How can you question the virtue of the police?

Look at the wonderful example the chief of police of Austin has set, in the case of a jaywalker manhandled by the police.

She was lucky. So, so lucky. If they hadn’t been such good police officers, they would have raped her. For jaywalking.

I am so filled with confidence in the Austin police. They won’t rape jaywalkers! Does anyone have any cookies we can send to them?


  1. cgilder says

    That jaywalking story and comment are from last year. I think these are popping up because of this jaw-dropping video from Wednesday:

    So, APD apparently needs to violently accost jaywalkers at least once a year to keep up their quota?

    I swear, here in Austin, we’re so busy patting ourselves on the back for being the blue county in Texas that we don’t manage to deal with some GIANT FUCKING PROBLEMS with inequality, segregation, and general assholish-ness.

  2. karellen says

    Being from the UK, it completely blows my mind that a) it’s illegal to simply cross the road, and you can be arrested and fined for doing so, and b) the police actually spend time enforcing such a law.

    Combined with the USs general disdain towards “nanny state”-style lawmaking, and it’s loudly professed bias toward individual freedom and personal responsibility, such laws seem doubly bizarre.

  3. says

    German here, same astonishment.
    I think if you cross the road when your light is red carries something like a 5 bucks fine, if the police bother.
    You gotta be somebody who simply loves to beat people up for no good reason to “police” like this.

  4. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I think if you cross the road when your light is red carries something like a 5 bucks fine, if the police bother.

    Unfortunately, one way that the police supervisors can rate the patrolpeople is by the number of citations they issue. And the law can be overly stupid.
    i.e., The nearest hardware store to me is on the edge of downtown, and the parking lot is across a street. In order not to be jaywalking, I would have to push the pedestrian button, and wait for the pedestrian signal to say walk, which may take a few cycles of the traffic light. Traffic is intermittent enough that I just cross when there are no cars effected by my doing so. I am jaywalking when I do so.

  5. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Any supervisor that doing anything other than prosecuting rape perpetrated by their subordinates is guilty of the same. That Chief should be fired with prejudice.

  6. smrnda says

    For those puzzled by how the US, which has disdain for the ‘nanny state’ can accept such ridiculous laws and draconian punishments, I offer this explanation.

    The ‘nanny state’ is basically a state where those without power are granted some protection from abuse by those with more power by the government . Workplace safety laws, consumer protection laws, parental leave are ‘nanny state’ provisions. However, when it’s ‘keep people in line’ with no regard for power imbalances or safety, then it’s okay. The law is cracking down on *undesirables* not interfering with the plantation owner’s rights to run his plantation as he sees fit.

  7. treefrogdundee says


    The alternative explanation is to consider that those who scream the most about personal freedom and limited government (I’m looking at you, Tea Baggers) have no problem with the government deciding who can marry who or leading schoolchildren in prayer (as long as its a REAL religion like Christianity and not one of those yucky Eastern ones). Long story short, its nothing more than flaming hypocrisy in which they are more than happy with a ‘nanny state’ so long as they aren’t the ones in the crib.

  8. robro says

    karellen & Giliell — That’s Texas, not the US. There are jaywalking laws in California but I suspect they are rarely enforced, unless you’re a homeless street person who stumbles in the wrong direction. In San Francisco and other parts of the Bay Area, pedestrians and bicyclists have the right-of-way in almost all circumstances. You have to drive accordingly.

  9. NYC atheist says

    I have never seen anyone hassled for Jay walking in New York. And I’ve been known to flagrantly do it in front of cops, they just don’t care. Really freaks out people from out of town.

  10. MadHatter says

    Not just Texas, when I moved to Seattle there was a big article in the paper about how cops were cracking down on jaywalking and how expensive the fines were. So you jaywalk but you make sure you don’t see any cops around first.

    Growing up in Denver I never worried about it. People don’t stop for you so it’s safer to jaywalk than to use the crosswalk often. Police there didn’t bother about it. That said, I’m pretty sure jaywalking is a ticketable offense in most cities, it’s just that some jurisdictions don’t bother to enforce it.

