8/4/15 Public Safety

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Some police departments across the country are stretched thin.  So they’re resorting to drastic measures.  Some go as far as putting mannequins in a parked patrol car [here, here, here].  The idea is to get people to slow down.  It works.

After all, it’€™s about public safety.

It’€™s generally thought speed limits are set to keep people safe.  It follows that anything that protects life and property is a good thing.

Some people plant signs in their lawns asking drivers to slow down.

Several weeks ago in Seattle, David Gehlke held a hand-written sign warning drivers about a police speed trap.  If his sign caused motorists to drive more responsibly then he’€™s performed a public service.  Just like a mannequin cop.

Look at this way.  What if there wasn’€™t a speed trap ahead?  But Gehlke still held his sign causing motorists to drive better.  He’€™d be hailed as a hero.

But Gehlke didn’€™t get a medal. He got a $138 ticket. It suggests the goal of the Seattle police department isn’t about having safer roads.  But it’€™s to write tickets and collect fines.

[The municipal code cited by the officer issuing the ticket to Gehlke appears to outlaw signs and “€œdevices … [v]isible from a street or alley and displaying any red, green, or yellow light or intermittent or blinking light or rotating light identical or similar in size, shape and color to that used on any emergency or road equipment or any light otherwise likely to be mistaken for a traffic-control device …€ by motorists.  This clearly was not the case with Gehlke.]

Ghelke should prevail in court if he challenges the ticket.  Last year, a federal court ruled that similar conduct — flashing headlights warning oncoming traffic of a speed trap — is free speech.  Protected by the First Amendment.

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