Speed Traps and the Police: What a traffic citation is really about
Matt Clark was supposed to have The Communist author Paul Kengor on his afternoon radio program at WAAM, Ann Arbor, Michigan but the interview didn’t materialize. So Matt invited me on to fill the empty spot and cover my novel Tail of the Dragon that is a month away from its own release and he caught me at a good time, because I had a lot to say. A week ago on my way back from the whip competitions at Annie Oakley in Greenville, Ohio I received a speeding ticket from a Camden, Ohio cop parked cleverly on the side of the road with his radar facing the blind turn I was rounding. I was only doing 80 MPH at the time so when I saw the cop I let off the gas just a little not thinking I was going too fast. When the cop turned around to pull me over as I stormed into downtown Camden about 4 miles down the road I was shocked to learn that the speed limit along that very open stretch of RT. 127 was only 55 MPH. You can listen to that interview with Matt here:
That citation marked the third time this year that I have been pulled over by the police, which has been the story of my life. I received so many tickets in my youth that I lost my driver’s license until I was almost thirty years old. I rode a bicycle most of those years, partially to save gas, and also to stay out of trouble with the police. But I have even been pulled over for speeding on my bicycle, doing 34 MPH in a 25 MPH zone, so my speeding violations are not just limited to automobiles. I have been pulled over by everything the police have in their arsenal including helicopters, and undercover police. I have been pulled over so many times that the lights of a cop car don’t even faze me anymore. Come to think of it I don’t think they ever did. When the young kid from Camden pulled me over with his female partner sneaking up alongside the driver’s side window, I rolled down the automatic windows to let her know I knew she was there. The kid realized instantly that his “safety” act wasn’t going to work on me when he asked me why I was doing over 80 MPH, I told him, “that I didn’t think it was very fast.”
Camden is known for its tendency to speed trap motorists going through its town. I am very good at spotting cops using speed traps, but his was particularly well placed. The goal of the kid driving around in a tax payer funded cop car on a Saturday night was not to make Camden safer from people like me. There wasn’t another car on the road at that time of night, and I could have easily traveled at over 100 MPH without being unsafe, since my vehicle can do that kind of speed without trying. I wasn’t in any particular hurry, I was simply enjoying a nice drive through the countryside with my wife in the middle of the night and it was none of his business. Speed traps set artificially low, where the speed limit is only 55 MPH when it should be at least 65 MPH have only one purpose and that is to collect fines.
I still get pulled over by the police a lot because I do not acknowledge their scam. Because I have an Ohio driver’s license, if they catch me, I am obligated to pull over. I pay my fines and go about my way. My attitude about traffic violations is that it’s a scam, and I treat them that way. If I get caught so be it. But it doesn’t take away the intent. I do not allow their intent to change my behavior, which is why I get pulled over so much, even to this day. My displeasure at the political system that allows for open extortion of the public through traffic citations is the main driver of the actions which occur in my latest novel Tail of the Dragon.
Within the last 6 weeks I have performed the whip show up in Darke Country at Annie Oakley, I did a whip show down at the Cliffhanger Ranch in Virginia, I’ve been to Louisville twice and been down to Gatlinburg to visit my friends Ron and Killboy at the actual Tail of the Dragon. I have seen a lot of speed traps over those 6 weeks and not a one of them was for “safety.” When a cop is sitting on the side of the road with a radar gun there is only one purpose and that is to make money for his district. The cop is essentially a troll, a measly tax collector. I view them with the same distain as I do an IRS agent, only the cop is worse—they disguise their actions as being a service of public safety instead their real job as tax collectors. Police speed traps are the ultimate violations of taxation without representation. With the amount of laws there are on the books, there is no way a person can know if they are in violation, which makes them perpetually terrified when they see the law pull up next to them in a squad car. Most people freeze up and drive extra cautiously to avoid even the hint of violating a law they may not even know about.
Police as the representatives of the law work with law makers to find new ways to generate “revenue,” which in political speech means creative taxation. For instance, the road I was on outside of Camden was set at 55 MPH by lawmakers, which is set artificially low on purpose, so that the police in various districts can exercise their option to pull people over. The state gets a cut from any fines incurred so they are incentivized to be deceitful in how they collect additional revenue through “creative legislation.”
My book Tail of the Dragon hammers on the Tennessee Highway Patrol so relentlessly that I almost felt sorry for them. But my friend Ron assured me, “they deserve it.” The dirty little secret that my novel exposes is that police budgets are dependent on traffic citations. There are quotas even though it is denied in the open. Cops are expected to pull people over and generate a certain amount of revenue, which is what my novel Tail of the Dragon is all about. The cops in that story pull over the wrong guy, and a civil war begins in America.
