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Sheriff Gets Special Treatment Until He Asks for Traffic Ticket

Last week, the Sheriff in Forsyth County, North Carolina, ran a red light. He crashed into a pickup truck, which in turn hit another vehicle. The sheriff immediately admitted that he was a fault, but the police officer at the scene did not issue him a traffic ticket.

Like many elected officials, the sheriff holds a powerful position. But he is not only an elected official. He is the highest law enforcement officer in the county. Many in Forsyth County believed that the sheriff received preferential treatment and that he should have been given a ticket. The sheriff agreed.

The crash happened on Tuesday evening. In the following days, the Winston-Salem police department stood by the decision not to issue a traffic ticket. They argued that the officer at the scene is always supposed to exercise "discretion" to determine whether or not to issue a traffic ticket.

This "discretion" has frustrated drivers for decades, causing them to wonder why one driver receives a ticket for speeding while another is let off without even a warning. In this situation, however, the stakes are higher. Why did the county sheriff get off scot-free while others would have been given a ticket?

As more and more people heard about the situation, the people of Forsyth County began to complain to the police department. Many believed that the sheriff should be ticketed for running the red light and causing an accident. In fact, the sheriff himself contacted the Chief of Police and asked to be given a ticket.

The chief agreed but said that "if the sheriff had not asked for a citation, [the police department] would not be looking to issue that citation." On Friday last week, the sheriff was given a ticket for the incident.

This situation calls into question police officer's so-called discretion during traffic stops. Drivers may now have reason to question why they are ticketed for an action that the Chief of Police himself said does not warrant a ticket.

Source: "Sheriff Receives Ticket for Running a Red Light," Mac Ingraham, 12 Nov 2010

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