It turns out in Washington State, a police officer does not have to show up when you contest a ticket. They simply send an affidavit saying they sure did see you violate the rules of the road. End of discussion. Who is a judge going to believe? Is he going to believe Joe Schmoe Driver, or Officer Doesnowrong? Seriously?
You have to actually subpoena an officer if you want him to show up for cross-examination. Shockingly, apparently no one ever does this. Here's how I figure this whole thing goes down. The guy that pulled me over claiming I ran a stop sign... he probably doesn't even remember what happened. So he's gonna lie through his teeth. If he doesn't, I'll admit I'm wrong. If he doesn't, I'm going to thank him, in front of everyone, for being so honest.
But since the guy is either thoroughly confused or lying in the first place, I have very low expectations. I figure I'm probably going to end up paying the fine and having this go on my record. But that's okay.
See, the way I figure it, the officer in question was looking for a little revenue for the county. I'm not saying that he himself is corrupt, so much as the system itself is corrupt. We reward our officers for making victims of every day drivers. They are encouraged to pull us over for moving violations that have virtually no impact on anyone. I understand the thought behind this... people need to follow the rules of the road, but do we really need to fine them when they make a mistake?
I guess I wouldn't have such a problem if the police themselves weren't above the law. Many of them have terrible driving habits. They speed. They don't observe the same basic regulations they want us to. And they are virtually infallible in the eyes of the law... at least when it comes to "testifying" in traffic court.
Anyway, I digress. If the county wishes to create revenue by pulling people over, I can't really do anything about it. And if they decide I'm guilty of something I didn't do, I can't really do anything about that either. What I can do, however, is make sure that the county earns their $150 the hard way... by giving me my day in court, and by forcing the police officer in question to spend his time in court as well.
So even if I don't win, and I probably won't, I'll still feel pretty good about the whole thing. Meanwhile, my anger about the unbridled power of our police force is spilling over into other avenues. I give public teachers a hard time here for having tons of sex with their students, but I think teachers in general are good people with good intentions. There is no other driving forces in becoming a teacher, besides helping others. But that's not true of police officers. Some of them, surely, have entered the profession to help others. But some of them enter it because they have control issues... power struggles that have led them to take on jobs where they have the power. That's not a good recipe for a police force that serves to protect the powerless. I think it might be time for our country to rethink the powers the police have, and to rethink what duties they've been given in our society.