Traffic Enforcement Is Real Police Work

By Casstevens, Steven | Law & Order, August 2008 | Go to article overview

Traffic Enforcement Is Real Police Work


Casstevens, Steven, Law & Order


Recently, while driving to rark in the morning, I ibserved a taxi driver iaking a turn at an interection I was approaching. I noticed that the driver wasn't wearing his seat belt. Though I am an assistant police chief, I still make traffic stops and write tickets. Since seatbelt enforcement continues to be a priority for our agency, and to set the example to others, I stopped the taxi.

Upon speaking with the driver, I observed all the obvious signs of intoxication-slurred speech, glassy eyes, odor of alcoholic beverage, you know the rest. After a failed field sobriety test, he was placed under arrest for DUI. Mind you, this was at 7 a.m. and he had a "fare" in the back seat. This is a classic example of how "simple" traffic enforcement can lead to other things.

The Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police has a program called "Looking Beyond the Safety Belt." The program recognizes law enforcement officers who initiate a traffic stop based solely on a safety-belt violation, which then results in arrests or discovery of other crimes.

Over the past several years, a number of officers have been recognized for some outstanding police work as a result of a "routine" traffic stop of this nature. These officers are recognized each year at the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police summer conference as part of the Illinois Traffic Safety Challenge program. Agencies can nominate an officer at any time during the year.

The IACP has similar programs called "Looking Beyond the License Plate (sponsored by 3M Traffic Safety Systems Division) as well as "Looking Beyond the Traffic Stop." Details on these programs can be found at www.theiacp.org.

Real Policing

In January 2006, Sergeant Timothy Gretz of the Buffalo Grove, IL Police made a traffic stop on a driver not wearing a seat belt. Gretz noticed two briefcases in the back seat with a business card ID tag attached to one that didn't match the name of the driver. After some questioning, a consent search was, allowed. A search of the vehicle revealed proceeds from residential burglaries. The driver was arrested and eventually confessed to 11 burglaries in Buffalo Grove and numerous others in surrounding suburbs of Chicago.

That same month, Illinois State Police Trooper Jason Bevard made a traffic stop on a driver who was not wearing a seat belt. Two passengers were also in the vehicle. Upon stopping, the driver fled on foot and disappeared into a wooded area. One of the passengers was wanted on an active warrant. A search of the vehicle revealed a crack pipe and hypodermic syringes.

After a lengthy investigation, the identity of the driver was determined. Officers also determined that the vehicle was wanted in connection with several burglaries and home invasions as well as a sexual assault. The driver was eventually arrested and pleaded guilty to home invasion and sexual assault and is serving 45 years with the Illinois Department of Corrections. Due to evidence found in the vehicle, the driver was also charged with a murder that occurred in Woodford County, IL.

These are just two examples of excellent police work that happens every day all across the country. …

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