Justin Hanners' Just a Symptom of the Police State Problem
Justin Hanners, an Auburn, Alabama police officer, was fired in 2012 for trying to do the right thing.
He'd been ordered by his supervising officer to make a needless arrest to help meet his monthly quota for tickets, arrests and other revenue-raising activities (anything with a fine attached). He filed a grievance with the department because of the immoral order, and was fired shortly thereafter. Generally, firing a police officer requires an act of Congress, but evidently questioning the extortion activities of a police department is more than enough.
Herein lies the problem of using the enforcement branch of government to raise revenue. Collecting fines, superficially, makes sense; instead of citizens paying to incarcerate one another, the person committing the crime pays the price directly. However, when police budgets get tight, cops feel a perverse incentive to create criminals.
The old police motto, "Serve and Protect" becomes terribly twisted when creating criminals becomes good business sense.
Eager to cash in on the state's monopoly of force, businesses are eying police departments' unique power to grab people's money in exchange for absolutely nothing. Traffic camera companies that mail tickets directly to people's houses are more than happy to split the revenues with police departments, all in the name of public safety. Studies have shown that traffic cameras actually increase accidents, but this doesn't seem to bother the recipients of the ill-gotten money.
After a little thought, it's clear that when police are repurposed into revenue collectors, harassing citizens over petty infractions like public drunkenness, speeding or burned out headlights becomes top priority.
While Detroit goes bankrupt, and places like Chicago and Cincinnati are inclined to follow, expect to see cities flailing in their death-throes, clawing for revenue anywhere they can find it. Since a police officer can pay his own salary with only one ticket per day, hiring additional cops to fine fellow citizens for non-crimes can help close a budget gap. In fact, the totally bankrupt city of Prichard, Alabama allocated four officers to grill the short stretch of interstate that passes over their city, despite Prichard's extremely high levels of crime.
Law enforcement should stick to law enforcement, while extorting money from fellow citizens should be left up to ordinary criminals.