Quite a few cities looking to bow to the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement to minimize the presence of police in their communities have been considering having unarmed, civilian “peace officers with clipboards” take care of traffic stops. One of the latest examples of this phenomenon comes to us from Los Angeles. Sending out someone in casual business attire and a book of traffic tickets probably sounds like a good way to cut down on police shootings, right? Obviously. But what if it’s not the police doing the shooting?
In Baltimore, Maryland this week we saw yet another example of how there’s “no such thing as a routine traffic stop.” Officers responding to a report of a possible crime in progress noticed a suspicious-looking vehicle driving in an erratic fashion and decided to pull them over. As one of the officers approached the car, everything went pear-shaped in a matter of moments and one of the cops is currently in the hospital with a gunshot wound. (CBS Baltimore)
A Baltimore police officer was taken to a hospital and a police cruiser was hit by gunfire following a traffic stop in west Baltimore Monday night, police said.
The shooting happened around 8:37 p.m. Officers responded to the 2500 block of Edmonson Avenue for a ShotSpotter alert and tried to stop a vehicle in the area.
One of the occupants in the vehicle then began shooting at police. The vehicle then fled, stopping on the West Lafayette Avenue and shooting at police again, the department said.
At least one officer fired their gun before the vehicle fled.
— Rachel Menitoff (@RachelMenitoff) August 25, 2020
Here’s a question for you to ponder if you’re involved in the whole “police reform” debate. How do you suppose Bob from Accounting is going to feel when he’s asked to pick up a ticket book and go take his turn doing traffic stops after he reads this story? You might do one hundred traffic stops in a row that result in nothing more than an annoyed motorist getting a couple of points on their driver’s license and paying a small fine. But eventually, you’re going to run into somebody like the driver in the story I linked above. And when that happens, your clipboard had best be made out of Kevlar if you expect it to stop a couple of rounds from a Glock 17.
Oh, look. Here’s another one from a couple of years ago in Georgia. Just a couple of police officers out on their normal rounds who saw a vehicle speeding.
Two police officers were shot during a routine traffic stop in Georgia on Monday night, prompting a manhunt. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said the officers from the Lavonia Police Department made a traffic stop off Interstate 85 before being fired at by the person in the vehicle, identified as a 22-year-old South Carolina resident by local media. Both officers were taken to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
Here’s one from Oklahoma just last month where a driver pulled out a handgun and shot the two cops who pulled him over. One of them later died. I could list these incidents until this column turned into a small novella, but you probably get the point.
At the risk of repeating myself, I’ll simply draw on the quote that many police chiefs and officers have invoked since this debate began. There is no such thing as a routine traffic stop. If you start sending kindly social workers with clipboards out to conduct traffic stops, it is simply a matter of time (and most likely not all that long) until one of them is gunned down. It’s the nature of the job. Neither the police nor Amerian society at large is really all that worried about people who occasionally blow through a stop sign or drift off onto the shoulder because they’re driving while too tired. Yes, those things can result in a tragedy at times, but those are accidents.
The real problem comes with the thankfully small subset of society that engages in serious, violent crime. And many of those people have no intention of going along quietly if the cops pull them over. We already know what happens when those circumstances converge at the wrong moment, and the ensuing mayhem is no place for a civilian with a clipboard.