One-Bullet Barneys In Action

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It was a running joke when I lived in Saint Louis (1988-90): if you drove south on I-170 through the little crap suburb of Bel-Ridge, you'd always always always see a local cop under either the I-70 overpass or the Natural Bridge Road overpass. Sometimes both. Everybody just assumed they were there for revenue enhancement; why else would a town of 3,000 devote full-time police coverage to a one-mile stretch of Interstate?

Well, sometimes when you jump to conclusions, you land on the right answer. The depressing thing is they're still doing it:

[Bel-Ridge Police Chief Gordon] Brock tells officers in memos dating as far back as February 2001 that they would be demoted, lose overtime pay or face transfer to other shifts if they did not issue more traffic tickets. He often wrote such threats in a logbook that officers were expected to read and initial daily.

"Production looks terrible since I've been on vacation," Brock wrote in June 2001. "This definitely needs to get better or I will have to take other actions."

He also praised officers when their numbers went up. "Great job everyone for the fantastic job you did on bringing in revenue of Friday," Brock wrote in April 2001. "65 tickets. Wow!"

A memo that Lt. Daniel Clyne wrote March 17 to one of his sergeants stated that each of the four shifts (three have three officers and one has five) should write 238 tickets a month. The memo said each shift should have written 595 tickets at that point this year.

"Whether we like it or not, this department's survival still revolves around our ticket production," Clyne wrote. "This is a must."

A typical crack from the unfortunate speeder goes "Don't you guys have anything better to do than write speeding tickets all day?" It turns out that, yes, they do - they just ain't doing it:

With an average of nine violent crimes per 1,000 residents over the past three years, it ranks toward the high end of crime rates among St. Louis County communities.
. . .
Supervisors encourage their officers to ignore other law enforcement duties in order to write more traffic violations, according to two officers who worked at Bel-Ridge and agreed to describe their experiences if their names were protected.

They said Bel-Ridge commanders told them not to search vehicles or run computer checks of the drivers they stopped because either might lead to an arrest.

"If I arrest someone, I've got to spend three hours at the station processing him," said one of the officers. "I don't generate revenue that way.

"All they want you to do is write a ticket and kick the driver loose," the officer said. "We could have written a ticket to a known felon and let him go."

Some residents complain that crime in the neighborhoods often gets ignored while officers sit on Interstate 170, writing tickets.

It's bad enough that they spend a disproportional amount of time harvesting speeding tickets, but at least the drivers cited were actually in violation of traffic laws. But they used to run another scam that turned innocent drivers into violators:

In 2000, state officials intervened after finding evidence that officers were manipulating a crosswalk signal at busy Natural Bridge Road and Sargent Avenue to unfairly trap motorists.

A Missouri Department of Transportation official said he watched a police officer wait for motorists to approach and manually switch the light from flashing yellow to red at the last moment, as other police waited nearby with ready ticket books.

Drivers in one rear-end crash there blamed the police tactic for the accident. Publicity about the signal prompted many motorists to came forward, claiming they were victims of the entrapment.

The state Department of Transportation took the step of modifying the signal controls to prevent officers from manipulating it.
More detail is available here and here. The Courier-Post story has the police saying they didn't do anything wrong:
Bel-Ridge [then-]police chief Col. Gertrude Bogan denied any wrongdoing by her department.

"The only time we ever touched that signal was when kids got to the corner and needed to cross," she said.

3 Comments

I grew up in a small town of 1500 on the Mississippi. It's main drag running parrallel to the river had no stop light, and was posted at 30 MPH. This road led to a nuclear power plant, and a 3M manufacturing facility. The traffic on this road was heavy during shift changes, and the local cops were well known for generating revenue.

One of the local papers did a breakdown of citations written for a one month period. The small town of (PB) with 1500 people in it had a total of 2500 citations written. The nearby large town of (M) had a grand total of 350 citations, with a population of 50,000.

Very notorious in the area.

Hmm... I think I know where you're talking about. Mind if I take a guess?

Police Chief Gordon Brock moved out of St. Louis County. I guess the crime rate there is too high, since he directed his police officers to stop arresting people so that they have more time to write tickets and "produce revenue." He move to 5715 Sunnywood Drive in Cedar Hill, Missouri. His phone number is 6362742285 for you folks who can't reach him at the station.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris published on April 5, 2004 1:46 PM.

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