Infamous Speed Trap Town Eliminates Entire Police Department

Sunday, January 29, 2012
(photo: Michael Val Greenspun)
The Great Recession may have a silver lining for motorists: budget woes have forced at least two municipalities known as “speed traps” to disband their police forces, and one has voted to dis-incorporate entirely. Meanwhile, the town of Heath, Ohio, which AllGov described in August 2009 as “America’s worst speed trap,” voted the following November to take down all of its red-light cameras.
In January 2012, the city council of Maricopa, California (population: 1,154), voted to disband the town’s tiny police department, which had only two full-time officers and twenty volunteers, and pay the Kern County Sheriff’s Department to police the town. The move was not unexpected, because last year a Kern County grand jury recommended that debt-ridden Maricopa eliminate the department, which it accused of targeting Latino drivers in hopes of seizing vehicles from unlicensed, undocumented immigrants. The grand jury further urged the town to consider dis-incorporating entirely, although the city council has not yet adopted that idea.
In a similar case in California in June 2010, Maywood, a working-class town in Los Angeles County (population: 45,000) outsourced all of its services, including law enforcement after its police department was criticized for aggressively operating checkpoints and impounding hundreds of cars from the local population, many of whom were illegal immigrants.
One “speed trap” town that has recently pulled the plug on itself is St. George, Missouri, a tiny St. Louis suburb (pop.: 1,337). In addition to being known as a speed trap, St. George earned a reputation for police wrongdoing, as one officer was caught on tape threatening to fabricate charges against a motorist, and one was accused of sexually harassing a 17-year-old girl during a traffic stop several years before being employed by St. George, and later while St. George Police Chief, of sexual contact with a child, although a jury trial ended in a mistrial. St. George disbanded its police force in 2009 and voted to dis-incorporate entirely in November 2011.
-Matt Bewig
Kern County Grand Jury Urges Maricopa to Disincorporate (by Steve Chawkins, Los Angeles Times)
City of Maricopa: Lots of Past, Any Future? (Kern County, California, Grand Jury) (pdf)

America’s Worst Speed Trap: 10,000 Tickets in 4 Weeks (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 


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