Valley Brook gets touching tribute in NY Times
10:15 AM EDT on November 2, 2021
Over the weekend, the New York Times published a report on police violence in America, specifically taking a look at "Why so many traffic stops end in police killings."
As part of the piece, the paper examined the profiteering side of policing, and how many cities and towns across the country use their police forces as revenue machines, targeting motorists for minor infractions that eventually lead to excessive fines, arrests, and, every now and then, a police chase and/or shooting.
You know, places like the venerable Oklahoma City suburb of Valley Brook, Oklahoma.
Here's the lede from the Times report:
Harold Brown’s contribution to the local treasury began as so many others have in Valley Brook, Okla.: A police officer saw that the light above his license plate was out.
“You pulled me over for that? Come on, man,” said Mr. Brown, a security guard headed home from work at 1:30 a.m. Expressing his annoyance was all it took. The officer yelled at Mr. Brown, ordered him out of the car and threw him to the pavement.
After a trip to jail that night in 2018, hands cuffed and blood running down his face onto his uniform, Mr. Brown eventually arrived at the crux of the matter: Valley Brook wanted $800 in fines and fees. It was a fraction of the roughly $1 million that the town of about 870 people collects each year from traffic cases.
Listen. I'm not a big fan of the way policing works in this country and think the revenue-generating, profiteering aspect of law enforcement is gross, immoral and corrupt...just like some of the businesses in Valley Brook!
That's why I've been a vocal proponent of Valley Brook turning the strip club stretch of SE 59th that runs through the town in a toll road with bumper lanes. The cost would be one neatly folded dollar bill. That way, the city would have a new revenue source and could then stop harassing Johns, strippers and other motorists. Problem solved.
That being said, if we're going to have corrupt police-for-profit anywhere in this country, it might as well be Valley Brook.
The shady police department gives the town character and charm, and occasionally gives us a good news story. It also makes a trip through the city feel a little extra daring and fun. There's just nothing quite like going to the strip club, wasting a couple hundred bucks on booze and lap dances, and then making it home without one cop pulling you over for driving a little too straight between the lines.
Well, at least that's what Clark Matthews told me.
In the 2019 fiscal year, Valley Brook, Okla., collected over $100,000 from tickets for “defective equipment” like Mr. Brown’s burned-out tag light, with citations issued, on average, nearly every day.
A majority of stops in this town of less than a half square mile occur along a four-lane road with the police station, the courthouse, a cannabis dispensary, a liquor store owned by the mayor’s wife, and three strip clubs. Valley Brook — which collects 72 percent of its revenues from fines, the highest in the state — encourages swift payments; in court one night in July, a local judge told people to call friends and family to get money for fines, or else face jail.
Chief Michael A. Stamp defended the police department’s practices. Because their jurisdiction covers only one block along the main roadway, he said, officers look for broken taillights or “wide turns” to catch more serious infractions.
Yep, that city of Valley Brook is harassing motorists for our safety. Let's cue up the part of the article where they talk about a guy who proves that argument wrong:
By some measures, Nicholas Bowser, 38, is exactly the kind of driver the chief says he wants to take off the road. Rather than pulling over around midnight on July 2, he led officers on a chase from Valley Brook to his home about a mile away. Upon his surrender, the police found a handgun at his feet and discovered his blood alcohol content exceeded the legal limit.
That might have been enough to keep Mr. Bowser from driving for a while, or have a court-ordered breathalyzer installed in his truck. But the next day, he retrieved his truck from the impound. All he had to do was pay $2,185.11 in estimated fines and fees to Valley Brook.
Local police had charged him with “negligent driving” and “public intoxication” — lesser crimes than driving drunk, which must be transferred to district court. Some lawyers say that a 2016 law designed to prevent repeat offenders’ drunken-driving records from staying hidden in local court systems has incentivized towns to downgrade offenses, keeping the ticket — and the revenue.
Wow. If you're even in the mood to get drunk and lead police on a chase and not face any real punishment for it, I guess Valley Brook is the place to check out!
Anyway, you can read more about Valley Brook and corrupt policing over at the NY Times. Stay with The Lost Ogle. We'll keep you advised.
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