A police badge grants one power ordinary citizens don’t have. It even gives them the freedom to bend the rules at times, as long as it upholds justice. That’s why there’s a lot of pressure and responsibility resting on rule enforcement’s shoulders to make critical decisions in the blink of an eye.
When cops get behind the wheel of a patrol car, the vehicle—like any vehicle—becomes an extension of the driver. Yet with so many road rules in effect, it can be hard for a cop to do his or her job. That’s why they’re given leeway to break the rules if it means doing their job right. It’s something of a contradiction that they must sometimes break the rules in order to enforce it.
Each state varies about what rules a cop can break and whether they need to have their lights on during an incident. There are things cops have chosen to do while on the job that don’t always line up with mandates either made within the department or by the rules itself.
We’re going to look at rules cops and their cars break all the time. Not only are they repeat offenders in these instances, but many tend to be strange and out of place from what many would expect. While cops exist to keep society in line, they also have a habit of breaking odd rules. Also be sure to check out pictures of cops who thought they could drive anywhere (they couldn’t).
19 Borrow Anyone’s Vehicle
This one relates to an earlier section about cops enlisting civilians for help. Taking things a step further, if a cop asks someone to drive them somewhere, what’s to keep them from borrowing the vehicle? Slate confirms that these episodes do occur, although they’re less common today than they were years ago.
A cop would have to be in a truly desperate situation to take someone’s car outright with no questions asked. They would probably have to use force as well, considering a civilian would be suspicious. Unless there’s a good reason for it, cops shouldn’t borrow vehicles in the field.
18 Tow Anyone’s Car
There’s a lot of truth in this line from the 2001 movie Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The same idea applies to enforcement. With a speed dial away, they can get a tow truck to come to where they are and haul any car away. That doesn’t necessarily mean they can do it without any questions asked though.
As the site Defense Lawyer notes, it makes sense to tow a car when someone gets pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence. Otherwise, it’s breaking the rules to haul a car away just because it’s a purple PT Cruiser.
17 Modify Cars Against The Rules
When a police department acquires cars off the dealership or factory line, they have to make changes. These cop car mods can range from something as simple as a Rumbler siren to as major as a whole new suspension. Check out Easter eggs in police cars we’re not supposed to know about for more.
Then again, cops aren’t supposed to do anything to their cars that even states won’t allow. There are many rules about mods in place for a reason, many of which not only prevent civilians’ cars from getting out of hand but protecting the environment as well.
16 Driving Over Speed Limit Without Lights Flashing
Cops speed all the time. Whether it’s a high-speed chase or an accident they’re heading to, their jobs require urgency. Even though it requires traffic to pull aside or stop where they are to clear a path for emergency vehicles, the public understands why cops speed. It becomes an issue though when they go above the speed limit and forget to turn on their emergency vehicle lighting.
These blinking red and blue lights alert drivers in the area to promptly move aside. It’s odd when cops forget to turn these lights on and decide to speed anyways putting others at risk.
15 Bad Parking
A cop has rules to follow like everyone else. Many will argue, however, that they have certain exceptions to the rules. In dire circumstances, a cop may need to park in an illegal zone to attend to an urgent matter close by. There doesn’t seem to be a problem with this. It becomes a problem though when cops start doing it simply because they can.
They might not even park in designated stalls properly, taking up two spaces at a time that inconveniences other drivers. It’s unusual that some don't follow basic parking rules, which can create a problem for other abiding citizens.
14 Breaking Rules While Driving An Unmarked Vehicle
There are instances where cops break rules for a reason, either to help someone in need or in catching a wrongdoer. Then there are cops who break the rules because they believe they have carte blanche. According to WBEZ, a patrol officer ended up pulling over a sergeant and lieutenant driving in an unmarked car. What triggered the officer to pull them over in the first place was having witnessed them drive through and ignore three consecutive stop signs.
He told the same source, “They just laughed at me . . . They didn’t stop because they didn’t have to.” It’s worrisome when cops don’t take traffic rules seriously.
13 Pulling Someone Over Without A Reason
The rule should be black and white. If someone violates the rules, they’re going to have to answer to enforcement officials. There are instances, however, when a cop pulls someone over for nothing. As Voices of San Diego reports, unless the year sticker on a license plate is not up to date or the driver failed to stop at a stop sign or they violated one of the many other traffic rules out there, they shouldn't get pulled over.
There needs to be an actual rule-breaking reason for a cop to pull someone over. Otherwise, they’re going off of a feeling or some other ulterior motive.
12 Confiscate Items From Anyone’s Car
This is a continuation of a previous section, where cops broke the rules by searching cars without reasonable suspicion. The same could apply for any items a cop tries to take out of a car. There’s even a way of ignoring this evidence in court if the cop breaks the rules.
According to Flex Your Rights, a lawyer can get a judge to forget about evidence used against a client if they find that the cop didn't follow rules laid out. A cop’s actions one day could end up making him look bad on another day.
11 Driving In The Wrong Direction
What one cop does in a city doesn’t necessarily reflect the behavior of all enforcement working there. One Chicago resident, however, has noticed a pattern of police failing to obey particular traffic rules. WBEZ reports that this resident witnessed cops driving in the opposite direction they’re supposed to go.
