Around 5:00 p.m, June 1, 1971, I was given a $45 ticket for an expired inspection sticker. That was a lot of money back then. My sticker had been valid up until the day before. For the two weeks before that I had been pulling ticks and scratching redbugs while enduring the Louisiana 156th Infantry’s Army National Guard summer camp in Arkansas. I hadn’t had a shower in a week, and the weather had been hot. I stank, bad. There’s no faking the kind of stink I carried. The trooper could smell that I was telling him the truth. But he had his quota, and he had me dead to rights. My inspection sticker had expired this morning. That’s the moment I began to mistrust cops.
There are Police States. They’re mostly red states where it’s cool to fine your people, but political suicide to tax them. Grow up in, say, Louisiana and you quickly learn to keep a keen eye out for the cops, even if your parents are white Republicans. State police, city police, and parish deputies are everywhere, and they all have to earn their keep. They do this by issuing traffic tickets. Go 38 in a 35 zone and you will pay. Pass a car and touch the double yellow line as you complete the move: here’s your ticket! Stop for only a second at a stop sign: busted! New Orleans and Metairie have even put in camera cops at traffic signals and school zones. These machines are free to the city, but the manufacturer gets a commission on every ticket they issue. Is that a conflict of interest? Heaven forbid raising taxes – just bust the drivers. Texas and Oklahoma are just as bad, but fortunately we haven’t lived there for years.
And then there are the good states. Ohio, Minnesota, Michigan, and Nebraska have just enough cops to keep the peace, but not so many that they are driven to cannibalism. In the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming police are as scarce as whooping cranes. Yet life goes on pretty well without them, and their citizens get to keep the tax expenditure otherwise required for their support.
Another indicator of excessive police budgets is the type of patrol car they drive. Sensible states and cities put their boys in blue in high powered sedans. Over the top police states (I’m looking at you, Louisiana) put them in Tahoes or Suburbans with the biggest engine GM makes. Gas mileage is not a consideration, and hey, you never know when a single trooper might need to bring in seven or eight perps!
I have a rule of thumb: if a state has so many cops that some hide to ambush speeders or stop sign sliders, then that state has way too many police.
Stupid is as stupid does, right, Forrest? Why do we put up with this?