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When did you last say it’s a fair cop?

New Zealand police
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When was the last time you were caught speeding and told your friends that it was a fair cop?Queensland Police "Fatal 5" bikes

Instead, did you tell your friends – or anyone who would listen – that the cops were being unfair by hiding their radar behind bushes, at the bottom of the hill or in a double-lane passing zone?

Did you complain about entrapment, a lack of leniency or the complete absence of compassion?

Did you say the police were rude, judgemental, lecturing or lacked any judgement of the prevailing road conditions?

It isn’t only an issue regarding speeding, but also the fairness – or lack – of fining riders for inconsequential, confounding and obtuse laws regarding tinted visors, helmet cams and non-compliant helmets.

In these days of zero tolerance, there is no room for police to have any judgment or compassion. And with official or unofficially implied fine targets by superiors, there is pressure to get fines by almost any means police can, which seems to include the underhanded conduct of hiding behind bushes or setting up radar cameras at the end of double-lane passing zones where people accelerate to get past the last vehicle.

That’s not a fair cop at all.

police demerit
MBW gets off with a warning in SA

I got a let-off from the South Australian police in 2013 for a minor speeding infringement, but it’s been a long time since I’ve heard of anyone else being let off by police for a minor indiscretion.

Sure the government must bear some blame for its zero tolerance laws and its chest-beating about speeding and other offences, but the police have to apply the law in a way that the public is educated to obey and act safely.

However, zero tolerance and the manner in which some police exercise their duties are severely eroding public confidence in the police.

They can’t have it both ways. They either want us to respect and obey the police, or they can behave in such a way that people will despise and resent the police.

Police will only encounter more difficulty in performing their duties if the pubic is hostile or resentful to the police, or just plain scared of them.

This is not a cop-bashing exercise. It may sound hackneyed, but I’m surrounded by cops as good friends, riding partners and in-laws.

But what ever happened to the days when a fair cop could behave like a fair cop?

  1. Once, in my younger days, late at night, I was behind 3 motorcycle Cops you were exceeding the speed limit and generally skylarking around, after about 3 kilometres, one of the Cops slowed down and told me to pull over, he said that as he was doing 75 in a 60 zone, I must have been doing 75 also. Being young, I knew nothing about how magistrates dimly viewed rear vision speeding fines and paid it. Another time I was riding down Parramatta Road and a woman, I swear deliberately, tried to run me into the gutter. I followed her for about 3 kilometres and gave her an earful, at the next set of lights she tried to reverse over me. I went and reported her to Ashfield Police Station, there was a young woman there at the counter also and she started snickering and laughing. When I objected, the Cop behind the counter told me that the young woman was his daughter and she could laugh at whatever she wanted to. The car driver was never charged. I vowed that day, after those 2 instances, that if the NSW Police ever wanted my assistance with any crime related incident that hell would freeze over first.

  2. Traffic Police have an increasingly bad name, even non-traffic cops refer to them as the enemy.

    Especially with the incessant focus on speeding which in most accidents is severity factor not the root cause i.e. near miss becomes an accident, minor accident becomes fatal etc. Most road users know this and would rather see a focus on broader driver behaviours (e.g. poor lane changing, fail to give way), less radars, less speed cameras and more mobile patrols. Even with the so called Fatal Four, now five if you include mobile phone use, enforcement action is heavily weighted towards speeding. I can’t remember the last time I went through an RBT, it has been well over 5 years.

    The focus on speeding is such that it bears little regard to physics. A 300kg motorcycle is treated exactly the same 50+tonne B-Double despite 160X weight difference. Travelling 13km/h over the speed is treated the same regardless of speed limit (26% of the speed limit in 50 zone, 13% in a 100 zone). Road works often have the same speed limit regardless of the presence of workers or not. Radar traps in black spot areas, outside of the times the accidents usually occur (Newman Rd Mount Gravatt is a good example of this). This list could go on and on.

    I think this does both the Police and Public a great disservice. People have no problem with road safety messages and enforcement that makes sense. I never hear people complain about red light cameras, fines for not wearing a seat belt, getting fined for mobile phone use. They understand their actions were unsafe and accept the punishment. They would welcome more RBTs and they are sick of those go past their house at high speed in the early morning.

  3. Back in the ’80s I got stuck behind a wide load in Central Queensland. I was in my car at the time. There were two motorcycle cop escorts riding Honda CB900s. They were doing wheelies up the road behind the truck. I loved it. What’s wrong with having a bit of harmless fun to relieve the boredom. Those were the days! We had some freedom then. Why have Australians now become such a bunch of wowsers?

  4. Pretty one sided argument Mark – if you don’t speed then you have nothing to worry about. Is a little bit of speeding the same as a little bit of domestic violence ? The speed limits are law and the law applies equally to all vehicles as they should.

    Now in the past i have been guilty of speeding, if i get pinched i wear it and pay the fine, i don’t bitch or complain that the cops were hiding behind a bus shelter or a bush or driving an unmarked car. When you have spent time picking up body parts and having to label and bag them then the argument that a bike should be treated differently to a car, to a b double or to a boat are irrelevant. The deceased has a family and so do any unwitting person they harm or kill how ever unwittingly. Stay within the speed limits and you wont have a problem, failing that, then move to the NT and drive the Stuart Hwy to your hearts content at what ever speed you like.

  5. Oh please, give me a break. Always the claim that bikes can speed ‘safely’. Living at Mt Glorious, let me tell you that residents here have had a gutful of idiots on bikes and in cars thinking they can do what they like on our local roads which are predominantly 50, 60 and 70 kmh. And in some parts, those speeds are too high when the road is wet and slippery (which is often). Good luck to the police if they catch someone speeding – it’s an offence that is easily measurable and observable where other idiocies are much harder to catch. The speeding ticket may just be a helpful reminder that other boring road rules relating to hooning in our streets also apply – don’t risk it.

    And I especially loved your respondent Craig’s comment that “The focus on speeding is such that it bears little regard to physics”. Tell that to the lady who last weekend ended up on another resident’s car bonnet after taking a corner just a bit too fast and wide coming up from Highvale. That would be a boring 60kmh zone. Damn physics! Broke her leg, wrist and a fractured or bruised pelvis. Two accidents last weekend that I know of on the same stretch of road and right now there is yet another drama unfolding with sirens, road closure just west of Mt G with helicopter evac just happening (afternoon 17 Jan 2015).

    Strangely, residents also daring to use their local roads this afternoon have observed that road behaviors seemed unusually subdued today. It is a pity that it takes an incident like that to underscore the simple fact that right or wrong, the road speed limits apply to everyone equally…as do the laws of physics!

  6. At the end of the day, the police are doing their job. If you’re speeding (and get caught), you cannot blame the officer that caught you for doing their job. It is only you to blame. However I do feel that there should be some leeway, be it 3 or 5km over.

    You have to take into account that not every vehicles speedometer is accurate, and can legally show a speed 10% + 4km higher than the actual road speed.

    I personally feel there should be more undercover motorcycle police patrolling, lane filtering and booking all those people driving on mobile phones everyday. I think distractions cause more accidents than being over the speed limit by 5km, however I still believe that if you are speeding than you are breaking the law, so it isn’t the officers fault.

  7. I’ve had 3 speeding fines in the past 5 years. 2 were country cops and they were “a fair cop”. Even marked me down to the next lowest speed in one circumstance. The third was a city cop and he was a “fatherless son” in his attitude.
    I, unknowingly in all 3 cases broke the speed limits and I’m guessing my polite demeanor had something to do with the 2 country police officers’ attitudes towards me.

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