September 15, 2023 | Maria Cruz

Police Officers Share Laws They’re Uncomfortable Enforcing


#1 A Warm Bed

In my day-to-day as an officer, I’d have to say that the one thing I’m most uncomfortable enforcing is when we have to apprehend homeless people. A lot of us don’t actually bring them in to “get them off the streets.” We usually just bring them in but forget to file paperwork on them, so they wind up with a warm bed, a breakfast, and no record.

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#2 Spirit of the System

I don’t apprehend people who had been drinking too much and sleep it off in their cars. There’s no accident and they’re seeking shelter (in a parking lot, not parked in the middle of an intersection). They just get to listen to me talk about the dangers of driving the whole way home, which is punishment enough. I could 100% apprehend someone in this situation. But, I feel that it does not meet the spirit of the system.

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#3 Rubbed the Wrong Way

It's not a specified rule as such, but in the UK people can use "reasonable force" to protect themselves, others and property. Obviously, everyone has their own interpretation of what reasonable force is but I remember going to one job where a guy was sat on his couch with a drink watching TV when a tipsy man just walked straight into his living room via the front door.

A confrontation occurred, the trespasser became aggressive and a brawl ensued. Long story short, the trespasser was given a proper shoo-in, so much so he ended up in the street where he then called the authorities. We attended and his injuries were substantial enough that the house occupant was apprehended for grievous bodily harm (GBH). It definitely rubbed me the wrong way because I sympathized with the guy. I felt any of us would've probably done the same thing if we were in his position.

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#4 Funny Looks

Traffic tickets. I'd pull people over, give a verbal warning about whatever dumb or unsafe thing they just did, check for warrants and let them go. I got funny looks for the blank spot in my work card where the tickets were supposed to go, sure. But since it's not allowed to officially or unofficially have a quota system, it could never be used against me in my job evaluation.

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#5 Turning a Blind Eye

Prior to allowing it here in Canada, my city for years had a devil’s lettuce apprehension rate almost 70% lower than the national average. This is in a college town where students make up 20% of the population, so it's not like there wasn't a lot of it in town. There wasn't any policy or directive regarding it issued. It was just a result of all officers personally turning a blind eye to the substance unless the citizen was being rude.

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#6 Up to the Officer

Ex-officer here in the US. The two that stand out the most is how much officer discretion is used in each scenario for someone to get locked up. It could be the same person with the same amount of substances. I could destroy the evidence and send them away, or I could take them in. It’s up to the officer. The second would be the ability to ticket each window as tinted instead of one just for the whole car.

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#7 Statistically Dangerous

I’m not an officer but my buddy is. He absolutely hates pulling traffic stops and giving tickets unless the person is doing something incredibly reckless. He thinks, for the most part, that they’re useless and add to the community’s dislike of the authorities. Not to mention, they’re statistically pretty dangerous for him.

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#8 Recycling Theft

My friend is an officer in an area. Chief got up for the daily briefing and told them they needed to prioritize reducing "recycling theft,” which was homeless people digging through recycling bins to get cash refund value items. I thought that was insane.

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#9 College Town

In my college town, there were really only four places within walking distance to campus and they were all notoriously lax on their ID policy. Any fake got you in the door and sometimes you didn't even need that. But the officers always kept their distance because that meant students were partying under the regulation of bouncers and bartenders, which was obviously preferable to the alternative of constantly throwing house parties.

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#10 Sinking Ships

I’m not an officer, but still enforcement at the time. When I was in the coast guard, I did a lot of substance and migrant interdiction down in the Caribbean. Chasing smugglers was pretty fun, but interdicting the migrants was always sad. We would usually find Haitians or Cubans and the Haitians were always much worse off.

It was pretty heartbreaking having to send them back after seeing the state they were in and the state of the country they were trying to leave. They would go through such great lengths to leave and we had to stop them. One guy tried to light himself on fire and others would try and injure themselves to try and get us to take them to health care facilities. The only redeeming thing about interdicting them was their ships were always shoddily made and oftentimes, our act of interdicting them was also us saving them from a sinking ship.

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#11 Why Aren’t You Helping?

