Traffic ticket overkill in north Nashville

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

It goes without question that every community would like to believe they are protected and have quick access to the police. But is it possible too much police availability could become abusive and discrimatory? Unfortunately that is the feeling among many residents in the north Nashville community. All too often many north Nashville residents feel they have been unduly stopped and ticketed when a mere warning would have been sufficient. It appears that many of these victims are at an economic disadvantage and are struggling to keep their heads above water. Just a ‘warning’ would have been a blessing. The insensitivity of many of the officers patrolling the north Nashville area in unmarked cars needs to be addressed, according to many people in the community. For the most part, traffic officers have the discretion to offer a warning or ticket and violator. Many are calling for an investigation on what they feel is a disproportionate number of people being ticketed in north Nashville when compared to other communities or parts of town.

It is no secret that many people feel a quota is imposed on officers to ticket a certain number of individuals daily, weekly, or monthly. This bombardment of what some feel as unnecessary ticketing is causing a negative backlash concerning how relatively peaceful law abiding residents feel about the police in general. It just seems that the police department should have an admirable and commendable relationship with the community, working together to provide trust and protection. Concentrating in one specific area to meet traffic quotas (especially if that area is predominately Black) could be considered profiling. That is discriminatory and wrong.

Before some jump the gun, let’s understand we are not talking about the quickness or availability of officers reporting to crimes areas for burglary, domestic abuse, or help in general. The community appears happy at the quick responding time of officers arriving to crime scenes or averting crime altogether. But when you have officers apparently waiting in hiding to impose tickets for the sake of ‘quotas’—that is undeniably wrong. And you can bet this type of excessive traffic policing (to the point of harassment) would not be tolerated in more respectable areas in Nashville, like Brentwood, and Belle Meade.

Let’s be real and evaluate this contention honestly. North Nashville has had a history of being inundated with dope dealers and drug related crimes, so an elevated program to halt or address this fact is understandable. It appears as if gentrification of parts of north Nashville, especially on Jefferson St. and areas around Germantown and Salem town have catapulted the arrival of many Whites back to north Nashville. The problems of excessive police ticketing was somewhat inconsequential until the redevelopment of the north Nashville area.

No one has to apologize for wanting to live in a safe and secure community. But that only seems to be made possible when more affluent Whites dominate an area. This appears to be the case with north Nashville, and that may be okay to some. However, harassing basic law abiding citizens (disproportionately Black) in the pretense of making the neighbor safe is wrong and unacceptable. It is possible for the police and the community to have a mutually warm and advantageous relationship working together to keep the community safe and secure while eliminating the crime element. The hostile and resentful feeling many have for police officers could be minimized if more officers practiced cultural sensitivity and treated others the way they would like to be treated.

Sometimes a warning goes a long way. People with nonmoving violations should not be treated as chronic malicious lawbreakers with an unlimited source of income. Sometimes tickets cause unwarranted economic pressure on some individuals (especially those with children) when a mere warning would have sufficed. All areas should be treated the same, especially as pertains to traffic violations. It’s just the right thing to do. Could the forces possibly make a valid effort to address this complaint and correct it?