Why are Some Citizens Cynical of Law Enforcement?

So a good friend of mine calls me the other morning with angry tone in her voice. She was cited for a moving violation. Immediately, I wondered what occurred on the roadway remembering last year she had mentioned her perfect driving record – not having a moving violation in over 30 years of driving. She’s cautious, conscientious,  and her motor vehicle skills are exemplary. Because of her agitated voice tone, I quickly realized the prudent approach was to allow her to lead the conversation and provide a empathetic ear.

I realize she’s upset with one police officer of the Libertyville Police Department for issuing her a moving violation. As she outlining the situation with frustration in her voice, I’m thinking about her moving violation. Did she run a stop sign or red light? Excessive speeding? Or drunk driving or a DUI which is impossible to fathom if you knew her well. No, she was cited for driving without a seat belt. I proceed to ask her what else she was cited for – thinking that a seat belt citation typically accompanies other violations – improper lane change, aggressive driving or speeding. According to the officer’s explanation of seat belt enforcement, not using one’s seat belt is cause enough for law enforcement officials to solely enforce that statue and issue a citation.

Image from Theblueline.com

From Theblueline.com

It appears to me, what’s frustrating are the circumstances. Apparently Mr. Officer showed no understanding or interpretation of the situation. As mentioned earlier, this was my friend’s first moving violation and one would think the police officer would include that terribly significant piece of information in his interpretation of the law. Perhaps this officer was absolutely committed to issuing a citation regardless of the circumstances. My friend mentioned she was 1 mile from her home and driving an unfamiliar vehicle so the seat belt warning light never came on – apparently the officer just shrugged his shoulders after hearing her explanation. I realize wearing your seat belt is an important part of safe driving but would not these circumstances been factored in by the law enforcement official?

Perhaps because the seat belt enforcement is new in the Land of Lincoln, enforcement is less arbitrary? Perhaps she didn’t have good roadway karma that day? Or perhaps the officer just felt like asserting his power on someone? From a financial and administrative perspective, is it not a “quick win” for the police department and village of Libertyville? Either you’re wearing a seat belt or not, so enforcing this law is easy and fairly straightforward – rarely subject too much, if any litigation.

Regardless, is this a prime example of a situation where law enforcement may receive negative press – adding to the cynicism some citizens feel about police officers not always using common sense and discretion when engaged in law enforcement? Will this officer be consistent with the next seat belt enforcement? Will this officer or other law enforcement consistently enforce the lack of using one’s headlights when it’s raining or issue a citation if he sees a motorist throw a finished cigarette out the car window? Will violators of parking restrictions receive the same, consistent law enforcement in Libertyville? And if they do or don’t, how will we know either way?

BTW, does this strict new seat belt law enforcement apply to motorcyclists? No, I guess they don’t need seat belts let alone helmets in the Land of Lincoln. A Travesty?