The lid was ripped off this ticket writing scheme recently when Brendan Keefe of Channel 9’s I-Team exposed the scam at Arlington Heights in Cincinnati. The speed limit on Interstate 75 through Arlington Heights drops down to 55 MPH after motorists from Dayton and Detroit have been traveling 65 to 70 MPH for hundreds of miles. Arlington Heights police write 20 times more speeding tickets than any other mayors court in Ohio, and their yearly police budget of $1.2 million last year was supplemented by $412,000 generated just in traffic citations. Arlington Heights it was discovered had clerk employees stealing money that was paid in cash from traffic citations and authorities were wondering where all the money generated from the fines was going. A mom and her daughter stole more than $262,000 from the citations generated. The state of Ohio auditor Dave Yost noticed that Ohio wasn’t getting “their fair share” of the loot which prompted an investigation that would have been swept under the rug if Brendan didn’t dig deep into the story to reveal what was happening to the money. If Channel 9 didn’t do that investigation, there would be no prosecutions or scrutiny of the way traffic citation money was consumed in Arlington Heights. The revelation of injustice was so intense by the community after Brendan’s story that Police Chief Kenneth Harper pulled his officers off radar for a couple of days while the heat died down a bit.
Arlington Heights got caught going too far. They took too much money. Communities like Camden will poke a bit here and there and take just enough money not to infuriate the general population. They seek to pull over people like me who are just passing through, and will mail in the money, because they don’t want to upset the locals. The Tennessee Highway Patrol has been known to do that on the actual Tail of the Dragon which is how I came up with the idea for my novel. The police ticket writing business is not about safety, it’s 100% about making money.
When the young cop came to my window after writing my ticket back in his cruiser he attempted to use the “keep the speed down and be safe” line so he could pretend that his job had importance beyond a tax collector. I didn’t let him have it, “How much is the damn ticket, kid,” I cut him off.
His hands started shaking as he handed me the ticket and asked me to sign. After I signed he then gave me a sheet that had the fine amount circled on the back. He quickly said, “Have a nice evening,” and left. He didn’t want to be standing next to me when I saw the ticket amount. The ticket was for $185 dollars because it was 25 MPH over the speed limit. I laughed to myself when I saw that for speeds under 25 MPH the fine amount was $165 dollars. I told my wife that it was worth the $20 extra bucks to go 80 MPH because it’s all the same difference really. If the cop wanted to give me a ticket for going 5 MPH over the speed limit the ticket could have been $165 dollars. It was up to his discretion to pull over whoever he wanted when he wanted to, because the speed limit is impossible to stay under at only 55 MPH. I mean for God’s sake, a bicycle goes almost as fast!
People who disagree with me will say that if I would only follow the rules, then I wouldn’t have any trouble. Well, they are wrong. Most of the rules are created not to make a good and just society but to find a way to wrestle a little more money from the general population. In our public schools, the unions use “the good of the children” to justify a bottomless pit of tax increases. And with the police unions who give heavily to politics, it is “public safety” that is used to scam the public. Police will declare that the 55 MPH speed limit in Camden and Arlington Heights are a result of bad accidents, and that legislators determined the area to be unsafe, and lower speeds are required. But the real intention is to simply collect fines so the police officers can pay their own salaries as tax collectors.
My novel Tail of the Dragon is about a state governor who wants to run for President of the United States and he puts 100 officers on the streets of Tennessee to show his commitment to public safety. His real aim is to win the public union vote with such an act, and he does it without raising taxes on the people of Tennessee by telling those 100 officers that they must pay their own way. What that means is that they must pay for themselves with traffic citations. Many people who first read the book in manuscript form thought my plot line was too conspiratorial. Thank goodness American Book Publishing saw through that, and was willing to take a chance on a story written from a guy who has been involved intimately with the police game my entire life and rather than be broken from the experience I am angrier than ever, because it’s an unjust, and misleading system that paves the way to tyranny. And as Arlington Heights proves, little communities like Camden, Ohio are not about safety, but about tax collection. The reality of most of the police departments is that they are over staffed and have been created to make politicians feel good about themselves, because all they really have to do in society is to pass out tickets to fund their livelihoods like a parasite that is intended to appear as a friend, but in reality is just another IRS agent. That’s why after all this time; I still drive fast and always will. If they catch me, I pay the ticket and get on about my way. For me, the opportunity cost of going slow exceeds the amount of the tickets. But the character Rick Stevens in my new novel Tail of the Dragon isn’t quite so passive, and it sure is fun to ride along with that character as he more than thumbs his nose at the system and openly challenges the law all the way to The White House. For it is in fiction that we see the world the way it ought to be, and in Rick Stevens we see in him what many of us wish for in the deepest recesses of our fantasies. A way to fight back at the law, and to win.
By the way, the Blount County Courthouse you see in the background is the same courthouse that the action in my novel takes place. Sometimes the truth is wilder than fiction, unless you make it “faction.”
“With Tale of the Dragon, Rich Hoffman combines NASCAR, Rebel Without a Cause, and Smokey and the Bandit. If you like fast cars, and hate speed traps, this is the book for you. And just every once in a while, any real American wishes he had a Firebird like the one in Tale of the Dragon.“