Richmond, VA — Richmond resident Chy-Niece Thacker didn't know what to expect when she was pulled over Friday for having two tail lights out on her car. As she was looking for her required paperwork, Officer Jenkins reassured her, "Don't worry about pulling anything out. I just want you to know that your brake lights are out."
Thacker says she was on her way to an interview when the stop happened. After explaining to Officer Jenkins she'd been having a problem with her brake lights, she told the officer of the peace the mechanic wanted to collect $600 to test the wiring of her vehicle.
He looked at me like ? and told me to pop the trunk. He checked the lights in the trunk and tapped them, but they didn't come on. So he told me to pop the hood to check the relay box then asked me to get out to check the other one.
Looking surprised, Jenkins switched gears from being a code enforcer to that of a Good Samaritan. Having a background in mechanics, he quickly checked the connections on the tail lights, and then looked under the bonnet at the relay box, where he found the problem. In just a few moments, Jenkins had Thacker safely back on the road, on her way to her job interview.
Thacker seemed impressed having nothing but praise for Jenkins who refused to ticket the young lady, fixing her car instead. She wrote:
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He could've easily given me a ticket, but Officer Jenkins stepped out of officer role and into mechanic role to make sure I was straight. #hesablessing
Officers who have a propensity to kindness and empathy may see Jenkins' actions as routine, something police officers do every day. But other law enforcement officials may be quick to criticize Jenkins for not doing his job and ticketing the young lady.
Such daily encounters with the public can and do have very different outcomes. As TFTP has reported, a broken tail light can be a death sentence for some motorists who quickly find themselves staring down the barrel of a loaded weapon pointed in their direction by the very people who are paid to protect them.
Philando Castile was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer, Jeronimo Yanez, as he was reaching into his pockets to take out his concealed carry license. Yanez was the only adult anywhere near the car that day who believed Castile was reaching for a weapon. As a result, Yanez opened fire, killing Castile instantly in front of his girlfriend and her child.
Body cavity searches are other ways routine traffic stops can end for motorists who get pulled over for having a burned out brake light. A Baltimore woman had her body cavity searched, presumably for drugs, after an officer pulled her over for having a burned out tail light. The incident and others were all documented in a 163-page Department of Justice report which criticized the city's policing practices.
We applaud Officer Jenkins for helping Thacker in her time of need and we hope your act of kindness serves as a model for the rest of the nation's law enforcement officers. It's time to end the practice of pulling people over for broken tail lights and using the infraction as an excuse to "toss" a vehicle and see how many other misdemeanor and felony charges can be filed against a citizen motorist—all designed for one thing—to separate the citizen from his or her money.