In this city where there are lots of one-way streets, he’s seen cops going against the direction of traffic. It’s hard to imagine this violation being worth breaking considering all the people it puts in harm’s way. This is a strange rule for cops to break, yet it still happens.
10 Seize Anyone’s Car
There have been cases where officers took property from innocent individuals. According to NPR, by way of civil asset forfeiture, cops can take cars from people who may not deserve it. Cops may even be doing it with good intentions at first, seeking to take cars that are in some way connected to prohibited activity. In the end, though, the car can end up benefiting the police department even though the cops shouldn't have confiscated it in the first place.
If there’s an odd rule cops break, it’s that they end up taking cars and valuables that belong to the original owners.
9 Ignoring Stop Signs
Cops have a lot on their plates to deal with. Something as simple as pulling a driver over can be a stressful situation. Nothing seems routine or relaxed. There are some cops out there though that have shirked some of the basic traffic rules. One Chicago resident, who goes by the name Peter, noticed something about cops after living in the Windy City for seven years.
According to WBEZ, Peter noticed police officers doing the very same violations they catch others for doing, like failing to make a stop at a stop sign. Drivers tend to do this when they’re impatient, and it seems as if police struggle with the same notion.
8 Tell Anyone To Step Out Of Their Car
A cop may want a person to exit their vehicle for a number of reasons. For example, if they suspect someone of driving under the influence, they may ask them to get out of the car to perform field sobriety tests. They can only follow this rule as long as they suspect the person has been under the influence.
What tips them off to this are signs in their driving, such as witnessing the driver swerve into another lane or go above the speed limit. Unless an officer has these presumptions, then they can’t break the rules by asking anyone they pull over to get out of the vehicle.
7 Asking For License And Registration Without Reasonable Suspicion
A cop needs more than an inkling to pull someone over. In their line of business, as Voices of San Diego points out, it’s possible for cops to get intel on activity from a whistleblower. The same source notes that when they get tipped off to something, they have reasonable suspicion about a person's culpability.
This is the kind of basis a cop needs to go off of if they want to ask for someone’s license and registration. Otherwise, they have no business asking for it. Cops have weirdly asked for this info in the past even without having reasonable suspicion.
6 Throw Anyone In The Back Of A Police Car
Those who aren’t in enforcement aren’t really sure exactly what's inside of a cop car, although many are aware of the little cell in the backseat. That’s where violators go in handcuffs as they’re taken to the closest police department. In a cop’s line of work, they probably encounter lots of people they’d like to throw in there and lock away, like people who aren’t appreciative of what they do or who cause problems in the community.
Yet unless someone actually commits an offense, that cop can’t lay a hand on them. They can’t just throw anyone in the back of a cop car.
5 Search Anyone’s Car
A person’s vehicle is their own personal space. For some, it may even be the place they live out of. There are times when cops have to search vehicles for items or something that serves as evidence in a case. There are rules in place though that cops have to adhere to if they exercise this.
Unlike a house or apartment, according to Flex Your Rights, cops don’t need a search warrant to go through a person’s vehicle. They do, however, need reasonable suspicion to do so. Cops raise eyebrows whenever they search a person’s vehicle without cause to do so.
4 Inconvenience Drivers To Teach Them A Lesson
Cops can be like the bossy parent drivers hoped to escape once they reached their adulthood. They’re always looking out to make sure people are on the straight and narrow. It reaches a whole new level though when cops start disrupting peoples’ lifestyles just to teach a lesson.
According to Lancaster Online, police in New Haven, Connecticut, actually seized valuables sitting in plain sight within vehicles so that drivers would start hiding their things. While the cops gave it all back, it required the people to take time out of their days to visit the police station to reclaim their stolen items.
3 Driving Through Red Lights
One Chicago resident noticed cops going through red lights. While cops have the freedom to do so, it’s hard to explain when several choose to do it. The Chicago resident shared with WBEZ:
“One of the things that I got used to, driving in Chicago, was sitting at a red light . . . and then a police cruiser would kind of edge along and wait to see if any cars were coming. And then just cross over the street.” While we won’t speculate as to whether or not cops’ running red lights warranted the violation, we do question why their lights weren't on.
2 Asking Civilians For Help With A Case
Cops sometimes need a helping hand. Whenever they’re in need of backup, they just might need a civilian who's in the vicinity to help out. If someone is a witness to an accident or another incident in the area, then it’s perfectly reasonable for that cop to ask them if they saw anything. On the other hand, if a cop asks a civilian to help them chase down a person, that's a problem.
Slate reports that a cop jumped aboard a taxi during the 1920s in New York and requested the driver chase someone. The cab driver ended up losing his life in the ensuing chase, showing that some broken rules put lives in danger.
1 Issue Tickets To Anyone
Cops get in their police cars or on their motorcycles to patrol major streets. While out on their shift, they look out for violating drivers. Their presence alone appears to act as a deterrent to would-be offenders who think twice about whether to run a red light or not. Although cops are out to look for offenders, and may even pull people over, they can’t give out tickets just because they want to.
They need to have grounds for issuing tickets. Otherwise, they’re breaking the rules. It’s hard to believe whether every ticket issued is justifiable and issued from an objective standpoint.
Sources: WBEZ, Voices of San Diego, Flex Your Rights, NPR, Slate & Lancaster Online