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And another right-turn ticket

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

McHenry County, Illinois

And another right-turn ticket

Gus Philpott
Woodstock Advocate
March 15, 2009

This morning's Northwest Herald carries a Letter to the Editor from Tom Dumais of Wonder Lake. He, like Ken Gaylord who wrote in last week, got a ticket for failing to signal a right turn in Woodstock while in a demand right-turn lane. He wrote that this ticket spoils his 29-year clean driving record.

What are these complaints about? Come on, guys! The Woodstock Police Department is serving and protecting the People of Woodstock by citing you vicious, dangerous drivers who, by their very actions, are likely now to pursue a life of crime that will lead them to bank robbery, home invasion, maybe even busting one another out of the County Jail with a helicopter. WPD has done you a service by catching you in the act. We need observant police officers who study the Traffic Code before falling asleep every night, so that they will be on their toes and ready to put a stop to all crime in Woodstock.

Of course, they didn't catch the guy with a gun in a Woodstock back yard until after he sexually assaulted a woman in an all-night laundromat. Oh, need I use the word "allegedly"? Have they caught the robbers who held up Manriquez Jewelers and fled the scene in a car later found a mile away in a residential neighborhood?

All right, let's be fair to the street officers. My guess is that they don't want to write petty tickets that deserve only a Warning, not a $75.00 ticket. I have no problem with an officer who makes a legitimate traffic stop, such as for failing to signal a turn or having a headlight out. And officers have the discretion, as part of their jobs, to issue a Warning to a driver. Has that discretion been abolished?

However, the officers had better follow orders or they'll find themselves having a visit with the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners and enjoying a little unpaid vacation. Police officers (and deputies) must be scared half-to-death of the I-word. I for Insubordination - failing to follow orders. Where do they get these orders?

Their sergeants tell them where to go. Errrr, what to do; i.e., get out there and prove you are worth being a Woodstock cop. Write some tickets. And don't just write "some" tickets. Write a lot of tickets.

Where do the sergeants get their orders? There can be no doubt that the orders come from the Chief of Police. A sergeant is not going to create a traffic "initiative" on his own and run off half-cocked and subject himself to an invitation to a "meet & greet" with the Board of Fire and Police Commissioners.

There are plenty of traffic violations in Woodstock without having to resort to "petty" tickets, as Ken Gaylord described the ticket that blemished his 26-year clean driving record. I don't even need to name all of them, but how about a few? Rolling through a stop sign while yacking on a cell phone? Failing to start up when the light turns green, because you are putting on make-up? Entering the intersection to complete a left turn, after the light turns red?

Our street officers are going to start racking up medical treatment bills for insomnia and depression, if they are required to continue issuing petty tickets. Insomnia, frustration and depression lead to motor vehicle accidents. And these will cost the City of Woodstock far more than any "points" it might get for looking good on the number of traffic tickets issued.

Let's see a detailed report of traffic tickets from the Woodstock Police Department, not just any summary that the monthly report to the City Council might include. Let's see the number of tickets for each violation listed. Let's see the number of tickets written by each officer and what the tickets were for. Did one officer "specialize" in right-turn violations?

Perhaps the Woodstock Police Department would like a dose of its own medicine. Should citizens follow police officers around and report every driving infraction, asking a supervisor to issue a ticket to his officer? Just the "small" driving errors, like driving on the wrong side of the road while reading the in-car computer; failing to signal turns; failing to stop at the white stop bar at stop signs; failing to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks?

Discretion should remain in the hands of the street officer who makes the stop. Have we moved to a "must issue" on traffic tickets? What is the reasoning behind this?

Perhaps the City Council will have an explanation on Tuesday night.

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