Friday, August 14, 2015

Cops have been turned into Toll Collectors and Leg-Breakers

Having worked The Job for many years, one of decisions I've seen many Departments adopt is the use of Police Officers as an additional source of revenue for the Village coffers.

While Broken Windows tasked Police Officers with treating everyone living in certain areas, usually People of Color as potential criminals, most Departments also have policies on the books so Officers treat the people, they are ostensibly tasked with protecting and serving, as ATMs.

Jaywalking? $50. Underage drinking? $100. Cannabis smoking pipe? Another $100. DUI arrest? Tack on the administrative tow fee. Left wheel to curb? Overnight Parking? 30 minute parking limit? Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching...

From the small Village of Bull Valley, in McHenry County Illinois comes the story of traffic stops by the BVPD using a non-moving infraction as a revenue generator. BVPD is stopping construction vehicles that do not have proper lettering and signage on the side of the vehicle and issuing a Village Ordinance Citation based on State Law 625 ILCS 5/12-713. The problem is even though Illinois Representative Dan Burke said he crafted the changes in the law to allow application to be handed locally instead of through District Courts, the "loop-hole" discovered by Bull Valley's Chief of Police is not against the letter of the law.

Now, why are Police Departments doing this? The reason is simple, taxes are too low on the wealthy and Corporations therefore various Towns need some way to make up budget shortfalls. Especially in Illinois, where for the privilege of having Boening's Corporate Headquarters in Chicago, Boening pays an effective tax rate of near Zero Percent. Other large "Illinois-based" Corporations similarly benefit from tax code legerdemain.

But, despite the retasking Police Officers haven't been able to generate enough! Thus, enter the automated Red Light and Speed Cameras in the City of Chicago and Suburbs. In 2014, Suburban Red Light Cameras took in $12 million. These fines are of course borne dispropotionately by Working Class people driving to and from work.

Turning Cops into Debt and Dues Collectors has been the most wrongheaded decisions adopted by municipalities across the Nation as Villages struggle to meet financial obligations. But, it's only going to increase as the Rich transfer more and more of the financial burden onto the vanishing Middle Class and beleaguered Working Class.

12 comments:

Vixen Strangely said...

It seems like a clear deviation from the mission-statement of most forces--protect and serve the public becomes protect property and serve the rich. I don't like what the formula has become because the resentment it breeds is dangerous for those who do law enforcement. And it probably has a lot of cognitive dissonance for people who actually sought out the job with the intent of serving justice. I can only agree it just shouldn't be that way. Law enforcement never should have been oppositional to regular people just doing their thing. It always should have just been about separating out the real bad actors and keeping peace. It doesn't help you that people see LE as "the heavy". It helps less that the environment exists for people who enjoy that role as "the heavy" to gravitate towards LE. Good officers get tainted by what screw-ups do. I resent what police work has been turned into, not least of which because of how the effect of this is anything but civil stability.

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, except for referring to blacks as colored.
And that tax revenue from the rich and corporations is near an all-time high, and the police departments are getting more money than ever before.

The problem? Pure and simple greed coming from the government sector.

Grung_e_Gene said...

POC denotes more than just blacks Mr. Anonymous, and you would know this if you lived outside RWNJ land wherein the most oppressed people in America are Billionaires.

Grung_e_Gene said...

Vixen, thanks for coming by and adding your voice. Officers are tainted by the few bad apples, the actual criminal cops, but the bigger impediment is self-censorship by Officers. While most officers are not as Reactionary as those who infest Policeone.com, cops tend towards conservative beliefs by a solid majority. It's very difficult to stake out positions which are in direct opposition to your fellow Officers, whom you respect and know and work with. So self-censorship as a corollary to the infamous code of silence keeps some from breaking with the thin blue line until their pensions are secure.

Chuck Casamento said...

