CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - What's old is new again in Chesterfield County. As of Jan. 1, police officers there will have the option to write written warnings, instead of just handing down verbal ones. The department says it is a chance to offer more transparency.
It isn't a completely new idea. The department says it used to write written warnings in the late 70s. Ever seen a police cruiser in your rear view mirror and wonder why? The Chesterfield Police Department is hoping to eliminate the questions. "We're now offering our officers the opportunity of issuing a written warnings," explains 34-year Chesterfield Police veteran Major Kevin Smith.
Starting in 2016, instead of officers pulling someone over for a minor offense and talking to them about it, drivers may have something to show for the interaction. "We aren't going to take away the discretion to issue verbal warnings, but we're allowing them another tool to educate the public on traffic safety matters which is a big problem in Chesterfield County," says Major Smith.
Several local drivers think it's a good thing and the personal touch could help with minor offenses. "It's a good thing. I think you don't always know if your taillight is out," says local driver Winifred Jude. Driver Edwin Garcia agrees. "For me, I think it would be convenient. Many people don't take it seriously, unless they have something written on their hands."
However, others aren't sure and worry it could add to the work load of county officers. "How do they feel about it? Is it something that they want to do? Is this something that they're forced to do?" asks Charles Fleming. He says he's been profiled by law enforcement in the past, so he says something like this may help make some officers more accountable. "A lot of police officers are out there doing their best and a very good job, and we really do need good police officers," says Fleming.
Given the racial tensions that have played out across the country, the Chesterfield Police says accountability is a good thing. "We believe it shows legitimacy and hope in your eyes, the eyes of the motorist, we'll have more faith in the police and in that action," says Smith.
Police say over the years, they found more than 60 percent of their traffic stops have ended with verbal warnings. Now the department will be able to catalog this information and look for any trends or areas of education might be need to improve.
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