Police officers have been under significant scrutiny during the past few years regarding the method by which they conduct their duties. It is true that their training has become more militarized than in past decades, and more seriousness is paid to security threats and protecting officers at any cost while on duty. However, not only have they begun using more overt tactics, but they have also been writing many more citations. This is often the result of stopping a driver regarding a very minor infraction or vehicle detail in an effort to request a vehicle search. This practice is receiving quite a bit of attention in Ohio and across the nation.
There are certain issues that police can use to stop drivers that are not necessarily true public safety concerns. However, state legislators have used their power to make certain minor traffic violations primary offenses that will allow police a valid reason to stop motorists they would like to question even though the offense has little impact on public safety. Not only does this result in an increase in citations, but it also creates dangerous situations for the officer.
Trending policy changes
Organizations like the Institute for Justice have taken note of this practice and subsequently convinced several prosecutor offices across the nation to quit charging people with circumstantial charges stemming from a stop due to minor traffic infractions. These cases tend to be drug charges, often for possession of small amounts, and the question of whether there was the required reasonable suspicion is often raised by the defense. Prosecutors in North Carolina, Michigan, and California are leading the way with this policy change, but there is no indication as yet that Ohio will follow suit.
The potential reductions in police officer ranks could very well lead to a need for this type of policy alteration, but in states like Ohio with significant urban areas, it may take some time. Ohio prosecutors are still serious about prosecuting individuals for even small drug possession amounts, and the increase in citations serves as a message to all motorists in the state as well as increases the amount of revenue collected when drivers are convicted and fined.