My name is Chuck Casamento. I am the guy who was responsible for NBC 5 Chicago covering the story on Bull Valley Police illegally stopping any truck or van who they think is a contractor and giving them a $200 ticket for failure to display company name. While there is a law that requires this, it is still not legal to stop the vehicle without probable cause/suspicion of a traffic violation. I know this because when my attorney went to their "court" with a court reporter hired by us, they granted our motion to dismiss the ticket!!! Please elaborate why you think its a lawful stop without a traffic violation.

Grung_e_Gene said...

Chuck,

It is not a moving violation but it is classification/equipment violation under Article VII special requirements for vehicles of the second division. I can't speak to your specific court proceedings.

Chuck Casamento said...

Thanks, and again, I agree with the law , but answer me this: Someone, who is not a contractor working in the area is driving a second division vehicle- lets say an SUV, which under the illinois vehicle code is a second division vehicle- is driving and is pulled over because the officer "feels" he/she may be a contractor. The person is not. Wouldn't there be a problem with stopping the vehicle under the 4th amendment? IF not- why?
And if anything criminal is discovered in that stop, pretextual or not, is that legal? I would think not!
Scenario 2: Again, someone is not a contractor. They're driving a pickup truck with a ladder in the bed of the truck because he is going to a friend's house to help him with hang Xmas lights. HE gets stopped because the officer think because it is a second division vehicle, has a ladder- he must be a contractor. The officer affects the traffic stop on the pickup. The driver explains he is helping a friend and is sent on his way. That is ridiculous and completely illegal! I have talked to several state troopers, sheriffs and truck enforcement officers. They all agree that there must be a traffic infraction to investigate /detain/pull over the vehicle.
When we fought the ticket in their court room at BVPD, the Chief Jim Page initially would not allow the court reporter into the room. My attorney was blown away and said "she's coming in, we want everything on the record." The chief, along with the administrative judge said they granted our motion to dismiss but would refile in County court, which they did. They also filed a motion to continue the case for "more time" when it was up... please explain.

Grung_e_Gene said...

Chuck,

Your second scenario is an easy one. A single ladder (or a 5 gallon bucket or a wheelbarrow or lawnmower) in the back of a pickup does not reach a probable cause or even reasonable suspicion of a violation of this statue. So yes, spying a truck with a single ladder in the bed isn't enough however, there could be another ivc violation related to the ladder, such as 625 ILCS 5/12-204 which could be used to make a legal stop and during the course of the investigation the contractor ticket could also be issued. It seems your getting hung up on traffic infraction must be a moving violation; because a cracked windshield, funky green headlights, or a license plate cover are all legal reasons to stop a vehicle.

But, I believe your going to be disappointed with your fight because;

Most muncipalities incorporated the ILCS into their Village Ordinance laws, thus an Officer has the discretion to write a moving/equipment violation as a State Ticket or a Village Ticket. The difference being where the fines end up. It sounds like in "your" case the original infraction was written as a Village Ordinance violation which the village moved to amend into a violation of state law thus moving the venue to the McHenry County Courthouse. Also they requested a continuance (the "more time") for a later court date then the closest up-coming one.

Chuck Casamento said...

Incorrect: Here is what is actually the case from The ITEA:

The enforcement of the law is what makes the difference. Chuck, You are correct they cannot write tickets for $500. The same law (15-316) which gives them authority to create the weight restriction mandates a maximum fine of $50. They can't exercise the half of the law which suits their purpose.

Citing under 15-111B is also incorrect. First of all, 15-111B still exists as a paragraph in the IVC. Prior to 2010, it was the appropriate subsection for "overweight on gross" for a non-designated highway. It's obvious the author of the citations is not aware of that change, or is using it to hoodwink motorists, administration or the courts. If the violation could actually be cited under 15-111 (which it can't), the correct citation would be 15-111A. However, this violation of the law cannot be cited under any subsection of 15-111 because the appropriate penalty is in 15-316. In 2011, myself (representing the ITEA) and representatives from the Illinois State Police, IDOT, SOS and the trucking industry rewrote the law passed in 2010.