  11. says

    Thank you for confirming that jaywalking laws in the usa are nothing but another club to hit disempowered people over the head with.

    That’s another difference: We don’t meassure police success in the amount of revenue that is created but in low crime numbers and high solving numbers. Fines do create some revenue. There are three permanent radar speed controls in my town and I don’t pity anybody who gets caught by them because they even put up big fat signs that say “radar control” ahead of them. And I must say that we haven’T had a bad accident from illegal races at night in a while.


    Here’s an article about how the “crime” of jaywalking was created by the nascent auto industry to ensure that pedestrians are blamed when they are hit by cars.

    Interesting. In Germany a pedestrian cannot be blamed for getting into a accident with a car. In terms of insurance the driver is always at fault even if the idiot jumps out from behind a truck in the dead of the night. That’s because drivers must carry insurance. In case of an accident this means that the pedestrian is cared for, regardless of the outcome of a lengthy trial.
    I think the policy of “technically there’s a 5 bucks fine if you cross while the light is red” reflects this. Those rules are enforced when the police does some “special days” to raise awareness. Because no matter that the driver’s insurance will pay for your bills, the pedestrian is the one who gets hurt.

    Though I will say that I’m annoyed at people who act as if they’re the only people using the streets, independent of what mode of transport they’re using. There’s nothing like somebody who will speed across the carpark and then later cross the street at a 5° angle when they’re walking.

  12. dianne says

    I think if you cross the road when your light is red carries something like a 5 bucks fine, if the police bother.

    I once had a police officer call me stupid for crossing against the light. Does that count? In all honesty, he was correct.

  13. A. Noyd says

    MadHatter (#14)

    Not just Texas, when I moved to Seattle there was a big article in the paper about how cops were cracking down on jaywalking and how expensive the fines were.

    Some Seattle neighborhoods it’s much safer to jaywalk than wait for the light or cross at the corner. Like the U District or Capitol Hill. Motherfucking drivers just do not care about pedestrian right-of-way. I saw a blind woman nearly get run over at one particularly notorious intersection behind the Broadway Market QFC. The car got close enough to break her cane. Then there was the asshole who nearly ran me over and stopped to tone troll me when I flipped him off for it.

    And Seattle supposedly has some of the better ratings for pedestrian safety in the entire country.

  14. randay says

    #15 Giliell, in France the law is that a driver has to be always in control of his vehicle. So hitting a jaywalker is the driver’s fault.

    On the other had, I know of three elderly pedestrians who have died after being hit by a car or truck at the same busy intersection. They just crossed against the light. I have seen many other elderly do that without looking. I think that those cases were actual or attempted suicides, but if it is an “accident” their insurance policies have to pay their inheritors. In that case it seems like the right thing for them to do.

  15. says

    Unfortunately it comes as no surprise that so called pedestrian safety laws (like jaywalking) and other minor offenses that are up to the officers’ discretion are often used to disproportionately target minorities and members of oppressed classes.

    For example this article U.S. Justice Department Finds Ferguson Police and Courts Targeted African Americans noted that 95% of people arrested for this kind of offense were African American despite that roughly one third of the residents are white.

    In cases of minor offenses where arrests are up to the officer’s discretion, like disturbing the peace and jaywalking, 95 percent of those arrested were African American.

    In other words when it’s a white person doing the jaywalking the cops tend to use their discretion so as to ignore it but when it’s a black or brown person they will tend to use their discretion so as to effect an (too often violent) arrest.

    More worrying is this study from 2005 Racial Differences and Pedestrian Safety: Some Evidence from Maryland and Implications for Policy that suggests minorities actually tend to follow these pedestrian safety laws more stringently despite that they are over represented in pedestrian accident statistics.

    Studies that show racial and gender differences in jaywalking tendencies, pedestrian accidents, and fatalities are also of importance to our study since we found that minorities who are at greater risk have a higher perception of their own safe behavior and follow safety laws more stringently.

    National and regional data both suggest that minorities are disproportionately represented in the pedestrian accident figures. However, minority respondents to the survey felt that they were acting properly more often than their Caucasian counterparts.