I'm not an officer. I'm a CPS agent. I'm uncomfortable with allowing children to stay in homes that don't have water and electricity as long as they have a source of water and a place to bathe. Schools and relatives turn to me and say, "Why aren't you helping?!" The simple answer is that I can't. 

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#12 A Total Racket

I’m not an officer, but I’m a defense attorney. Driving while license revoked tickets are an absolute racket in North Carolina and savvy officers have realized they don't care to enforce it. Generally, people won’t come to me until they’re already charged with Driving While License Revoked because that’s when they realize how bad they have it.

The good news is, I’ve talked to some officers about these tickets who don't care about the offense — they just want to see the client get their license back. So, they will either tell the DA they don't want it prosecuted or just get it set on a court date when the officer won't be there so I can get it dismissed. It’s all about the money and a total racket.

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#13 Penalizing the Victim

Where I work there is a statute prohibiting leaving your car running unattended. This is very popular during the wintertime because nobody likes to freeze while their car is warming up. However, doing this makes your car more likely to get taken. It’s our policy that if someone reports their car being taken because they left it running, they’ll be ticketed. It basically penalizes the victim.

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#14 Can’t Sleep at Night

When I was an officer I hated reefer rules. I would just tell the person to dump it on the ground when I found it. I did the same when I’d find underage kids with booze; dump it out and be on your way. Aside from that, I pretty much never wrote tickets for equipment wrong-doings such as a headlight out, etc. I would just politely let the person know they needed to fix it. Lastly, I would rarely write tickets for expired registration, especially when the person was clearly struggling financially. I couldn’t sleep at night knowing I had basically punished someone who’s only offence was being poor.

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#15 What I Love

I’ve been doing it for a while and really hate to enforce tinted windows (just roll them down before I get to your car), responsible speeding, and personal harm when the person had it coming. What I really like to enforce, and I mean love to enforce is handicap parking, littering, and any traffic infraction when the person is being an idiot.

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#16 Right to Silence

Reefer; the penalties are excessive. Trafficking also has a  much higher penalty, especially if supplying to a minor. You would get teens who would try to argue with you and say how they were just giving some to their friends. You don’t have to use this as evidence though, and a quick reminder of their right to silence does the trick. I’ve literally told one or two to shut up because they didn’t understand, though.

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#17 A Little Overboard

Here’s one that bugs me. John leaves the pub feeling okay, gets in the car and starts to drive home. During the drive, he realizes that he's tipsier than he thought. He makes a decision to not drive the rest of the way home and pulls off the road at a rest stop or a parking lot, puts the car in park, turns off the headlights but leaves it running to listen to the radio. He then moves the seat back and starts sleeping it off a little.

In my opinion, at that point, he’s not driving while drinking. He did drive but realized he was impaired and stopped. I argued with my instructor about this. The goal is to not have tipsy people on the road and he got off the road on his own. If we pop those people for DWI, the lesson learned and retold to all of their friends is, "If you start to drive loaded, don't stop, keep driving, all the way home.”

Of course, it's ideal if they Uber, have a designated driver, take a cab or public transport. But, I'd rather have people who went a little overboard comfortable with the idea of getting off the road as soon as they realize it. I’d rather that than them thinking they have to make it all the way home or get a DWI. Then they hit some family car with a baby in the car seat.

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#18 Personal Use

I was a Park Ranger and wouldn't ever seem to find anyone with less than "sale weight" of devil’s lettuce, I just never saw it. I'm red/green color blind and my green vision only kicks in around half a kilo. It's a flaw in my capabilities as a human. I only see better than the "personal use" cut off weight. It must be the guilt from the metric tons I smoked in Vietnam.

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#19 Giant Money Grab

We have a $500 impound fee that we're forced to enforce for driving with a suspended or revoked license. Generally, that means we’re taking a vehicle from someone who can’t afford to get their license back and holding their vehicle while it accrues more daily fees. Nine times out of ten, these people are decent folks who are just trying to get their kids to school or go to work. There are only a few people in our department who like impounding vehicles under this ordinance because the admin likes it. Everyone else sees it for what it is: a giant money grab.

