Decriminalizing Traffic Laws Is Not Smart Thinking

Source: Decriminalizing Traffic Laws Is Not Smart Thinking

Mr. Pritchard recommends decriminalizing the traffic laws, thereby taking police officers out of the business of enforcing them.

If police are no longer making traffic stops, Mr. Pritchard argues, there are that many fewer encounters with the public where things can go awry. Reduce the number of public contacts, and voila, the number of brutality incidents declines also.

I’m willing to debate the proposal on its merits, but unfortunately Mr. Pritchard doesn’t rest his arguments entirely on the merits, employing some rhetoric more commonly found at Slate or Salon than The Federalist. The piece begins with the premise that because the traffic laws are so voluminous and complex that “to drive is literally to be a criminal,” thus exposing any driver — even you! — to the caprices of heavy-handed police officers looking for an excuse to pull over and terrorize some innocent motorist. And you can well imagine where Mr. Pritchard goes from there. “But when getting pulled over can mean violence or even death,” he says, “the prospect of a traffic stop can be a constant menace.”

And, very predictably, Mr. Pritchard takes us into a discussion of race and the racial disparities he assumes to be inherent in law enforcement:

As anyone who isn’t willfully ignorant knows, that’s the reality facing many black (and brown) Americans today. Poverty dynamics, implicit bias, and a judiciary that has interpreted the Fourth Amendment to place few limits on police discretion all combine to create an environment in which police-related violence has become unacceptably commonplace.

Note the rhetorical device: If you don’t agree with Mr. Pritchard, you must not only be ignorant, but willfully so. Again, you can see this same device employed routinely at both Slate and Salon, but not often at The Federalist.