true gripes traffic police

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The Independent Online
Have you noticed how jolly police officers look when they're booking people for traffic offences? I am forever catching glimpses of a roadside scene in which a couple of coppers appear to be joking with their victim as they caution him. More often than not he seems to be smiling, too. I imagine the conversation goes something like: "Ho ho, we're charging you with exceeding the speed limit, sir." To which he replies: "It's a fair cop, ha ha!" They make it look quite good fun.

We all know why this happens. The policemen act friendly because it makes their job easier. They have a long day ahead of them and if they can win their "clients" over by making light of the whole thing, there will be a lot less hassle for all concerned. Hence the smiles. This misleads the offender into thinking that there's a chance he might be let off. That when the officer files his report, he might even put in a good word for him. Only when he gets a summons several weeks later does the truth sink in. The jokes are forgotten and all that counts is the Road Traffic Act.

Now I'm not accusing the police of doing their job improperly. I'm all for upholding the letter of the law and misdemeanours should of course be punished. I just think that prevention is better than cure, that's all. There must be better ways of putting a stop to traffic violations than pulling people up and telling them jokes.

The best preventative measure I've ever seen happened by mistake. A large pot of white paint fell off the back of a lorry and spilled all over the road. By some quirk, the resulting shape resembled one of those outlines drawn around homicide corpses in episodes of Kojak. This had a very telling effect on the passing drivers: they all slowed down when they saw the "corpse" and drove by very sedately. I have a good mind to patent the idea.

Not that the police are interested in any of this. They prefer to meet the public in person. Believe me, I should know. The one who booked me looked very pleased with himself. He stopped me for going through a red light on my bicycle. OK, I admit it: I'm a criminal. But I only did it because I could hear this great big motorbike revving up behind me, urging me to jump the light. I didn't know there was a policeman riding it. I'm sure he did it on purpose.

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