Enforce a little law, make a little scratch

I caught a few minutes of Howie Carr‘s radio program on the way home tonight. Apparently, state cops in Massachusetts have been ordered to bring in more dough (and we know how they do that). He had cops and former cops calling and faxing and giving some very interesting information.

One retired cop said this all started when Nixon lowered the speed limit to 55 in 1974. State cops were reluctant to enforce the stupid law, so the federal government came down heavily on them until they started handing out tickets. Now, naturally, they’re addicted to the extra revenue. Bureaucracies will alway grow to accomodate any new influx of cash (remember that if they ever go to build “temporary” toll roads in your state).

Another thing I didn’t know: every ticket a cop writes counts as an hour worked, for the purposes of calculating overtime. The current rules are: a ticket counts as an hour and a half, a written warning as an hour and a verbal warning as a half hour. So, hand out five tickets and a verbal warning, and the rest of your work hours are 50% more profitable. (Calculated per day or per week? Per day, I got the impression).

So! Any revenue brought in by the ticket is diminished by the overtime paid to the police, while traffic law seems largely divorced from genuine public safety issues and police are increasingly viewed by the public as roving shakedown artists. This is not healthy. I’ve often thought fines and fees paid to one department in government ought to go into the budget of another, so the people responsible for enforcement don’t look at individual citizens and see ATM machines (that’s not original, but I’m dipped if I can remember who said it).

Howie Carr’s afternoon radio show is definitely worth a listen. You may know him as a columnist for the Boston Herald. I’m not really a fan of his writing, though I understand his book is good (The Brothers Bulger: How They Terrorized and Corrupted Boston for a Quarter Century). But his show is excellent; very funny, good topics. I love it when he spontaneously goes off on a tear about Massachusetts corruption; he has an encyclopedic personal knowledge of mobsters and crooked Boston pols.

It’s streamed from his site every afternoon from 3pm to 7pm EST (and I think there’s a repeat in the middle of the night) and a small part of the show is podcast. Also, don’t miss the other websites he maintains: the one dedicated to soundbites of Mayor Thomas “Mumbles” Menino of Boston and his hilariously mangled vocabulary, plus his tributes to Ted “Fatboy” Kennedy and John “Liveshot” Kerry. They’re tacky and tabloidy and fun. He also runs Whitey Watch, about mobster-on-the-lam Whitey Bulger, that offers old crime scene photos and mug shots and lots of stuff about mob activity around Boston. Howie is a rare, endangered New England Rightwinger, so do your part to preserve the species. Listen or buy a book or something.


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