpencitizens will no doubt continue. Local governments will continue to place bounties on the lumpencitizens heads -- for another year, at least.

Against our strongest impulses, we'll resist the temptation to launch another rant on this topic for now. Readers who are unfamiliar with WCF's position on this subject can however bone up on a couple of years worth of collected rants here. For now, we'll just put the topic of traffic citation quotas on the back burner, and revive it again prior to the 2009 legislative session. We have many other fish to fry.

Before closing, we offer a Weber County Forum Tip O' the Hat this morning to Rep. Neil Hansen, for his noble effort in attempting to serve his constituents with this bill, while other elected legislators served the interests of the well-oiled right wing socialist state instead. Hopefully there will be better news on this subject around the same time next year.

Comments, anyone?

16 comments:

Curmudgeon said...

In the article, Republican Mayor Matthew Godfrey rose to defend Chief Greiner:

“Traffic enforcement is about public safety and (Rep. Hansen) is being disingenuous,” said Ogden Mayor Matthew Godfrey. Godfrey said Hansen has a way of twist- ing issues, but said there is a direct correlation between the number of tickets given and the number of fatalities — a decrease in tickets equals an increase in vehicle fatalities.“There are more people killed on roads than (by) homicides,” Godfrey said.

Now that is a specific claim from the Mayor: fewer tickets = more traffic fatalities. The moment the Mayor said that, reporters DeMoss and Park should have immediately asked him this: "Mr. Mayor, what's your source for that claim? Where can we find the numbers to back up your statement?" Sadly, they seem not to have done that. And so we are left to wonder if the Mayor in fact can back that claim up, or if he's making it up as he goes along.

Whenever any officeholder makes a verifiable claim like that, they should be asked for their source, where the numbers came from. This is, I'm afraid, another example of SE reporters simply taking statements from elected officials at face value, and not asking the critical follow-up question they should have asked. And they should have printed his reply, whatever it was. Either "It's in Schmeckebier and Eastin's report to Congress on traffic fatalities, done in 2003. My office has a copy you can look at." Or: "When asked for the source of his claim, the mayor said he couldn't remember where he got that information, but he's sure he got it someplace.". Or "The Mayor refused to answer." Instead, the reporters whiffed on the pitch and the Mayor got off... again... without being asked to back up his claims.

Come on, SE. You can do better than this.

You would think by now the SE would have learned that the Godfrey administration often does not know what it is talking about. It insisted to the Council that the St. Anne's Board approved moving to 12th Street. It didn't. It got the Council to approve sale of the Shupe Williams property to a tile firm the Administration insisted wanted to buy it. It didn't. The Mayor assured the Council the bonds for the junction could be sold without having the city guarantee payment. They couldn't. And so on.

Isn't asking public persons for the source of claims they make, like the one the Mayor made in today's story, Newswriting 101? And if it isn't, shouldn't it be? The Mayor may be right about this. He may in fact have the numbers to back up his claim. Or not. Either way, the SE's readers deserved to know.

RudiZink said...

That's right, Curm. Mr. DeMoss and Ms. Parks should have asked for backup data, but didn't.

And in that same vein you'll remember an earlier WCF article, where we cited a Maryland study which actually conflicts with any assertion that traffic citations directly contribute to safer driving.

I'll add that I did some significant googling that day, trying to come up with any data at all on the subject. The Maryland study was the only one I could find. Admittedly, the fact that I couldn't find any other data on the web doesn't mean such data doesn't exist. But if there exists such data, I'd like to see it; and again, I believe that DeMoss and Parks should have at least asked the question.

Moreover, here's another niggling detail that I noticed in today's Std-Ex article:

“There are more people killed on roads than (by) homicides,” Godfrey said.

I'm wondering whether that assertion actually holds true for Ogden. To the best of my recollection we've had at least three gang-related murders in Ogden just this year. How many traffic fatalities have been logged in the same period?

So many questions... so few answers.

dan s. said...

Rudi:

For once, I think the mayor is probably right. Didn't someone post some numbers on this a while back?

As someone who gets around by bicycle and on foot, I am far more afraid of being killed by a speeding driver than by a homicidal gang member. I was very nearly killed last week, as a school bus driver, barreling around a corner, didn't bother to look for pedestrians. I had to jump into the snow bank to avoid being hit, and had I lost my footing or jumped a second later, I might not be writing this now.

