2012-03-22 / Columns

Safe streets, explosions and integrity

We respect and admire police officers when they arrest murderers and bank robbers, but not so much when they give us tickets for speeding or for running a stop sign.

As an editor at the Acorn, I was always amazed when people wrote nasty letters because a cop had given them a traffic ticket.

Never mind that public safety is part of their job.

The letter writers didn’t deny they violated the law, but they couldn’t resist venting about traffic officers meeti ng quotas. They griped about cities making money at the expense of “innocent” motorists—drivers, mind you, who “just happened” to get caught going faster than the law allows.

The writers would also whine, “Don’t cops have anything better to do than write tickets?”

Keep in mind that more people are killed each year in Conejo Valley from traffic accidents than from murders.

We want our streets safe, of course, for bicyclists, pedestrians and other drivers. And believe it or not, I actually think that if people get tickets, they’ll be more likely to obey speed limits and other traffic laws. I would.

Let’s face it, traffic enforcement is a deterrent, whether we like it or not.

When I drive by a motorist who’s getting a ticket, it also serves as a reminder for me to drive safely.

Don’t get me wrong.

It’s no fun getting a ticket. It’s sickening when you hear a short burst of siren and you see red lights flashing in your rearview mirror.

You immediately know two things: You’ve done something wrong and the fine won’t be cheap.

On the other hand, why not just admit it? You were breaking the law. You deserve the penalty. Speed limits and stop signs enhance public safety.

Isn’t that a good thing?

Maybe you’re wondering if I’m trying to score brownie points because I was recently ticketed, but I’m innocent.

The reason I’m writing about law enforcement is because I attended a full-day seminar a couple Fridays ago as part of the Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce Leadership Conejo program. T h e morning was spent with peace officers from both L.A. and Ventura counties at East County Station in Thousand Oaks. The afternoon was spent at the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department training facility in Camarillo.

Regarding traffic, Thousand Oaks Police Chief Jeff Matson said that most collisions are caused by unsafe speed, unsafe turns and unsafe backups.

The highlight of the day was a bomb squad demonstration that finished the seminar in Camarillo. Bomb squad police officers exploded various devices. I thought that watching explosions was a “man thing,” but the women enjoyed it, too.

It was like the Fourth of July, only louder and you could feel it. We had to wear ear protection.

Ethical challenges

The most interesting session, in my opinion, was provided by Capt. Tim Hagel of the sheriff’s department. His topic was leadership and ethics.

His handout presented the following scenario:

You’re sales manager for a Silicon Valley high-tech computer firm. You’re a family man in your mid-40s with a mortgage and two car payments. Sales have been lagging for a while, and you’re under pressure from your boss to increase sales. Basically, you’re on probation.

There’s a vacancy on your staff, and you’ve been looking for a suitable candidate for more than a month.

You interview a poised, polished and sharp candidate, far superior to any other applicant. He has a proven track record as a salesman.

Just as you’re about to say, “You’re hired,” he takes an envelope from his briefcase and tells you that it contains a computer disk from your biggest competitor, his former employer.

The disk contains confidential data, including files on customers and information on a new product, for which your company is also competing.

“If you hire me,” the candidate says, “It’s yours.”

The disk contains things that will very likely guarantee your success.

Do you hire him?

The answer, of course, was no. The candidate, I figured, would also betray my company. It would have been wrong to hire him.

A tougher question was whether or not I should report him to his former employer. Legally there’s no obligation to do so, but morally it’s another question.

I asked about reporting him, and Hagel informed me that my company and I would have been sued by the applicant if we had divulged the truth to his former employer—and the applicant very likely would have won the lawsuit.

Honesty is one thing.

Carrying it too far is another.

Steve Holt, a former Acorn editor, can be reached at stevencholt@gmail.com.

Return to top