Driving Gives You Away

I was reading an article not long ago which was yelling to high heaven about the use of unmarked police patrol cars.

It said, “Policemen should not play hide-and-seek with motorists. Since the function of the traffic police includes the responsibility to regulate, warn, and guide traffic, it is improper for an officer to wait in ambush for the purpose of detecting a motor vehicle law violation. Such enforcement is neither intelligent nor effective traffic control.”

The article went on to point out that, “The proper place for a traffic officer is in plain view, in uniform, operating a well-marked police car, patrolling highways, regulating traffic, and giving aid and guidance to motorists. The presence of police on highways constitutes one of the best deterrents to excessive speed. Wide-open traffic patrolling results in a more universal observance of traffic rules of the road than does concealment in unmarked cars. The purpose of traffic regulations is to prevent the commission of a crime rather than to punish the offender after its commission.”

Well, I feel the article has a good point. But I don’t agree that unmarked cars should be done away with.

Why should a motorist worry about unmarked cars, which can patrol highways and give aid and guidance to motorists, unless he’s breaking the law?

Since it is the purpose of law enforcement to prevent crime as well as to detect it, I believe that most police cars should be marked. However, in this way, the chronic offender, the accident-prone, the marginal mental case, the weirdo, the cowboy speed demon who keeps one eye on the rearview mirror and thinks it’s a great sport to endanger everybody else on the highway when a police car isn’t around, would go, in far too many cases, undetected and unpunished.

I believe that a certain percentage of police cars should always be unmarked — and everyone should know that a percentage of the police cars are unmarked. This prevents the commission of a crime just as effectively and, in many cases, more effectively than the marked cars. Just knowing that the car behind you or approaching you could have a traffic cop in it is enough to make more people observe the speed limits more closely.

And it’s speed that kills!

Every footpad and crook in town — instead of keeping an eye out for a well-marked patrol car and, when one is not around, going about his criminal business — would worry about each passing car, and he’d be caught by an unmarked car.

Saying there shouldn’t be any unmarked cars is like saying we shouldn’t have plain-clothesmen or detectives in business suits. Every G-man should wear a sign reading, “I am a G-man.” This would really help a lot. It would help the Syndicate, the Communists, and all the other forces working to undermine law and order in this country.

No, sir! The Automobile Clubs can holler all they like.

But, in my book, the unmarked patrol car should stay and should represent a good percentage of the total. Speed limit signs are not posted to irritate motorists, nor to keep some so-called big shot from seeing how fast his new car will go. They’re posted to save lives – and that’s not a bad reason.

I can’t think of a single reason why a law-abiding, intelligent person would object to an unmarked patrol car or to a police officer in plain clothes.

I can think of lots of reasons why crooks would, though.

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