The police department of Woodland Park may have cited the 32-year old motorist, Jake Turnbull, but it was at the behest of another driver who claimed that Turnbull ran a red light, per The Colorado Sun.
That’s right. In Woodland Park, CO, any fellow motorist can report you for a traffic violation and the only thing the police need to issue the corresponding citation is for the witness/motorist to sign their name on the ticket. It’s called a “citizen-signed complaint,” and The Colorado Sun explained how it works:
A person who sees what they think is a traffic violation can call police and provide details after the fact about what they saw — suspected intoxicated drivers, speeding, blown stop signs and traffic lights. Police write up the ticket, but the citizen-witness has to sign the complaint and agree to appear in court to testify, should it come to that.
The Woodland Park Police Department gets about 30 calls each month from people complaining about other people’s driving, according to police logs. “We respond to every one. We have very high customer service,” said Jennifer Tobias, dispatch manager for the department in the town of about 8,000. “Our duty in law enforcement is to investigate the complaint.”
Turnbull’s citation alleges that the out-of-town driver and his Suzuki Sidekick “entered the intersection after the light turned red,” according to the statement from the witness. The man who called in the violation and signed the ticket is a former sheriff’s deputy who declined to talk to The Colorado Sun.
Turnbull on the other hand denies any wrong-doing, as the report outlines:
Turnbull says the stoplight in question was turning yellow as he went through the intersection, that he was “past the point of no return” and it was too late to slam on the brakes. A man behind him in a Jeep honked aggressively and, according to that man’s report to police, Turnbull flipped him off. Twice.
Maybe the former deputy was mad that Turnbull flipped him the bird, but I’m gonna chalk this up to the Wrangler/Sidekick rivalry. In the case of whether or not Turnbull ran the red, though, obviously you don’t want to run a red and I won’t condone that.
You can’t always be sure of how many seconds will elapse between your light turning red and the cross-traffic light turning green. It’s best not to rely on that little window of time, though I understand sometimes you have to commit to the speed at which you entered the intersection.
Slamming on your brakes in the middle of any four-way could be very dangerous, too. But in the absence of a policeman or camera to record or testify to Turnbull’s “illegal” act, I think it’s unfair that Turnbull is being cited and fined.
Turnbull is justifiably angry about the whole thing, and he brings up a good point about the arbitrary nature of these complaints:
Turnbull has reached out for legal advice on social media, asking how citizens can ticket other citizens. What if someone called the police on another driver simply because they had a vendetta against that person, he wondered? Or because a driver looked “suspicious” because of their skin color or their tattoos?
Given how unfair Turnbull feels he’s been treated, he’s said that he would rather contest the complaint in court than pay the fine, even if it were a single dollar. He told the Colorado Sun the town feels “like the twilight zone” and that “it seems a case of you’re proven guilty until you’re proven innocent.”