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#20 Radar Detectors

My dad was an officer (MP, specifically). He thought banning radar detectors was dumb. His reasoning was because you’re trying to get people to slow down and a speeding ticket was a result of people not slowing down. Ticketing for using a radar detector is just ticketing to give out tickets, as radar detectors make people slow down.

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#21 Broken Tail Light

My uncle’s an officer. He's always said that he tries not to write tickets for broken tail lights. He says that in most cases, people driving around with a broken tail light are doing so because they can't afford to fix it immediately. So, giving them a ticket on top of that just makes it even more difficult for them to fix it.

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#22 Do It Quickly

We’re supposed to ticket anyone on a cell phone behind the wheel while on the road. The ticket is $164. If you’re on it while at a red light but still aware of your surroundings, I’ll most likely give a warning. If you’re on it while driving, you’ll get a ticket. Everyone checks their phone at a red light. Just do it quickly.

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#23 Trying to Solve Everything

Due to poor policies and our society blacklisting enforcement officers, it’s impossible for us to do our jobs anymore. We’re told to enforce substance rules (they make the state the most money), while the attorney's office drops DV  cases and incidents against women. I refuse to charge grass in personal use amounts. I will not write tickets for stupid traffic stops (I will stop and enforce more egregious offenses, obviously). I feel like we’ve lost our humanity in a lot of ways by trying to solve everything through the system.

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#24 Cool Officer

I’m not an officer, but my father was back in the day. I’ll always remember how he said that he’d never bust many high school parties because he did the same stuff in high school. In his mind, he figured that everyone deserved to party every now and then. Obviously, the people in my town really liked him as an officer.

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#25 Place of Safety

Tenancy disputes. Some tenants are terrible and deserve to be evicted. But there are a lot of landlords who treat tenants badly by not fixing urgent repairs, misusing their entry powers, etc. But if a tenant stops paying all of their rent, they can rightfully be evicted. Sometimes the tenants can become upset and we’re called in. We always made sure we transported the evicted tenant to a place of safety.

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#26 It Doesn’t Help

I’m a former officer. I hated almost anything related to personal use. I quit in part because of it (the other factors being race issues and the refusal to acknowledge or change; the climate of persecuting anyone who challenges the status quo; and PTSD). By all means, I support LE going after dealers, runners, sources, cartels, etc. But most of what I was asked to do in my patrol days was related to harassing and busting users. It doesn’t help anything.

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#27 Three Years

My ex-neighbor is an officer and told me a story about his boss chewing him out for failing to turn in his paperwork for a traffic stop within 24 hours. At that point in the story, my neighbor just said, "So I haven't written a ticket in over three years." I’m not going to lie, I gained a lot of respect for officers that day.

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#28 Big Wigs

When I was a parking officer, there was an internal policy about not ticketing cars parked in this very wealthy neighborhood, even if it was clearly a safety concern. They would park their trailers or small boats very close to intersections and that made it dangerous to navigate around there. Because there were too many "big wigs,” we could have risked our jobs if we ticketed someone there, so they decided to not have the parking officers enforce it.

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#29 Missing Plant

I'm not an officer anymore, but I rarely apprehended for personal use of grass. It's a harmless plant. Selling is a different story because most of those dealers are supporting a cartel and I don't agree with that. There was one case, where a bunch of guys in my agency would have apprehended in a heartbeat, and honestly, I was required to investigate, but didn't.

A car drove through the back of someone's house because the driver confused the brake and gas pedal. The house that was driven through, had a lone plant in another room, which is a problem in my state. I stepped in front of it so the firefighters and others wouldn't notice. This homeowner was a church-going father who worked a nice job and contributed greatly to society. I'm not trying to ruin his family's life over a plant.

When I walked out of the house and came back in, the plant was missing and he was probably close to soiling his pants the whole time I stood there. Now that I'm not an officer, I thought about leaving a letter in his mailbox telling him I knew about the plant, but I didn’t. I mean, I don't want to make him paranoid.

