There's No 'Stopping' Some Cops

Some cops give out tickets and then break stop sign laws themselves.

ByABC News
September 12, 2008, 3:19 PM

July 10, 2008— -- Traffic court in Warren, Mich., is a busy place. Sometimes, the courtroom is so crowded it's standing room only. Clutching their tickets, dozens of people line up at the cashier's windows to pay their fines. Many people are here because a cop said they didn't come to a full stop at a stop sign.

Though some drivers try to dispute the cops' versions of what happened, judges tend to believe the cops.

One police officer, David Kanapsky, generated many of those stop sign tickets.

As one judge explained to a woman who insisted she had come to a full stop, "Both statements cannot be true. I find Officer Kanapsky's testimony to be credible. He is an unbiased witness."

Is Kanapsky really unbiased? The more tickets he wrote, the more overtime he got. Last year, Kanapsky increased his pay by more than $20,000, most of which came from his time in court.

Kanapsky wouldn't talk to ABC News about this, but people he and his fellow officers ticketed did. After paying his ticket for running a stop sign, one man told us, "How do you fight it? It's your word against the cop. ... The judge is gonna believe the cop, not what you're saying."

In Michigan, cruising through a stop sign is a moving violation -- two points on your record. That drives up your car insurance costs. So to avoid the points, the judges let most everyone plead guilty to a lesser offense, "impeding traffic."

It's like an assembly line. Driver after driver agrees to pay the $135 fine; some even gratefully thank the judge for giving them a break. And then, one after the other, they pay their fines.

Give me a break.

Last year, the city of Warren made half a million dollars from these tickets.

One man who feels he was unfairly ticketed told ABC News, "It definitely seems like a money-making scam to me. If it was anyone other than our city government, it would be considered illegal."

Another man said, "They're just out there for the money. That's the bottom line."

Kanapsky's flood of stop sign tickets got the attention of Detroit's ABC affiliate reporter Heather Catallo. Her WXYZ investigative report on Kanapsky's ticketing blizzard led to a tip from a viewer that the cops weren't following the same rules they enforced on the rest of the city.

So Catallo took her cameras out to see if the cops stopped at the stop signs. Most, it turned out, did not.