Quora Question: What Happens When a Cop Stops an Off-Duty Cop for a Traffic Violation?

Do cops give each other tickets?
A NYPD patrol car sits parked behind an illegally parked FedEx truck in New York City. Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

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Answer from Christopher Hawk, 20-year police patrol veteran, specializing in traffic.

It depends on many of the same factors that make a difference when a cop stops the general citizenry for a traffic violation—the severity of the violation, the attitude of the driver, even the mood of the on-duty officer comes into play.

I've stopped cops for minor traffic violations and let them off with warnings. But then, I've given warnings to teachers, musicians, unemployed people, doctors, bricklayers, students, etc., etc., ad nauseum infinitum etc.... Cops in this area have lost their jobs for DUIs, so there's no covering that stuff up, either.

Rick Bruno presents a fairly realistic scenario for a lot of stops. I'll offer another scenario, "pulled from the pages of real life," which I experienced a few months ago.

Let's set the stage first: Here I am, an older-than-50 white male, driving through Indianapolis on Interstate 70 with my wife and daughter in the car. I know Indy relatively well and know that the speed limit on I70 is 55 miles per hour through most of the city. I also know that it changes to 65 mph and that I'm close to where that change occurs. Ahead of me, a Marion County Sheriff's patrol car is cruising along at 63 mph with a cluster of cars behind it.

I think to myself, "Self, you missed speed limit change to 65."

I said to my wife, "I must have missed the speed limit change...he's [the deputy] running a little under 65, so it won't hurt to slide past him."

I pass the squad car, taking all of five or six seconds to do so, and wave to the deputy as I pass.

Then, the red-and-blues come on... #&$% !!!!

Deputy: License and registration.
Me: Yessir, but I'll have to go past my badge and gun to get my wallet.
Deputy: Okay.
Me: What's the speed limit here?
Deputy: I was going 63 when you passed me.
Me: I thought it changed to 65.
Deputy: You didn't see the sign, did you?

— Deputy returns to his squad car and futzes around for several minutes.
— Deputy returns to my car and hands me my citation.

Deputy: Slow down.

— Deputy returns to his squad car and pulls away, leaving me on the shoulder of the road.

— As I pull away from the side of the road, I pass the 65 mph sign. I hadn't noticed it when I was stopped, but it was about .2 miles down the road.

So, there I was...my first speeding ticket in over 30 years. It definitely wasn't the first time I was speeding, but the kicker was that I actually thought I wasn't speeding when it happened. The deputy just happened to be a dick.

Yeah ... I know ... lots of people say that, and traffic is absolute liability, and you don't have to have mens rea on traffic, yada yada yada ...

But it pissed me off. I was genuinely upset that the deputy thought it was okay for him to go 63 mph in a 55 mph zone, but it was worth it to stop me for going one mile per hour faster. I train my recruits, "If you need to go fast, go fast. But if you don't need to go fast, obey the speed limits. Don't be a hypocrite when you're doing enforcement."

I know he wrote the ticket for me "disrespecting" the squad car, but even then, just pulling me over had the desired effect for the other drivers around us.

Some cops get cited when they get stopped. It just proves that there is no magical "thin blue line" that protects cops from traffic citations.

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