I'm not arguing that a ticket quota would have made any difference in this or any other traffic accident. (Nor are there any easy ways to prevent most other causes of death, including homicides.) But I'll bet you a six pack of your favorite beverage that if you can find statistics on traffic fatalities, you'll find that over any reasonably long period of time, they outnumber homicides--even in Ogden.

Robert said...

Dan:

But I don't think the Mayor's point was that traffic fatalities outnumbered homicides. I think it was that there was an inverse correlation between ticket-writing and traffic fatalities. He may be right, but that's something I'd like to see the proof of first. I'd like to know where he got his numbers.

dan s. said...

By the way, I loved the irony in the screaming headline on the S-E front page:

Ticket quotas to endure

So much for the myth that Ogden has no ticket quotas.

tell the truth said...

This bill does not stop the officier from writing ticket and therefore that is not the argument. They can write all the tickets they want.
What this bill does no is prohibited Utah law enforcement agencies from requiring officers to write a set number of citations in a specific time period, that is all. So lets not say this will cause more fatalities.

See how they lie and twist the truth and tell every one else, that it is the other guy that is telling the truth, that he is twisting the truth.

Merle said...

I got a good real good chuckle from the article this morning, where Mayor Pinnochio accuses Hansen of "being disenguous."

Curmudgeon said...

tell:

Well, not quite. The argument is that without a set minimum number of tickets [aka "quota"] being included as part of a performance evaluation, officers will write fewer tickets than they otherwise would. And so, if less ticket-writing necessarily means more traffic fatalities [as the Mayor claims], then the ban might indeed produce more fatalities.

But I want to see his numbers. Nobody, so far as I know, either side, has offered any evidence based on experience regarding what happened in states that banned quotas. Were fewer tickets written and did fatalities rise? Until somebody produces some verifiable numbers, the arguments on these grounds constitute mostly self-serving speculation.

Still, Hizzonah made the specific claim that fewer tickets leads more traffic fatalities. And, having made that claim, it's up to him to provide verification, a source that will back up his assertions. The SE should have asked immediately. It can still ask, though belatedly now. And it should.

Bill C. said...

Greiners' argument for his position show's clearly that he has a quota and claims he's incapable of doing his job without it. I'd say it's time for him to go.

Viktor said...

Yes indeed, it is a real hoot for the lyingest little bastard to ever darken Ogden's doorway to accuse Rep Hansen of being disingenuous!

I think in psychology they call that projection, wherein you accuse your opponent of your own worst trait or crime.

Bottom line is that Neil Hansen is a man of unimpeachable character, while Godfrey and Greiner are two loathsome scum bags who lie even when the truth is better.

Elder Benson said...

Turn in your temple recommends, Oh you Mormons who voted for Godfrey in the last election.

You've voted for Satan's messenger.

Minor Machman said...

If we had quotas for KBA (killed by attack) on our OER (Officer Effectiveness Reports) we fighter pilots would have told our senior officers to go straight to hell.

So why don't these "officers" standup? Doesn't make sense to me?

If say, WSU had a publish or parish (PRP) quota in order to be promoted, would not the professors standup and tell the tenured senior Deans etc. where they could stick their PRP quotas on their promotion report cards? How about SBF (saved by firemen) quotas? Or how about PTC (Parking ticket citations) quotas? Or little ole lady (LOL) quotas for Boy Scouts for merit badges?

The whole issue is simply outrageous. And mature adult supervision, as well as those who we are trusting to serve us, surely must know it. Question is do they have the fortitude to standup and say so? Or is intimidation embedded into that whole culture of law enFORCEMENT?

I wonder. I would have voted with Rep. Hansen on this myself. The last ticket I got was for "almost not stopping for a pedestrian in a cross walk". The anti-skid cycled causing me to enter the striped walkway about two feet.

The SLC cop called for backup and his "backup" scowled at me as he "cased" my car walking around in search of anything else they could writeup. This in front of the Capitol. I felt violated, angered, and mistreated by jerks without a modicum of decency or common sense. It cost me an extra $28/year on my insurance for God only knows how many years. Police do not make friends and influence voters in this manner. Having quotas is simply self defeating behavior. Quite literally biting the hands that feed them and any fool including our Senator should be intelligent enough to understand this. But alas.....

