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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois


Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
July 9, 2009

One commenter (The Truth) in a recent article referred to the reasoning behind a $125 ticket for failing to signal a right turn within 100' of an intersection. The writer called it "payback", and he hit the nail on the head.

This is the way that a cop can "get even" with somebody. And he can do it in a way that bears the semblance of legality because, after all, a violation did occur.

The current poll on tickets/warnings in Woodstock indicates that the last time they got stopped in Woodstock, 75% of the drivers got warnings. It will be interesting to inspect the statistics at the Woodstock Police Department in the next week or so, as soon as my FOIA Request to inspect public records is approved.

Two years ago, when I got stopped for a headlight that had been out for 15 minutes, I was informed that I'd be issued a warning. Then a second officer showed up, and then the first officer changed his mind. Now, why would that happen? What did the second officer say to the first officer that caused him to change his mind? And who wrote me the failure-to-signal ticket? This very same "second officer."

Wouldn't it be interesting to know? Looking back, it's too bad that I didn't take it to trial, as I had threatened. Would Officers 1 and 2 have told the truth about why Officer No. 1 changed his mind? But the headlight had been out. I knew exactly where it had gone out (mileage and time), because I was having frequent headlight problems that the repair shop couldn't get fixed. And every burned-out headlight had been repaired the next day.

Chief Lowen has a "broken window" theory, which is a well-known theory in law enforcement. But I don't hear the cops complaining that he is making them do more work to keep Woodstock nice. But just let a citizen call attention to "broken windows". Not a good idea in Woodstock, because then you get a reputation. And when you get a reputation? Payback!

So, do I think The Truth was right? Absolutely.

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