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#30 We Know it Happens

The first is tinted windows. I can argue good reasons to  have tinted windows all day long. I refuse to write a ticket for them (unless you’re being a loser to me). Second, relations under 18. We all know it happens. Most of us probably did it. But if I find a couple of 17-year-olds fooling around, they’re not doing anything worth ruining someone’s life over. Now if it’s a 17-year-old and 13-year-old, that’s a  very different story.

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#31 Take a Stand

I’m an Irish American Catholic (I know, it’s a real shocker that I ended up as an officer). I refused to apprehend people for taking food. I got reprimanded from it from some of the higher-ups and I even lost a few vacation days over it. But, I don’t care in the end. In my opinion, mercy has to take a stand somewhere.

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#32 Meaning No Harm

Possession of grass. Too many people who mean no harm to anyone pay heavy fines and get locked up for possession of harmless substances. I never had a bad encounter with anyone who was high. But people misusing booze or a substance are so awful to deal with. They’re either aggressive or don't understand a word you say. The green stuff needs to be allowed.

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#33 Pushed For It

Not an officer, but I ran a residence hall at a large public co-ed institution and there was still a curfew for the opposite gender 2009. It turned my head every time. Also, I pushed for it to be ended on the grounds that it was discriminating since same-gender couples could feel free to stay at partners’ all the time, which of course was not the intent of their heteronormative policy. I told them it needed to be no guests after 9:00 or all guests after 9:00.

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#34 We Hated It

Homelessness. We would get so many calls of transients in certain areas. Most are just laying in the sun on the grass, not bothering anyone. All it takes is a phone call from a board commissioner or someone in power and we'd get a call to tell them to move. We all hated it. Seatbelt tickets are another one. I'm sure this isn’t a popular one, but if you don't like wearing your seatbelt while driving, I couldn’t care less. If you want a new face, that's on you.

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#35 Off With a Warning

Not an officer but a good friend of mine is. He hates writing tickets. If he pulls someone over for a minor traffic issue, he’ll reduce it to a warning and just advise the driver of the rules and to be safe when they leave. That’s only if they’re professional and understanding of the circumstances. Having said this, if the driver is immediately being cruel, they’re getting the ticket.

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#36 The Small Stuff

My dad was a sheriff's deputy for 28 years and always talked to me about the spirit of the system mattering more than the letter of the system. He believed in cutting people breaks whenever he could. Before grass was allowed here, if you had a small amount, he would usually just confiscate it and send you on your way. He never believed that small stuff should determine the rest of your life and felt like a victimless offence deserves a chance to correct itself.

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#37 Get Everyone Calm

Domestics. In my state, the rules say that we must apprehend someone at a domestic. But people who live together are bound to argue, and so many times lock-up and trial are not only going to not make things better, they’re just going to exacerbate problems. I do my best just to get everyone calm and separated before we talk our way out of further proceedings.

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#38 Cell Date

Correctional office here. The biggest rule I disagree with has to do with inmates choking the chicken in their bunks. Technically, if we catch them on a "cell date," we’re supposed to put them in cuffs and take them to solitary, but I don't always do that. Beyond the fact that I don't want some nasty, sweaty guy on me, I also don't see a big reason to lock somebody up for enjoying themselves on their own time, provided that they aren't irritating anybody else.

I usually just tell them to stop. If they're in the day room or they're staring at a CO while they do it, I'll take them to solitary because they're usually doing it to make somebody uncomfortable or see what they can get away with. It's worse with female staff, but it happens to male staff as well. Unfortunately, I had to walk an inmate to solitary the other day for this reason. I guess my rear-end just looks too good in my pants or something.

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#39 Dogs Aren’t People

Back in my LEO career days, I was always very uncomfortable with using dogs to search for substances. Yeah, they really can sniff them out, but the false-positive accuracy is so far out of whack with what  should be a standard for reasonable suspicion that it's a little better than guessing. If a dog hits on 100 cars and 50% of them have nothing in them, you just violated the civil rights of 50 people based on what a dog said. Dogs aren't people, you can't interview or cross-examine them in court.

