Selective enforcement of the law based on improper motives is wrong. But it happens. And speed “limits” are ripe for it.
Years ago, I did a ride-along with a police officer during a night shift. It was a blast. We patrolled a parkway in a souped-up Dodge Charger. We sped up and down looking for drunk drivers, set speed traps, and patrolled some pretty cool places nearby. I respected the officer; he was a good guy who cared about doing the right thing.
That night, I remember asking the officer about the speed limit. He told me he typically didn’t pull people over for speeding unless they were going more than 23 miles per hour over the “limit.” 23 miles per hour?!? I thought it was crazy and so did he. But that was the reality. Why? Because everyone sped.
I imagine every officer has their number. I also imagine there are a number of officers who allow certain things—sometimes improper things—to change that number. “It’s reality,” they say. But that doesn’t make it right.
For our justice system to be respected, it must be fair. Selective enforcement of any law based on bias is not fair. Everyone agrees with that. Allowing for the perception of it, however, can be just as damaging. It erodes the respect our justice system needs, for example, when everyone knows (but no one can prove) the real reason why Tyrone Biggums was pulled over:
Speed limits should not be suggestions. They should be limits. 65 miles per hour should be 65 miles per hour. And if 65 is too low, then it should be raised to something that makes more sense.
Speed limits should not allow for police officers to have such broad discretion. They should be limits—not suggestions.