Short answer? You’re damn right.
Now for the longer answer. Not too long ago, we had what I personally consider Manna from Heaven. Allow me to explain…
You know that feeling Christmas morning when you just know it’s gonna be a great day full of promise and excitement? Well, when there are signals out or flashing red, I get giddy. That is not poetic license. I may actually utter a “tee” or a “hee” or possibly some combination thereof when I hear that traffic over the radio. Most beat cops couldn’t care less. Me? I feel like I’ve been handed a Louisville Slugger as the salmon are spawning upstream.
At any rate, recently, there was a power failure and we had multiple intersections out. The “tee” and the “hee” having been uttered, I find my way to one of the intersections. At first, I was shocked to see that most folks were abiding by the law. What law, you say? Good for you…
CVC 21800 (d)(1) states, “The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection which has official traffic control signals that are inoperative shall stop at the intersection, and may proceed with caution when it is safe to do so.”
What does that mean exactly? It means that you treat the intersection like a stop sign. Pretty basic, really. At any rate, my shock aside about everyone following the law, a car slowed near me and a veritable angel said, “Excuse me…the intersection west of here is out as well. Hardly anyone is stopping!”
I thanked the good Lord for sending such an emissary my way and headed west. It couldn’t have been better. I had an unobstructed view and a shady spot in which to sit. All it was missing was palm fronds wafting in the breeze.
But that’s where paradise ends. I saw a little two seater shoot through the intersection like it wasn’t even there. I stopped the car, dismounted, walked up and said, “Howdy” and was met with what follows:
IAG (Inappropriately Aghast Guy): So, you just going to sit there at a light that’s out and write me a ticket?!?
MC: I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t realize it was my fault that you didn’t stop at the intersection. I’ll be right back.
And I was…right back. The whole stop, from beginning to end, was less than three minutes.
MC: Okay, sir, I need you to sign the highlighted yellow portion at the bottom, please.
IAG: I can’t believe this. Why don’t you guys direct some traffic instead of writing hard working Americans tickets?
MC: Actually, sir, there are so many intersections out, we don’t have the manpower to direct traffic at all of them. As a matter of fact, it’s against our policy to do that very thing for a variety of reasons, including what I just explained to you. (And I really wanted to add…”Hard working American? Um…aren’t I the one at work right now? Huh.” Alas, I did not.)
IAG: What about all the people speeding in front of the high school?
MC: Ah, classic blameshifting, sir. Well played and good luck.
IAG: Classic what?
I went from the stop to the PD anticipating a complaint. I played the stop for my supervisor. Not five minutes later, IAG showed up to complain about my “conduct”. If you can believe it, he changed his tune quite a bit after my supervisor explained not only the exact same thing I explained to IAG on the stop, but also my supervisor told IAG he had heard the stop as I record every stop I conduct.
No more complaint. I love my digital recorder. That little piece of technology has saved me from countless, frivolous, bullshit complaints. It’s not policy that we use it and you other LEOs might not be required either….but let me encourage you to use one. They are priceless!
For you non-LEOs out there, use this as a learning tool. Remember when the lights flash red or are completely inoperative, treat the intersection like a four-way stop!