MSNBC has a piece up about a man calling himself Jimmy Justice who goes around NYC taking live video of NYC traffic enforcement who flagrantly violate traffic laws.
He accompanies his videos with often vitriolic exchanges with the officers he’s recording, telling them they should be ashamed of themselves and asking why they’re breaking the same laws they’re supposed to be enforcing.
He doesn’t deny that he can be obnoxious.
“When I act this way on my video, I’m really channeling some actual traffic enforcement agents that I have encountered in my life. I’m kind of giving them their own medicine,” he said. “The same way they treat civilians in a very obnoxious and mean-spirited way, I go after them in the same way.”
Now after watching some of the video, I must say that I think his tone is completely inappropriate and if someone talked to me like that they’d quickly learn not to. But the overall message is indisputable in that we can observe public servants abusing their status as law enforcement officials. As the son of a fireman, I can tell you that firefighters are NOT happy when ANYONE parks in front of a hydrant. It is NEVER OK, whether there is currently a fire being fought or not. People have died as a result of just such selfishness. You would think this message would be especially clear so close to Ground Zero, yet in this video, the traffic control agent seems to have parked in front of a hydrant because it was conveniently close to the store:
If you go to Youtube to watch the video you can read the comments, in which some take issue with whether traffic control agents are cops or not, telling “Jimmy” to “try this with a real cop,” etc. Now let me be the first to admit that his attitude and comments are certainly nonconducive to any type of positive impact he could have made on the two agents on tape. Comments like, “What’re you gonna do, bite me with your gold tooth?” may evoke a laugh at first, but they’re really not at all helpful.
I was most struck by the comparison between these “traffic enforcement agents,” and our own traffic cops in Burlington, VT. Granted, Burlington is a fraction of the size and population, but our traffic cops walk the beat or ride bikes. They don’t need to be in cars to do the job, and frankly, I don’t see why the agents in Manhattan need to either. Especially not with parking spaces going for over $100,000 a pop. *shudder*
Additionally, if these aren’t “Cops,” then why are they allowed to drive vehicles with NYPD emblazoned on the side?
I’m reminded of the popular phrase, “Who watches the watchers?”–mostly because it’s overused, just like “Jimmy’s” videos are overblown. I know many public servants, and most of them do a fine job and are honest custodians of society. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with being vigilant and pointing out corruption where it lies, we must be careful to not cross the line between vigilant and vigilante. Clearly “Jimmy Justice” has an axe to grind and doesn’t really care about righting any wrongs. But most of us do, though, and the best way is to keep our eyes and ears open, and speak up when we see injustice.
That, and don’t park in front of any fire hydrants.