Law enforcement officers are not above the law
As we all know, or we all should, new laws recently went into effect regarding hand held cell phones while driving and texting while driving. Those laws are a good thing and, if people abide by them, will save lives. What many may not know is that law enforcement officers are exempt from the law. The reasoning behind such an exemption is likely that officers may need to use their cell phones in emergency situations. I guess I can buy that to an extent; however, officers don’t always abide by that “emergency situation” rule but talk away as they drive down the road.
Police officers are not so encased in some magic bubble that their inappropriate use of these devices could not lead to an accident which could cost someone property, or worse, life.
In addition, I have recently witnessed, and maybe I am looking harder than I have before or it is becoming more and more blatant, but local officers do not believe they are required to follow traffic laws either.
Let me preface these comments by saying that I have yet to witness such an occurrence by our local Shepherdstown Police Department or Shepherd University. I have seen these officers act only in professional and yes, legal, manner. State Police officers and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office are a different story.
I travel the county frequently and have witnessed many instances of police vehicles, both county and state, traveling at speeds far exceeding the posted speed. These vehicles rarely have lights flashing to indicate they are on a call, but rather outrun all other traffic on the roadway to get to wherever it is they are going.
In fairness, perhaps sometimes these cars are traveling without sirens responding to a call where advance notice of their arrival could cause danger. But, I tend to doubt it is a frequent occurrence.
Police vehicles also have the ability to travel through stop signs or lights without stopping. My concern for this type of abuse of the job reached a peak this past weekend when I was traveling on Route 340 from Harpers Ferry to Charles Town. I was in the left turn lane to turn onto Marlow Road and a Jefferson County deputy was in the oncoming left turn lane to turn onto Old Country Club Road. The green arrows changed for us and as I made my turn, fully expecting the police vehicle to make its turn, that officer simply pulled straight ahead to travel down Route 340 while all other traffic remained stopped at the red light.
This kind of behavior could have caused an accident and, if my reaction time had been slower, it would have. The officer didn’t even slow down; she just kept driving as shocked drivers obeying the traffic signals looked on.
As I said, the instances of this type of behavior are seen all too frequently in our county and the supervisors in the State Police and the Sheriff’s Office need to reign in such behavior. Accidents can be caused as quickly by an officer not obeying the laws as by any other driver who is subject to citations from said officers.