Unmarked Cars and Emotional “Fines”

As I was driving down to Madison today I saw a fellow driver who was pulled over for some driving offence by an unmarked police car. I am not a fan of unmarked cars in traffic stops. I don’t even really like police and trooper cars that blend into the surroundings. Police cars should be loud and proud in my opinion. Paint them with the boldest colors possible. Bright blue and glaring green.


Because unmarked cars and boldly visible marked cars have different purposes. Unmarked cars (in traffic stops) are for the purpose of catching someone committing a violation while boldly marked cars are for the purpose of promoting public safety. Unmarked cars operate from the view that you don’t want the driver to see you and have a chance to correct the behavior. When you see a cop car you slow down and that is a good thing. When the car is unmarked you don’t modify your behavior until you see lights flashing, and then it is too late.

One of my favorite examples of this from New Orleans. When I grew up along the Gulf Coast, and eventually moved to Baton Rouge, there was a broken-down cop car that was pretty famous in the NOLA region. It was placed along I-10 so that you would visibly see it, think that an officer might be hitting you with radar. You could see the tail lights go off ahead of you as you got closers to the car, as people saw the car and hit their brakes. It was there for decades. It may still be there as far as I know. What I loved though was that it wasn’t there to give you a ticket or generate income for the city. Nope. It was just there to cause you to slow down.

If I had my way police cars would be more like the top example. Bold & bright!

Sometimes we can judge people in the same manner. We love to call someone out after the fact when they have done something wrong. It builds our ego up and makes us feel more righteous. Such judgment isn’t about helping another to live a better life and prevent them from engaging in destructive behavior. Nope, it is about us generating ego “income” at their expense. We feel better and they feel worse.

I once had a manager who loved to tell people that she didn’t want to give us strict instructions and bind us into a certain way of doing things because she wanted us to be “free” to do what was right. We would ask for guidance on how to make sure that we were doing what this boss wanted and she would respond with “don’t worry about doing what I want, just make sure that you are doing what is right.” Then we would get chewed out after the fact because we didn’t type up a form in the manner that this boss wanted. It was never an action that someone would get fired over, just something that this boss could chew someone out over whenever she needed stress relief. There were “unmarked” expectations that always led to an “emotional fine” rather than guiding us in what to do and what not to do.

I much prefer “marked” expectations and judgment. Such marked items lead to safer, more productive lives, rather than emotional “fines”.

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