At some point in the average person’s life they are likely to have encountered an overzealous police officer who issued a ticket for some minor infraction, such as jaywalking or driving with a burnt-out turn signal.
The fines for such trivial offenses are often somewhat formidable, and in many cases the recipient of the ticket feels unfairly punished for something he or she didn’t even realize they were doing wrong.
A recent case involving a Canadian man who was fined $465 dollars (approx. $354 USD) by Edmonton, Alberta, police for having a slightly torn driver’s license, has caused a stir on social media. After receiving the ticket, Dave Balay of Camrose, Alberta, uploaded a video featuring his account of the incident to his Facebook page. (RELATED: Follow more coverage of the rising police state at PoliceState.news)
Since then, the video has attracted more than 400,000 views and has been shared by more than 7,000 people.
The basic story is as follows: On January 25, Balay was returning home from visiting a friend when he noticed a police cruiser in his rear view mirror.
“I saw the police lights come on behind, and so I thought I’d pull over to the side to give them room to pass,” Balay told CBC News. “Because I wasn’t doing anything untoward. But then the police, of course, pulled in behind me.”
When the officers approached Balay, one of them said they had received a tip about a swerving car that matched the description of the Honda Accord he was driving. Balay wasn’t worried since he doesn’t drink and so he dutifully gave the officer his license, registration and insurance card, expecting to soon be sent on his way.
“He came back, and the younger policeman said he was going to give me a ticket for my driver’s licence being mutilated,” he said.
The “mutilation” turned out to be a small crack less than an inch long on the upper left corner of Balay’s license. When he saw the amount of the fine, Balay was so surprised that instead of reacting in anger, he laughed and said, “Seriously? Four-hundred-and-sixty-five bucks for this crack?”
But the cops weren’t joking, and so Balay has decided not to pay the fine – even if it means time behind bars or performing community service.
“I don’t have $465,” said Balay. “I’m on unemployment insurance and I do some part-time substitute teaching, supply teacher. It’s a week’s wage.
“Common sense would say I would just go and get a new one and not get charged with anything,” he added. “I’ll even pay for the cost of replacing the licence myself.”
Unfortunately, cases like these are quite common. Wherever there are laws and police officers to enforce them, it seems, there are always cops who over-apply the law.
In some cases, it’s about petty abuse of power exercised by individual cops; in others, it’s motivated by departmental arrest quotas (though these never seem to exist on paper, of course) and corrupt law enforcement agencies that over-enforce laws simply for financial gain.
In many cases, it’s likely a combination of both factors.
Police departments often defend such over-policing tactics by saying they are necessary to prevent more serious crimes from occurring. There is a school of thought based on what is called the “broken window” method of policing, but many disagree with its basic premise – not to mention its effect on minority populations and the burden it places on taxpayers.
From Business Insider:
“Broken windows, from the work of two criminologists, George Kelling and James Wilson, suggests that minor disorder, like vandalism, acts as a gateway to more serious crime. Police can thus cut down on violent crime by focusing on smaller offenses, often referred to as ‘quality of life’ crimes, according to the theory.”
But there is little scientific evidence that broken window policing actually reduces crime, and the “human and economic cost” of such an approach has been estimated to amount to $410 million annually in the United States alone, according to the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP).
Whatever the motivation, the United States, Canada and several other developed countries seem to be drifting towards becoming authoritarian police states.