51 years ago, CHP Trooper Glen Carlson was
shot and killed on old Highway 40 here in California. It's a sober reminder that when
a CHP officer pulls us over to ruin our day with a ticket, they have a
difficult and dangerous job that we need to respect as well.
Trooper Carlson initially stopped Robert Lee Burns and his two passengers
for speeding, but he soon learned that their Cadillac had mismatched license
plates. It turns out that the three parolees were in the midst of a two-state
crime spree, and they were carrying $45,000 in cash from a Sacramento
bank. It was the largest such robbery in the state's history at the
time. When Trooper Carlson approached the car after radioing for help,
one of the passengers, Robert Mealman, shot him five times with a Luger
pistol. One of the rounds penetrated the citation he was about to issue.
Mr. Mealman, Mr. Burns and Clifford Toycen, Jr. eventually pleaded guilty
to first-degree murder to avoid the death penalty.
Some peace officers hand out tickets indiscriminately and do not care about
the people they are supposed to protect, but these individuals are the
very rare exception. Almost always, if officers write borderline tickets,
they are doing so under pressure from above, and indirectly from the politicians
in Sacramento who want more traffic revenue for their pet projects.
One of the hardest aspects of peace officers' jobs is that they never
know what to expect. The driver in that speeding car could be a commuter
late for work or a violent felon in a stolen car, and there is no way
for the officer to know what's waiting.
Please treat these men and women with respect. When you're stopped,
and we all are at one time or another, slow down immediately and pull
over at the first opportunity. Put the car in park, turn off the engine,
roll down your driver's side window and turn on the dome light. Wait
with your hands on the wheel at 11 and 1. Be polite and courteous, even
if you refuse to answer questions or disagree with the ticket. They'll
do their jobs, you'll be on your way and an experienced attorney will
deal with the ticket.