    To summarize… Some studies suggest that minorities are more likely to follow pedestrian safety laws but even that’s not enough to prevent them from being disproportionately punished or from being disproportionately more likely to be the victim in a pedestrian accident. Of course those living in urban environments are affected the most by this because of the increased traffic and population density.

  16. AMM says

    It’s easy to say how brutal the police can be, and, yes, they are being brutal and thuggish.

    But the reason they get away with being brutal and thuggish is that the majority in the USA (or at least the majority of people who count, i.e., white middle-to-upper class people) entirely support them in this. Look at the outpouring of support that Darren Wilson got. Look at the popularity of all those “cop” TV shows where cops use brutal methods to take down “bad guys” (almost always black, BTW.) Listen to casual conversations almost anywhere. (Or, FSM forbid, look at the comment threads on almost any post on the WWW.) It’s amazing how fast people start talking about solving problems with violence. Most people want the cops to be brutal (as long as they’re not the victims.)

    If the police knew that the majority of their fellow citizens (especially the people who look like them or who control the government) would come down hard on them for this kind of behavior, they wouldn’t do it. But they know they’ll get “attaboys” from the people who count. Protesters can mostly be ignored because they know nobody in power is going to listen to them.

  17. says

    About those cops who don’t mind indulging in rape and sexual assault, I posted a story last week:

    The probe revealed that 550 officers were decertified for various sexual assaults, including rape. Some were dismissed for sodomy or sexual shakedowns, where victims were forced to perform sexual acts to avoid arrest.

    A further 440 officers lost their jobs for other sex-related offenses, such as possessing child pornography, being a peeping Tom, sending sexually charged messages to underage teens or having sex while on duty.

    About one-third of the officers lost their jobs for committing sexual offenses with juveniles.


    The real number of sexual offenses could however be much higher, as AP only looked into registered cases where an officer lost their badge because of an offense. Lawyers and police chiefs acknowledged that some departments let the sexual assaults slide to limit their liability, allowing their staff to quietly resign or transfer to other duty stations or departments.

    Furthermore the probe notes that not all decertified officers faced criminal charges as some policemen surrendered their badges voluntarily to avoid a potential scandal.

    It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,” said Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida, who helped study the problem for the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “It’s so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.


    According to another study, the Cato Institute’s investigation discovered that in 2009 and 2010 sex misconduct was the second most reported offense against officers, after the use of excessive force.

  18. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    irrelevant: as a Bostonian, the concept of criminalizing jaywalking is “inconceivable”, as jaywalking, in Boston, is virtually mandatory. Of course boston jaywalkers are quite vigilant; blindly, casually, wandering into a busy street is virtual death sentence.
    odd when this bostonian visited San Fran, where pedestrians had virtually absolute control over traffic. one step off the curb will bring traffic to an immediate stop. This bostonian considered jaywalking a form of sly workaround, to slip between the vehicles without interfering the traffic flow. So absolute control over traffic when accidentally appearing to start jaywalking was quite a conundrum.
    But then again, it’s all local expectation. A form of cooperative behavior, where boston drivers are vigilant of jaywalkers and adjust to avoid collision, and vice versa. Similar in SanFran ‘cept instead of cooperation, drivers decide to yield, to allow the jaywalker to proceed and block the cars following from interfering with the ped. (SanFran has no such thing as jaywalker. “pedestrians” only.)

  19. numerobis says

    I have first-hand knowledge about how officers enforce “pedestrian safety” laws. I was walking back from lunch with two coworkers, all of us in our thirties. We jaywalked across a large, complex intersection. At the same time, three high school-aged women jaywalked across an alleyway that goes onto this same complex intersection. Guess who got nailed for jaywalking.

  20. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 19:
    aaarrrrgggghhhhh: statistics.
    too often the statistics you quoted of how disproportionately POC are charged with minor pedestrian infractions, will be used by the LEO’s to show just how law abiding the WASPs are and how the POCs need to be watched more closely.
    Never will the LEO consider that the statistics are speaking against the LEO as misapplying the miniscule laws on the books.
    it’s all in interpretation and context.

