In recognition of the huge annoyances created by having too many police on the streets, an Oregon community is no longer allowing police to issue minor traffic tickets.
No seatbelt? No citation. No tail light? No ticket. In to much of a hurry? Not to worry.
Sgt. P.J. Beaty watches people in Sunriver breaking traffic laws, and sees plenty of them. But he can’t pull them over. A man swerved head-on into Beaty’s lane, and then back out again and Beaty couldn’t lay a glove on him.
For years, he and the department’s 10 other sworn officers could have pulled him over.
But the Sunriver Service District, which governs police and fire departments, voted in February to tell officers to make Sunriver’s roads, which are private but open to the public, exempt from minor vehicle infractions.
So residents and the public alike can run a stop sign at will in the 5-square-mile area that makes up Sunriver.
Police there can only stop drivers for what the state calls traffic crimes, such as drunken or reckless driving.
The Sunriver police are the main patrol presence in the area. Radar units have been removed from their cars.
Sunriver Police Chief Mike Kennedy referred all questions to Sunriver District Chairman Doug Seator, who said the directives reflect the will of the Sunriver Owners Association that serves as a sort of government for the community south of Bend.
The unincorporated community has about 2,000 full-time residents, many more when its vacation homes are occupied.
Seator said the association, which owns the roads, told the district that its roads are private, but open to the public.
That means police have limited power in what they can enforce, much like in a supermarket parking lot, Oregon State Police Lt. Carl Rhodes said.
But Bill Chapman, the association’s general manager, said the owners’ association had nothing to do with it.
"This was a unilateral decision by the board," he said.
In Black Butte Ranch, another private homeowners community, police can still pull people over for basic violations, said Chief Gil Zaccaro.
His six officers treat violations like speeding as a "ranch citation" that do not appear on a person’s record.
Sunriver’s policy has Zaccaro worried about safety.
Suppose, he says, a drunken driver runs a stop sign or drives on the wrong side of the road?
"You really have no probable cause," Zaccaro said. "If those tools are not available, you lose that stop. You can’t make that stop. Therefore, potentially drunk drivers could really be getting away."
"Not a lot of people know," Beaty said of Sunriver’s policy. "The word hasn’t gotten out yet."
Deon Stonehouse, a resident since 2005, said she had not heard about the issue, but was concerned.
"You want the streets to be safe," Stonehouse said. "You want them to be able to enforce."
Via The Seattle Times