While we weren't taught the magic formula for getting out of a speeding ticket, Sgt. Chuck Hart and Ofc. Rich Kesterson painted a picture of what it's like patrolling the roads throughout Baltimore County at our latest Citizens Police Academy class.
Here are some highlights:
On speeding and ticketing
Believe it or not, Kesterson said, Baltimore County does not require a quota of traffic tickets issued from its officers. Ticket fines can range from $80 to a whopping $530, which are issued when someone gets caught pushing 40 mph or more above the speed limit.
Hart also told us that Kesterson's nicknames at work are "The Machine" and "ZT," for zero tolerance. Having a guy like Kesterson out there patrolling the roads seems like a good thing—he said he just stopped a motorist going 82 mph on the I-795 overpass of Owings Mills Boulevard late Monday. The speed limit is 40 mph.
Something also tells me that "no quota" means "personal quota." Note to self: Stop speeding.
The midnight shift
By far, the hardest thing about working on the midnight crash investigative team is the responsibility of delivering bad news after a fatal car accident, Hart said.
"What you think can go wrong on the midnight shift will go wrong," he said. "You name it, we've seen it."
It's the busiest shift of the three the department schedules, running from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Hart, who has been working the midnight shift since 1995, said a series of investigation, interviewing, photography and mathematical skills are what is required to get the job done.
Spotting the difference between a skid mark and a scrub mark can help decide whether the incident was criminal or accidental, he said. (For those who are wondering, a skid mark indicates the wheels stopped spinning, while a scrub mark indicates that the wheels dragged sideways.)
Did you know you can still lose your license in Maryland for blowing .07 and under? It's called a DWI, or driving while intoxicated, and it's when you just can't handle your business.
Prescription medication is a common culprit in those cases, but for the most part, arrests stem from alcohol and drugs like marijuana and cocaine, Hart said.
Maryland law also states that once motorists signed their driver's license, they have agreed to take an alcohol test. You may still refuse, but if the officer has probable cause (an odor, bottles in plain sight, etc.), he can bring you into the station for further questioning.
It stands for Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety, and is a method for the statistics of all things road-related to be organized by the police department.
That's how police realized that just two days before the September 11 attacks, they had pulled over hijacker-pilot Ziad Samir Jarrah of United Airlines Flight 93 in Harford County for speeding, Kesterson said.
The system catalogs all the information an officer records once he has a vehicle pulled over, for example a blue car with a light out. In the future, should a car that fits similar details be somehow related to a crime, the system provides that information to the officer.