  21. frog says

    I relocated to Philly after 40 years in NYC. After I jaywalked across an entirely empty street, a police officer said, “You really shouldn’t jaywalk, it’s not safe.”

    “I’m a third generation New Yorker, and I worked 14 years in Midtown. I’m not just a jaywalker, I’m a professional level jaywalker.”

    He laughed and said he was always having to caution the local college students, who are apt to wander blindly into traffic while staring at their phones.

    Of course he didn’t give me a ticket, and he’s seen me jaywalk lots of times since, and just smiles and waves.

    I figure if I ever get cited for jaywalking in some other city, I’ll pay the fine, but there’s zero chance I’ll ever agree that what I did was wrong. There are places I won’t jaywalk because I can see how unsafe the situation is—most of those places are in boomtown American cities, where they build giant 8- or 10-lane roads with speed limits of 55mph and few traffic lights. There’s a difference between a large city avenue and a pedestrian-hostile urban highway.

  22. footface says

    A Noyd @ 17: Back in the 90s Seattle had a reputation as a nonjaywalking city. Pedestrians routinely waited patiently at the corner waiting for the light to change. It’s not that way anymore.

  23. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    @Slithey Tove, #21:

    as a Bostonian, the concept of criminalizing jaywalking is “inconceivable”, as jaywalking, in Boston, is virtually mandatory. Of course boston jaywalkers are quite vigilant; blindly, casually, wandering into a busy street is virtual death sentence.

    My experience of Paris (which was, for the record, limited: I wasn’t there too long, only in france for less than 3 months, and only a bit more than half of that was staying in the Parisian suburbs, and not every day of that did we go into Paris itself…) was that pedestrian/driver warfare was the norm.

    Even when you’re at a crosswalk and have the right of way, if there’s not actually a red light mandating the cars to stop, they don’t (or didn’t when I was there 20+ years ago). You have to screw up your courage and make sure you’re in the crosswalk and simply step out into traffic. The cars do consistently watch for this tactic and do jerk to a halt – usually with 6 or more inches to spare – but damn if it isn’t scary as hell the first few times you do it.

    There were a number of crosswalks on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées that did not have corresponding red lights. Obviously it’s a place where tourists are walking around, but it’s also a major auto route. I, at least, spoke conversational French and the first time I was there had a French companion comfortable with the street-crossing norms. Pretty soon I was jumping out in traffic with the best of them.

    Then there were the smaller streets – they had no marked crosswalks at all, and given the ancient history of the city, intersections were frequently complicated, non-rectilinear (hell, it seemed at times to be non-Euclidean!), and subject to many visual obstructions. It was literally often the safer choice to cross as far as you could from the corners.

    More recently built streets frequently did have marked crosswalks, but the old/twisty/visibility-obscured parts of the cities (Paris, yes, but also common in other old cities like Montpellier, Bezier, Narbonne and even a smaller place like Nant (yes, I did drive the A75 down to the A9, why do you ask?)) did not have marked crosswalks and if they did, were sometimes not placed at intersections for exactly the reasons I’ve described above.

    Though I was only there for 1 summer (not even all of it, but as much as I could manage given my schedule) moving around the older sections of Paris and a few other French cities, by foot, for just a few weeks – that was all I needed to develop jaywalking skills that while primitive by French standards, were enough to make me a valuable jaywalking draft prospect in the States.

  24. freemage says

    There’s technically jaywalking laws in Chicago, but they’ve been a non-issue my entire life. You’re expected to exercise a bit of common sense, but it’s just not a common point of enforcement. And in the past, when an effort was made by the City Council to do a push for more, even the mayor fought it, saying that it was just part of the city’s life.

  25. says

    france is hell for pedestrians, though it’s been getting better. 10 years ago if we stopped to let a pedestrian cross at a zebra crossing, as we’Re trained to do in Germany, the pedestrian would look at you in disbelief, wondering if they shouldo ffer you assistance because apparently your car had broken down. If they then started to cross the street somebody else would pass your halting car on the opposite site of the road and try to run them over…

  26. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    10 years ago if we stopped to let a pedestrian cross at a zebra crossing, as we’re trained to do in Germany, the pedestrian would look at you in disbelief, wondering if they should offer you assistance because apparently your car had broken down.

