Drivesmart column: What does a traffic cop do?

I think most people see a traffic cop as someone who writes speeding tickets

By Tim Schewe

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that most people see a traffic cop as someone who writes speeding tickets and fills out collision reports. This is a very narrow view of the job but I did not realize just how narrow it was until I participated in a project to define my job as a front line RCMP traffic constable.

Six experienced traffic constables from the four western provinces met at K Division Headquarters in Edmonton and were led in a functional job analysis by Dr. James McGinnis of the Research Branch of Human Resources Directorate of the RCMP.

We brainstormed together over a three day period, trying to list all of the different tasks that we were expected to perform and the knowledge that we required to do them. The meeting room walls were soon covered with sheets of paper, each listing a single task description.

The task bank eventually identified 13 specific areas ranging from communication skills for report writing, planning and court testimony to conducting a high speed pursuit safely. These were considered the minimum necessary to successfully perform the job.

Writing traffic tickets was part of the description, but only after skills and knowledge were applied to determine that the tickets were being written in the right place for the right reasons in order to reduce the behaviours that led to collisions. The Traffic Services Management Information Tool (TSMIT) database provided information for this.

In our society, travel by vehicle is the norm for everyone, including criminals. Familiarity with all of the federal and provincial traffic related statutes was a must but the Criminal Code, immigration, customs, drugs, taxation, wildlife, dangerous goods and many others was needed as well.

Our analysis did not include specialties such as collision reconstruction, commercial vehicle inspection or the instruction of others in these traffic skills.

Thinking back, it took me about a year to understand the basics of traffic enforcement and another year to really become comfortable with what I needed to do.

As in all jobs, there was always something to learn about whether it was provided formally, passed on by working with others or simply doing research to educate yourself. If there was any traffic on the road, the job was never boring.

There has always been a friendly rivalry between the general duty constables and those of us on traffic. I smiled when I read that the task bank indicated that we were expected to have their knowledge and the identified traffic enforcement knowledge as well.

Back at you guys!

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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