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05/18/2004: "WSP: The Conceit of the Annointed"


While driving north on 405 to work today, I was passed by a Washington State Patrol vehicle doing better than 85 (I tried to pace the car briefly). The policeman behind the wheel was the sole occupant of the vehicle driving in the HOV lane. I smiled to myself when he got stuck behind a driver going the speed limit in that lane just a short ways ahead of me. Then I got indignant when I saw the cop pull off the road to set up a speed trap for other motorists.

I think John Stossel coined the perfect phrase for this kind of behavior in his excellent book: "The Conceit of the Annointed."

The police view themselves as the annointed enforcers of some select laws of the land, but in that capacity, they often don't feel that they are subject to the same rules they enforce. This behavior erodes the legitimacy of their mission and the laws they are charged to uphold. Along with the facts that the speed limit law is universally broken and arbitraily and sporadically enforced, the intentional and blatant breaking of the law by Washington's "finest" damages the Rule of Law which is the foundation of our very society.

If I am ever a cop, I will pull over exclusively other cops to give them a taste of their own medicine. I have been told by some more knowledgable than I that this will lead to me being beaten in locker rooms and fired with the mildest excuse. All I can say is that I will have a camcorder running.


Replies: 7 Comments

on Wednesday, May 19th, Shai said

Perhaps we should just do away with speed limits on the highways all together. Then nobody would speed. :)

Anyway, it works in Germany, so I don't see why it wouldn't work here... except that people are stupid.

on Wednesday, May 19th, Arcanius said

In response to Bernie's first comment (man, we need threaded comments or something), regarding the "countless hours of safe driving training" that State Troopers have. By that logic, whcih I somewhat agree with, I should be able to take a "safe driving" course and be allowed to travel 25 mph faster. I kind of like that idea, but then I wonder, why not just raise the speed limit my 25 mph and make everyone pass the safe driving training. But I think then, cops would still speed.

on Wednesday, May 19th, Shai said

In response to your 2nd paragraph. I would say that the cop needed to leave earlier :)

on Wednesday, May 19th, Bernie Zimmermann said

I don't think speeding to setup a speed trap should be looked at so negatively, Shai. Afterall, as Arcanius pointed out, just about everybody (but my mom) speeds, so why shouldn't the cops? They're the ones, if anyone, that should be able to because they are paid to protect us.

Let's say your mother had been killed by a drunk driver who swerved out of his lane on the freeway while driving 30 miles over the speed limit. Let's then, for the sake of argument, say that you later found out that a cop was scheduled to have a speed trap setup just miles ahead of where it happened in time to catch the perpetrator. However, because he decided to obey the laws (and stay under 65), he didn't get to his assigned trap on time. How would you feel then?

Granted, I am wearing the devil's advocate hat that I so love to wear, and chances are nothing like this happened in Arcanius' case...but it's still something to think about and at least consider.

I also should point out that I strongly agree there are some messed up laws in this country. The "Do something" (and then, subsequently, forget about it) syndrome has led to the following stupid laws still being in place in Washington state:

- People can't buy a mattress on Sunday

- Lollipops are banned

- All motor vehicles must be preceded by a man carrying a red flag (daytime) or a red lantern (nighttime) fifty feet in front of said vehicle.

All this being said, I think I'm going to go listen to some NWA now.

on Tuesday, May 18th, Arcanius said

Good points, both of you - and I do not disagree that there are times when a law must be broken to enforce een that law. Speeding is an excellent example. Certainly, once a cop is going after a speeded, speeding is probally in order. But speeding beforehand seems to me to be terribly hypocrisy. Of course, the speed limit as currently nstituted is a terrible law, so lets move on to the next example: you are unconscious in your car and a cop breaks your windshield to pull you out. Ok, perhaps this is breaking the law (it shouldn't be; another poorly written law...) but what difference does it make if its a cop? You would be equally grateful if a normal citizen broke your glass and pulled you out or if an ex-con pulled you out or if Sadaam Hussein pulled you out after breaking the glass (although in this case you might need to teach the guy a lesson once you woke up). The point here is, though, that the cop part of your example is irrellevant in this case.
But really, although this tirade focused on the cops, and they do contribute to the problem, the root of the issue is in the legislatures where these dumb@$$ bills get passed into laws because of somebody's special inerest or as a kneejerk reaction to something terrible happening (do something syndrome, a topic for a later date). The result is ever more laws where nobody comtemplates the unintended consequences (such as me, a generally upstanding citizen loathing the police for doing their job) and ever less freedom in "The land of the free."

on Tuesday, May 18th, Shai said

So there are some laws that need to be broken for them to do their job. However, I am positive that speeding in order to get to an area to setup a speed trap is not one of them.

on Tuesday, May 18th, Bernie Zimmermann said

While I agree with you that cops tend to do a lot of things that may seem questionable in regards to the laws they supposedly uphold, it needs also to be understood that many laws *must* be broken by the police in order for them to uphold them.

For instance, anyone caught speeding could simply "get away" from the cops if the cops were not allowed to speed themselves. It is also against the law for anyone to break into my car, but if a policeman breaks my windshield to pull me unconscious from my vehicle to transport me safe from danger, I certainly feel he should have that privilege.

I certainly trust a State Trooper, with countless hours of safe driving training, driving 25 miles over the speed limit a lot more than I do an untrained civilian who may or may not have been consuming alcohol before entering the highway. And, afterall, it may be that State Trooper who catches that man/woman before she ends the life of another innocent person (or persons).

It should be noted, however, that my opinion would most likely be quite different if I had been issued a speeding ticket at any point in the last month ;)


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