These "uniformed clowns assigned to the Capitol" are a case in point, I believe. They surely had their quotas to fill which over-rode any vestige of common sense or rational decision making.
MM

dan s. said...

robert,

Sorry, I'm a literalist. When the mayor says there are more people killed on roads [in auto accidents] than by homicides, I assume that's exactly what he means. And I'm virtually certain that he's correct in this factual statement.

Any broader implications about ticket quotas are, as Curmudgeon points out, probably pure speculation. So I'm not going to get into that argument.

Curmudgeon said...

Dan:

You are right. I was wrong. I had blocked and quoted Godfrey, ending with his comparison of tickets to highway fatalities. In the very next paragraph, he makes, specifically, the comparison you cited. My bad.

Monotreme said...

Curm points out:

Now that is a specific claim from the Mayor: fewer tickets = more traffic fatalities. The moment the Mayor said that, reporters DeMoss and Park should have immediately asked him this: "Mr. Mayor, what's your source for that claim? Where can we find the numbers to back up your statement?" Sadly, they seem not to have done that. And so we are left to wonder if the Mayor in fact can back that claim up, or if he's making it up as he goes along.


Rudi has already provided a citation for a Maryland study that indicates that more traffic tickets does not equal fewer future speeding citations.

However, there is an extensive literature on whether issuing speeding citations will reduce the incidence of fatalities, or increased speed among all drivers (which has been previously correlated with fatalities).

Take, for example, this Google Scholar search.

(I have downloaded .pdfs of three papers cited here: Redelmeier et al., Lancet 361:2177, 2003; Davis et al, J Trauma 60:972, 2006; Povey et al., Land Transport Safety Authority New Zealand, 2003. I can share them with those who ask for them and provide me with an email addy.)

The last of these, while just a conference report and from A Furrin Country, does make an interesting point: can you achieve the same effects using camera-based speeding enforcement?

The effectiveness of citations appears to last only about 8 weeks or so (Vaa, 1997; Kaplan et al, 2000; Baker et al 1974; all cited in the Davis et al. study above). Redelmeier et al. cite a Finnish study, available online, that "implies a 2% risk reduction from manual speed enforcement, a 19% reduction from automated speed enforcement, an 11% reduction from red-light violation enforcement, and a 4% reduction from enforcement of drink-driving [sic] laws."

They also calculate $1000 in societal costs for every 13 convictions, or about $80 per conviction, which is startlingly close to the going rate for citations. They also calculate the elimination of one emergency department visit for every 1300 traffic tickets. Finally, they estimate the prevention of one death for every 80,000 convictions (Redelmeier et al, 2003).

It would be interesting to see how many traffic citations are written annually by the Ogden Police Department, but I'd be mighty surprised if they've prevented more than one-tenth of a death per year (i.e. 8000 citations per year).

Now, I've not been attending crime conferences for the last 35 years, but I would say in this matter Greiner and Godfrey are right -- to a point. I think the bulk of the literature suggests that enforcement of traffic laws enhances public safety.

However, and it's a big HOWEVER, if you really want bang for your buck you'll put up cameras. Assuming it takes 15 minutes to find a scofflaw and write up a citation, that's 20,000 man-hours of police officer time for every death prevented, or about 10 full-time officers working for one year to prevent one death. We need to decide if that's what we want. Could those 10 full-time officers be used to prevent a death from (say) deterring gang violence? I don't know. That's a decision for our chiefs to make.

Also, I would make the economic argument that the revenue generated from automated law enforcement, after taking a cut for the cost of putting up all those cameras, should go directly to hospitals and organ donor programs (for example). What sticks in my craw about ticket quotas is that they scream, "we want your cash," not, "we want to protect you." If the money were going directly to benefit the public health, then I would not be so angry about ticket quotas. (Assuming, of course, they exist, which I am told they do not.)

I do not think police officers should be tied up writing traffic tickets, and I still fail to understand the logic that Chief Greiner has used: there is no quota, but a bill banning ticket quotas interferes with our work. That's just silly.

Curmudgeon said...

Mono:
Nice digging. TY.

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