The Wrong View on Speeding
Feb. 3, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Trying to pull over a speeding cop is a terrible idea. Claudia Castillo is a very lucky woman, though:
Castillo, who spoke with Miami Herald news partner CBS 4, said she was running an errand when she spotted Fonticiella racing past her with his siren turned off.
“I think this merits some attention at a countywide level,” Castillo said. “Police officers speed all the time. That should not be an acceptable modus operandi. That’s not the way it works. That’s not the way it should work.”
She happened to stop a very laid-back cop who handled the situation quite well. It looks like he might get in some trouble, however:
The Miami-Dade police officer pulled over by a civilian for allegedly speeding, the scene captured on video that has now gone viral, was identified Monday as Daniel Fonticiella, a former Hammocks District officer who now works at PortMiami.
Police released little other information on Fonticiella — like his age or years of service with the department — except to say that an internal affairs investigation is under way after a complaint was filed Monday by a woman named Claudia Castillo.
We as a society should be embarrassed that anyone cares about this at all.
Castillo broke the same traffic laws that led her to waste the cop’s time. She can’t exactly catch someone who’s speeding without speeding herself. Plus, her car probably wasn’t as well equipped or maintained as a police cruiser. She’s probably had no special training to help her drive at a high rate of speed. She’s certainly had no training in stopping people.
Furthermore, she was a distracted driver who focused not on safely getting to her destination but on distracting another motorist to then nag him about doing the same thing she just did to catch him. It was a dangerous situation all around, and her decision was probably worse than the harm she was trying to address. That’s true almost every time anyone makes a traffic stop for a violation, though, cop or not.
It would have been far more dangerous had the cop not been so nice. A lot of cops would’ve yelled at her for wasting their time. A lot would’ve given her a ticket for speeding herself. There are also some that would’ve taken her camera or phone, roughed her up, or worse. She comes off as an insufferable scold. Basically, she comes off just as complacent and hypocritical as cops making traffic stops generally do. He comes off as even-tempered.
As pleasant as he is, the cop still isn’t exactly the model person being stopped. He denies speeding. He clearly tries to adjust the dynamic to be in control. It’s all about power, and whether he did it intentionally or not, he shifted the balance. When he told her he thought she was in distress and tried to make sure she was okay, it was a pretty effective way to regain control of the situation, and one that might make some people in her situation feel a little guilty at that.
The police apologists offered exactly the sort of response any rational person would expect from them:
PBA president John Rivera said Monday he saw “no evidence’’ that Fonticiella was speeding.
“However, if it were true, two wrongs don’t make a right,’’ he said. “Had something gone wrong, as in she got into a crash and hurt someone, she would be totally liable. The appropriate action would have been to write the car number down and contact the department. I felt the officer’s response was totally professional and he even offers up his name and badge. I commend him for his demeanor.”
It would be interesting to get Rivera’s take on whether he’s also opposed to cops who break traffic laws messing with people who might’ve broken traffic laws. His response would probably involve a lot of emphasis on the training officers receive, their important role in the community, and so on. As reasonable as that position may be in some respects, it would instantly fall apart if Castillo was also well trained and doing something very important.
Cops who do illegal things for which they’ve received even the tiniest bit of training love to tout that training. When faced with a citizen with the same training or better, they reveal their true colors. Castillo could’ve been Danica Patrick in the world’s safest car, with perfect weather conditions, an ideal road surface, and not another motorist in sight. Rivera would’ve criticized what she did as wrong.
A cop, on the other hand, could spin out turning around in heavy rush hour, halting traffic and endangering everyone around, and then go twice as fast as the speeder he was trying to catch. Rivera wouldn’t mention two wrongs not making a right, liability, or better approaches to the same situation at all.
A cop getting stopped by a citizen makes for a cute story. It makes it seem like we don’t have a ridiculously militarized police force that nitpicks ordinary citizens to death for breaking rules it can’t be troubled to follow itself.
Everyone speeds. Those rare people who don’t tend to fall in the “dangerously slow” category, completely unaware of their much faster surroundings and doing all sorts of reckless things, just at a glacial pace.
Getting excited about the public treating cops the way they treat us only shows how deeply flawed our worldview is. We should be reconsidering the bad decisions that have enabled cops to become reckless disciplinarians rather than celebrating someone who happened to be lucky enough to get away with it too.