Shortly after watching Slumdog Millionaire, the first-rate flick detailed in the blog "Slumdog Millionaire makes for a Big Night at the Denver Film Festival," I walked with my wife from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to the lot where I'd parked my fine 1994 Geo Prizm prior to the screening; it's located just north of the Diamond Cabaret. After some zigging and zagging, I wound up at the spot where Glenarm Place meets Colfax, and after waiting for a moment to make sure traffic was clear, I turned right on a red light. Seconds later, I saw a police cruiser hidden on the next entrance to the west -- one of three lined up like taxis outside a Manhattan hotel -- squeal its tires and zoom out behind me amid a vibrant rainbow of flashing red and blue. Turns out I'd just been suckered by cops at what turns out to be the most blatant (and indefensible) ticket trap I've encountered since moving to Denver in 1990.
I pulled over to the side of the street and waited for the officer to approach the driver's side window. "It's legal to turn right on red all over the city," he told me, "but not at this intersection." He added, "There are two signs there," pointing across the wide expanse of Colfax to the darkness beyond; I never did actually see the notices. He then explained his presence by saying that there have been "a lot of accidents at this intersection."
Unless I'm terribly wrong, this last comment fits the description of something I like to call a lie. The Denver Police weren't perched in this spot to stop crashes before they could happen -- certainly not in my case, since no other vehicle was within a block of me when I made my turn. They were present because, on a Saturday night, patrons of the Diamond Cabaret and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts frequently try to pull onto Colfax there, and the signs warning drivers not to do so are extremely difficult if not impossible to see. As a result, it's child's play for cops to boost revenues and pad ticket quotas all night long. Note that in the five minutes my wife and I were parked at the curb while I was bring written up, two other cars attempted to pull onto the street in the same manner, and both of the other officers lying in wait busted them, too.
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As he handed me a ticket for $86, my particular bearer of bad news -- the name on the form reads "M. Ruckle" -- was exaggeratedly polite. When I asked, with maximum futility, if he could see his way clear to give me a warning this time, he fed me what was obviously a rehearsed line: "I'm sorry, but I work for the traffic department. This is my job."
It's also why so many people despise the police. No doubt Officer Ruckle circled back to the same place seconds after I drove off, ready for the next poor sap to execute an extraordinarily commonplace driving maneuver that endangered precisely no one. Hard to imagine him feeling terribly good about spending hours putting a damper on the evenings of dozens of law-abiding citizens -- but it's even more difficult to believe that he was present due to a high number of accidents at the intersection. If police representatives can provide me evidence to the contrary, I'll note it in this or a future blog. But for now, I'm quite certain that this trap is about making money for the city in the slimiest possible way instead of either protecting or serving the populace as a whole.
If you're at Glenarm Place at Colfax next Saturday night? Wait for the green, no matter how pointless it might seem, and then smile smugly at Officer Ruckle and his associates as you drive past. -- Michael Roberts