    YES. THIS.

    Oh, I’m laughing so hard. I haven’t had the money or health to travel much as an adult, so I haven’t been back, but being taught by a French family to avoid crossing at intersections where cars have more directions to come at you and instead cross mid-block on the narrowest street you can find (to limit the ability of cars to change direction/lane/etc) …well, that communicated quite a bit about the state of pedestrian safety.

  27. randay says

    I have lived in France for thirty years. As I may have mentioned, drivers are required to maintain control of their vehicles. For the last ten or more years at least they have learned the lesson and there is rarely a problem crossing the street for a pedestrian. Deaths on French roads over the years has been reduced from 17,000 to about 3,000 today. To put it into American terms, that would mean about 15,000 deaths as opposed to the 35,000 they have today.

    The government goal is to get under 3,000. That is about as much as you can expect I think. There are a lot of dumb drivers in France just as there are everywhere. It’s the same problem everywhere, people get into their cars and think that they are masters of the world. Just one example from America. I have been confronted by assholes on the freeway who drive diagonally over three or four lanes to reach their turn-off. I have been in the second lane and saw them coming, but suppose there was a driver in the first lane just next to me in the first lane. It is a sure collision–I don’t believe in “accidents”, but I do believe in stupidity. I could give many more examples.

  28. carlie says

    It’s embarrassing to go from a jaywalking city to a non-jaywalking one – when I did that move, I had several incidents of watching the traffic, timing it just right, stepping out… and seeing all traffic come to a screeching halt. Oops. No, seriously, I saw you coming, I didn’t mean for you to stop, that’s why I was walking at just the right pace, and …oh, never mind.

  29. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    Okay, to talk about driving? I was picked up by the family I was coming to visit (I was friends with the son & daughter, but had never yet met the parents). We’re in some car with nothing save a hatch behind the back seat – a peugeot or fiat, something like that. I think a peugeot.

    So I’m picked up from ORLY, which is almost due south of Paris. The driver (dad) wants to get on A86 to swing west before heading north to their home in a west-by-northwest suburb of Paris. He takes a freeway north to the A86 off-ramp, but on the way up the ramp it becomes clear that there’s a major jam, and that many cars are stationary waiting to get onto the A86.

    So what does the nut-ball do? Throws it in reverse, throws his arm over the passenger seat, doesn’t even ask me to duck, and drives backwards at 50, 60 kph or so down the shoulder of the off-ramp…except the shoulder isn’t that wide, so we’re partially in the single lane of the off-ramp. Reaching near the bottom of the ramp, he realizes he’s on the right side, so with cars coming at us at 100 kph+, he jerks the wheel so that he can cross to the other side of the lane, stop in the gore-point, and, as cars are zooming past him on both left and right, he takes off north and merges left, figuring he’ll go north, then west instead of his original west-then-north plan.

    I spent the remainder of the drive using alcohol wipes to clean the urine off my seat. That was my introduction to French driving, having been in the country all of 30 or 45 minutes.

  30. says

    I think the most disturbing part of this is that he felt the need to bring up that factoid out of the blue and did so right after noting how he personally wouldn’t have been so “lenient” as to only beat up a person for the minor of technically “crimes”.

    It’s like he was just musing happily on the idea of raping pedestrians with the thinnest of excuses and is just sad that the “liberal PC hippies” of Austin are so prone to “freaking out” about miscarriages of justice so that he can’t “indulge” his fantasies.

  31. says

    tod o them justice, French drivers have become much more careful over the years. By now I prefer driving in France to driving in GERmany* where the “no speed limit” breeds an entitlement on the side of drivers of fast and expensive cars who believe that because they’re technically allowed to go at 200 km/h they have the right to do so and are OK with enforcing their “right” by tailgating you and frankly threatening you.

    *though nothing beats driving in Switzerland

  32. Dark Jaguar says

    I may misunderstand the events here, but did the officer get mad because this person didn’t stop in the middle of the street? I mean, sure let’s not have people jaywalking, but if you already did it, the priority should be getting out of the road, right?