On the Road

Driver Tries Citizen's Arrest on a Cop with Interesting Results

If you don't have the moral high ground to successfully challenge a citation, the result could come back to bite you.

July 1, 2014

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We've all seen it -- a police officer zooming down the road without the lights flashing. Sometimes cops driving well above the speed limit are on their way to a call. But sometimes one drives by well above the speed limit, on rain-slicked roads, talking on a cell phone. In the case of this one particular cop, he wasn't on his way to a call, and a brave driver decided to call him out on it.

After the driver used his air horn to get the police officer's attention, the pair pulled to the side of the road and the fun started. When the driver tried to accuse the police officer of disregarding the rules the rest of us must obey, like not using excessive speed in less-than-ideal driving conditions, and talking on the phone while driving, the officer actually tried to defend his actions saying police are trained to do that and heck, they are just better at managing all that stuff than regular people anyway.

In the initial exchange the driver accuses the officer of driving recklessly and distracted.

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After first denying the accusation and then trying to deflect the criticism, the officer next goes on the offensive and threatens to write the driver a ticket for unnecessary use of the horn -- before asking for his medical card and a logbook.

The outcome of the altercation is worth waiting for.

But this little video illustrates a point about the relationship between police and truckers. Truckers are not always wrong and enforcement officers are not always right, and the imbalance of power is very real. The threat of a citation has a chilling effect on the truth.

If this video is real -- that is, not staged -- then the driver who shot it deserves a huge pat on the back for stepping up to authority. The situation could easily have gone in some other direction, leaving the driver with a couple of expensive options to try proving his point.

In the pre-CSA days, those unfair citations were just an expensive inconvenience, but now they matter. And they are worth fighting, especially since the Federal Motor Carrier Administration has amended its DataQ appeals process to include removing violations that did not result in a conviction or forfeiture.

There will always be backwoods cops and small town sheriffs who see truckers as game -- walking, talking cash cows there for the exploitation. And to be fair to the police, I'm sure they meet their share of knuckle-dragging truck drivers who deserve every ticket they get.

The driver in the video appeared to be compliant and have a good safety record. He was under his hours for the day according to the electronic log, and his record was clean save for a minor violation. Maybe after seeing the trucker took his job seriously the cop thought better of taking his chances in court. His contrition is remarkable, and I'd actually classify him as a good cop for admitting he made an error in judgment driving too fast for conditions while talking on the phone. Heck, he even admits he was unaware how fast he was driving -- probably because he was distracted by the cell conversation he was having. 

There are now ways in place that truckers can challenge bogus tickets, and drivers should use any means possible to fight bad tickets. But just remember that old saying, "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." If you don't have the moral high ground to successfully challenge such a citation, the result could come back to bite you.    

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Author Bio

Jim Park

Equipment Editor

Truck journalist 13 years, commercial driver 20 years. Joined us in 2007. Specializes in technical/equipment material (including Tire Report), brings real-world perspective to test drives.

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