Three O’Clock High. The 80s cult classic comedy about the loner new-kid-in-school, Buddy Revell. In the movie, the character Buddy represents a lot of stereotypes, but the most important is isolation. He is out there alone, no peers, doing his own thing with no accountability. Truth be told, law enforcement has raised up truck officers like Buddy Revell. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, there are easy solutions to prevent isolated truck officers.
A basic human need is community. Families, friends, churches and the workplace provide critical social support for police officers. As police officers mature, and their careers lead them into specialized areas, it is wholly appropriate for them to join groups or associations specific to their calling. This is what the ITEA provides for truck enforcement officers.
Each sect of police work has their own group to join. The Chiefs of Police have an association. The tactical officers have an association. The crime prevention officers have an association. The purpose of these groups is not just fraternity, but a place to learn and perfect their trade.
Here is a typical scenario which plays itself out time and time again:
1. The officer receives basic truck enforcement training and graduates with no follow-up resources, peer support or third-party accountability.
A binder full of paper is outdated the moment the officer leaves the class. The modern police officer needs digital resources, a website and a phone number to call which will be answered in a timely manner. Ultimately, he needs a network of other officers nearby he can call for help.
2. The officer becomes systematic in the use of improper enforcement techniques.
Truck enforcement is not for the faint of heart. Given the complicated and voluminous nature of truck law, it’s not hard to dream up difficult “what if” situations. It’s also not hard for a new truck officer to find himself on a stop with a truck and have absolutely no idea what to do with it.
However, the best guess is not good enough when commerce is being impeded or fines are being levied in the thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars. The officer’s supervisors and administration do not know when a mistake has been made. The prosecuting attorney and judge have no clue about truck law, so all assume the truck officer is right.
Because many truckers would rather cut their losses than engage in a costly trial, the officer’s improper enforcement actions become unofficially “justified”. The same garbage will happen again and again until point #3 is reached. When you hear a truck officer say, “I have been doing it this way a long time and there has never been a problem” the next question should be “who are the other truck officers are doing it that way?”
3. The trucking industry responds with complaints, defensive trials, lawsuits or even legislation – aka “intervention”.
The unscrupulous officers (who thankfully are in the vast minority) know full well the “little guys” won’t fight back. The driver just puts his head down and pays the fines. It’s disgusting and an embarrassment to professional law enforcement.
Sometimes the industry does fight back though. They complain until a supervisor reaches out for authoritative information, only to find out their officer was in the wrong. The industry hires a lawyer to wage a trial. Maybe the lawyer even files a civil lawsuit. On the broader spectrum, the industry fights for statutory change to fix laws because of bad police work.
These are all unnecessary situations which could have been avoided had the officer not been working in isolation. The same problems are rarely found with officers who are active in the truck enforcement community.
For a mere $25/year, a police officer can be part of the larger community of truck enforcement officers in Illinois. Nearly 500 officers from 175 agencies have chosen to step up and be part of the solution.
If you are a police officer, honestly ask yourself if you want to be the Buddy Revell of Illinois truck enforcement. If not, come alongside others who can help you be the best.
If you are the trucker, put your mouth where you money is and start calling the police department where you live or work and respectfully demand their truck officers join the ITEA.