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#40 Right on the Line

I’d have to say self-defence rules. I once had this guy who defended himself and rightly so. But his actions were right on the line for “justified” versus “excessive,” so we opted to have the courts decide. That unfortunately meant apprehending him. He was eventually acquitted and I’m honestly pretty relieved for it.

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#41 We’ve All Been There

There were a couple of teens spending some alone time in a car out in front of my store a few years back. I assume they thought it was closed. Our usuals knew we’d be opening soon however, so I called the authorities just to get them to leave so our uppity clientele wouldn’t see. I was super happy and impressed when the responding officer came in and  asked me if I wanted to press charges and have them taken in. I just told him, “Nah, man. I was a teenager once.” We’ve all been there.

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#42 Hypocritical Rules

The thing I absolutely hate is moving infractions. They can really affect a person in the long run! The ticket itself is very expensive, plus the traffic school, plus the massive insurance price increase. I hate putting people through that (unless the driver is being a jerk, then I don’t care). It’s even worse if the person has a commercial driver’s license. It can get revoked and you can cost someone their job. My other thing is I don’t like giving people tickets for something I’m also at fault in, like tinted windows or no front license plate. I find it very hypocritical to enforce a rule I break every day.

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#43 Speeding 

I’m not an officer, but my cousin is. He hates enforcing speeding. For most people who speed, its maybe going 20-50% above the limit down a straight highway with little traffic around. They’re not hurting anyone or causing any danger. In most cases, he'll just let people off with a warning. He says maybe one out of 25 of the people he pulls over for speeding is actually dangerous. Those are cases like twice the limit in a residential area, zippering traffic, drag racing, etc.

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#44 Loitering

I’m a security officer. My least favorite one to enforce is "loitering.” We usually have to kick the homeless out of fast-food joints because the managers fear they’ll drive off their paying customers. I've never seen one care. They once had me kick out a 74-year-old man in 34-degree weather. It’s some of the worst stuff ever.

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#45 Scary Guy

I remember an officer in my town very well for being feared by the kids. He was relentless on kids drinking, having grass and having your bicycle in order. Like, if he caught you with a defective light, you had to fix it in a day and show up at the station. Once, I managed to fall off my bike and hurt myself pretty hard. But, he was there, checked on me and he insisted on driving me home or to a doctor. He threw my bike into his trunk and off we went. A scary guy, but an earnest and fair-playing officer.

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#46 That Event

My sister is an officer and had this story told to her when she first got in. There was a guy from the army who came back from Afghanistan and he found out that his wife was with another man. She started crying and told him the proof was there in the garbage bin. He got angry and in a moment of hot-headedness, he held her up against the wall and punched his hand through the wall. When the guy realized what he had done, he went outside, sat on the curb and started crying because he realized that he got really angry at his wife and could've harmed her. The authorities got called and he had to go to lock-up. The officers felt bad about it, but it was the rules. Years later, one of the officers saw the guy again. It turned out he became homeless and it all started because of that event.

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#47 Ruin the Party

My friend’s boyfriend is an officer. He hates enforcing underage drinking. Unless they get particularly offensive, he pours away any current open containers but chooses to actively ignore any he sees sat around or in carrier bags. He then tells them to take it elsewhere. I guess he doesn't want to ruin the party and leave them with nothing.

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#48 Off You Go

I know why things are the way that they are, but domestic rules in my state are dumb. If domestic instances occurs, the officer is required to apprehend someone. Fine, right? Well the rule also includes threats of injury. There are a lot of shady people who like to get into arguments and call the authorities on each other. "She threatened me." No proof. No physical evidence whatsoever. Off to lock-up you go!

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#49 Carte Blanche

You can thank the Catholics in Minnesota for passing one that basically gives any prosecutor carte blanche authority to charge anybody for supporting taking your own life in any way. As you can probably guess, this snags a lot of people who simply helped their family members avoid pain for the last moments of their life. They were also going to clearly pass away soon anyway.

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#50 A Weird Time

My mother used to be an officer in a college town. She had several occasions where she would pull someone over, realize that they were impaired and not far from home, so she’d toss them in the back of her patrol car, bring them home and pin a note to their chest telling them where their car could be found the next day. The ‘80s were a weird time, though.

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