The local weight restriction could be written under 11-305 for violating a traffic control device. This is a petty offense which carries the maximum fine of $1000.

The fine amount is even more egregious. The law mandates a fine of $50, unless of course the vehicle is so overweight it violates the legal weight laws of 15-111, which would be a legitimate overweight citation. It seems by using 15-111, they are trying to leverage a higher fine, but making themselves out to be "the good guys" by not charging the full overweight fine, which of course would be unlawful anyhow.

Even if they were a home rule community under the Illinois Constitution (which they are not), they would still not be able to fine in excess of $50. Home rule communities are bound to exercise their powers concurrent with the law, not in conflict with the law. Non-home rule communities such as Bull Valley definitely cannot do this.

As to the basis for the stop, the law states that if a police officer has reason to believe the weight of a vehicle is unlawful, he can stop and weigh it. This burden is less than probable cause and I think it would apply to a vehicle which a police officer reasonably believes is violating any weight limit in Chapter 15. I do not think Bull Valley is wrong for using their local weight restriction as a primary stop provided they can articulate their "reason to believe". The reality is there is no case law on using violations of 15-316 as "reason to believe", and the previous court interpretations for "reason to believe" (for 15-111 overweights) over the last 40 years is very liberal and in favor of the police.

The "reason to believe" burden is unique to weight violations only. This cannot be

Chuck Casamento said...

cont:

used to stop vehicles to ask about whether or not they are "construction sub-contractors" or inquire to their driver's license/CDL status. The mountains of case law clearly defining appropriate pre-textual stops speaks to this.

The venue of prosecution is also to be questioned. It seems these violations are being prosecuted through administrative adjudication. This IVC is clear on the violations which may be prosecuted this way. Non-reporting offenses listed in 6-204, which include violations 15-111, 15-316, and 12-712/713 are listed. This would make it appear they may be adjudicated administratively.

However, the law also says any violation by a CDL holder is reportable. Since only the Circuit Clerk (not municipalities) in each county may report violations to the Secretary of State, Bull Valley is pre-empting the authority of the Secretary. They are creating a "alternative traffic program" which was declared unconstitutional by the Illinois Supreme Court in the landmark case Ryan v Hanover Park.

Compounding the issue is the 1st Appellate case of Catom v Chicago which declared overweights as "moving violations". Contrary to popular belief, there is no legal definition of "moving violation". This is completely left to the interpretation of the courts. The law is clear in 6-204 that moving violations may not be administratively adjudicated. The ITEA has a three part series on their blog about this topic. A citation for 11-305 (disobeying a traffic control device) is a moving violation and is not listed as a non-reportable violation in 6-204. Therefore the potential $1000 penalty as a petty offense may only be collected in circuit court, no adjudication.

Bull Valley has full authority to issue all of these citations on either the Illinois Uniform Traffic Complaint or the Uniform Overweight Complaint, and prosecute through the Circuit Court of McHenry County.

Chuck Casamento said...

And by the way, they didn't "amend" the ticket they wrote originally wrote: they dismissed the case when I brought my attorney along with a court reporter. They then issued a new ticket through the county. First year criminal justice class (101) teaches you this.

Grung_e_Gene said...

Chuck,

*Sigh*, This appears to be an Attorney's brief about fighting this law (or something similar). I don't know why you've gone down the rabbit hole with me on this because the issue for me isn't what BVPD is doing, it's what Police Departments have been turned into; Debt Police, looking to extract money from the Working Class, which btw, the Bull Valley tickets are all about.

And geez Chuck your last comment was unduly hostile. I've already told you I'm not privy to your court proceedings and my comment was move to amend not just "amend" So stop with the 1st year Crim Justice baloney. The point was they moved the venue which I clearly stated. It's as if you think I'm testifying against you???