image Driving around town this morning I noticed something unusual (for me).  There was a law enforcement operation going on involving speed traps to catch holiday weekend travelers who are in too much of a hurry.  That isn’t the unusual part.  What I thought was strange was seeing who was involved.

I saw West Des Moines Police and Dallas County Sheriff’s Department officers pulling people over – in Pleasant Hill, IA (in Polk County).  What’s up with that?  I know many officers are deputized county-wide; some even in multiple counties.  I know there many different types of law enforcement operations that involve multiple jurisdictions including federal, state, county and numerous local law enforcement agencies.  These could be a joint drug enforcement task force, anti-terrorism units, or possibly even serving outstanding arrest warrants, etc.  I understand the value of having multiple agencies work together.

But to do this for traffic violations for a holiday weekend crack-down?  That just doesn’t sit right with me.  I’m sure it’s legal, but is it really the best use of taxpayer money and resources?  Frankly I don’t believe West Des Moines Police should be allowed to pull people over for traffic violations in Pleasant Hill.  I’m sure some people were leery about pulling over for a police officer who is clearly out of his jurisdiction.  I know I would (not that I would *ever* be driving in a way that would get me pulled over).

What are your thoughts?  Maybe Governor Chet Culver is out with them today.  Perhaps this is common, but it’s the first time I’ve noticed it.

13 comments
  1. Oh man, that irritates me too. If cops really cared about safety as much as they say they do, they’d be on the Interstate on Monday mornings during rush-hour pulling over the speeders and weavers. It’s more dangerous, though, to pull over people during rush hour so they stick to pulling over church-going families on Sunday morning going 7 over instead when there is plenty of room on the interstate for everyone. Frankly, I don’t pay them for that.

    The worst is when multiple agencies take over a rest area parking lot on the interstate and pull everyone over to observe the car, look for suspicious activity, etc. What happened to the presumption of innocence? Quit wasting my time and tax dollars.

    And, finally, if I was in Des Moines, was pulled over by a West Moines cop, and had plenty of time; I’d simply ask for a Des Moines cop to come and issue the citation. They’ll make you wait forever but they usually oblige. When questioned, I’d simply let them know that I pay Des Moines to enforce the law in my town and I expect to deal with them or the sheriff when I’m within our city limits.

    I love law enforcement officers in general and appreciate their willingness to serve…but sometimes they forget that most people want to obey the law and do the right thing. Sometimes they forget that they work for us. And very frequently they forget that traffic laws apply equally to law enforcement officials as well. I used to work for the Iowa Dept. of Public Safety and working in close proximity with some of these guys was a real eye-opener.

    1. I agree, I think normal enforcement of traffic laws is fine, but the special operations is ridiculous.

      I’ve been pulled over by Pleasant Hill Police because my license plate light was out (obviously fishing for a seat belt ticket or something). Ridiculous as that isn’t even law (like your headlights can’t illuminate my license plate).

      I like you support law enforcement, but this is over the top with me.

  2. Yes good use.

    Speeding is a crime and increases the incidence of accidents. So how to decrease speeding? Being pulled over is a deterrent for most people, so is seeing an officer. That is why speed traps are effective. Deter a bunch of people at once. Having a bunch of cops in one spot gives the appearance of presence in that location, likely to deter future speeding in that area for a while. So how to get a bunch of cops in one spot, use the officers from neighboring jurisdictions.

    I don’t see a problem with this practice as long as 2 things are kept in mind:

    1)The taxpayers of Dallas county are not footing the bill for enforcement in Polk county. Polk county should be compensating the Dallas county law enforcement or providing reciprocal services in return. I’m sure this is happening, but if it is not it is a problem.

    2) There are still adequate resources remaining in Dallas county to keep its citizens safe.

    As long as those safeguards are kept in place, not a problem.

    1. Not saying traffic laws shouldn’t be enforced. I though I think some would disagree with you regarding how helpful some speed limits are. I’m not anti-speed traps, that wasn’t the point of this post.

      The use of out-of-town police out of their jurisdiction for traffic enforcements is the problem. I don’t think this is a proper use of Polk County taxpayer money. I have no problem with Iowa State Patrol or Polk County Sheriff’s Department involved with Pleasant Hill Police in operations like this, but neighboring jurisdictions – no.

      Also, like Eric mentioned above, law enforcement is notorious for not abiding by traffic laws as well. Unless they are responding to a call (and have lights on) they should be following traffic laws as well.

    2. Dustin –

      “Speeding . . . . increases the incidence of accidents.”

      Can you please provide the data to back that assertion up?

      Thanks . . .

      1. Unfortunately, this kinda makes it a lot less black and white:

        NHTSA considers a crash to be speeding-related if the driver was charged with a speeding-related offense or if an officer indicated that racing, driving too fast for conditions, or exceeding the posted speed limit was a contributing factor in the crash.

        Basically it’s speeding-related it the cop says it was…even if he wasn’t on the scene when it occurred. This sort of thing skews *all* government stats as it isn’t based on dispassionate appraisal of the situation but what someone thinks may have occurred, post-accident.

        And as federal highway dollars are, to some degree, tied up in towing this line, well, you do the math…
        .-= ECM´s last blog ..Hopped the Last Flight Out =-.

      2. There is actually quite a bit of science that goes into determining speed at the time of an accident, so it is not nearly as subjective as an officer saying, “Ya, looks like he was goin’ fast”. I was at an emergency medicine conference just a few months ago, where a crash investigator explained some of what they do (including determining speed), and how it can help predict injuries of potential patients.

  3. Yes, officers are hypocritical about obeying traffic laws, I have a step father who is a perfect example of that, makes me mad each time he passing me going about 20 over in his personal vehicle.

    As far as speed limits and safety, I think most studies show that increased speeds increase both the incidence and severity of accidents. I would personally like no speed limits, I liked Montana’s “reasonable and prudent” law that they had for a few years in the mid 90’s. This allows those to drive at a speed that is safe for them, and they only get in trouble when they are unsafe, I like that. But until then, drive the speed limit, it is the law.

    Now back to the real point of the article, neighboring jurisdictions sharing resources. I think this is actually a great use of taxpayer money. You temporarily increase the force to serve a purpose without going through the wasteful and extra expenses of hiring, training, and then having extra people employed when you don’t need them. Actually seams fiscally responsible.

  4. Where I live in northern Nevada they’ve really beefed up the speed traps too in the last year or more. I suspect it has to do with the recession and the desparate need for money in the state’s coffers.
    Also, departments everywhere are laying laying off and deeply cutting wages – maybe they’re trying to stop the bleeding there too.

  5. I’m glad I live in Australia. It’s so much simpler.

    I’m in Western Australia, a state five times the size of Texas, and any Western Australian Police Officer can pull over anyone, anywhere in Western Australia. Each state has their own police force that covers their entire state.
    .-= Rodney Olsen´s last blog ..Touching History =-.

  6. Were they searching for someone, maybe? (Pulling over specific colored cars or something) hmm…

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