Doyle wants to eliminate vehicle registration stickers and go to one license plate
Governor Jim Doyle wants to save taxpayer money by eliminating license plate registration stickers and reducing the number of license plates to one. This would save a little over $1.3 million according to the Legislative Fiscal Bureau. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn thinks it’s a good idea, but other law enforcement officials aren’t yet sold on the idea.
I do not believe it is a good idea. Let’s start with the reduction of license plates from two to one. Under Doyle’s proposal, the only license plate required on a motor vehicle would be the rear license plate. This would reduce an Officer’s ability to identify a stolen vehicle or one involved in a recent crime in which a license plate description was provided. For example, I recall an incident involving the theft of a microwave oven from St. Mary’s Hospital and a description of the suspect vehicle to include the license plates. St. Mary’s Hospital is located on the far east side of Milwaukee. My partner and I were on routine patrol at King Drive and North Avenue (a little over two miles west of St. Mary’s) when I observed the suspect vehicle stopped for the red light at King and North. I was able to identify the suspect vehicle by reading the front license plate and alerted my partner. We made the stop, arrested the suspects and recovered the microwave oven after obtaining a search warrant issued by E. Michael McCann upon my testimony. Had the one license plate change been in effect, I might not have been alerted to this car. There are numerous other examples of why two plates can help law enforcement officers reduce crime not to even mention how two plates make it easier for citizens to provide more detailed descriptions of law violators.
As for the registration plate stickers, it is true that certain parts of Milwaukee experience numerous thefts of these stickers to include whole parts of the license plate being broken off. These particular thefts are virtually impossible to solve unless you catch a suspect in the act of committing the crime. And there may be some, or even many, Departments with technical equipment capable of conducting almost immediate checks of license plates to determine whether or not they are properly registered. A small town Department may afford Officers the time to conduct spot checks of license plates for this purpose, however in a city the size of Milwaukee I cannot conceive of Officers having the time to ride around randomly checking plates to see if they are currently registered. They hardly have sufficient time to even check to see if license plates are stolen unless they stop the vehicle for an unrelated violation. The license plate sticker is just one more item which makes it easier for an Officer to perform his/her patrol function. But for those who may not see it that way, think about the fact that many Officers patrol alone in their squad car. An Officer working alone will now have to add one more distraction from operating the squad car in order to check license plates while on patrol. And for those civil libertarians reading this, just whose cars should the Officer be checking? How does the Officer make this determination? Is he supposed to check every car; every third car; every fifth car; an equal number of white drivers and black drivers? Just what criteria is the Officer supposed to employ? The fact of the matter is that after the complaints start pouring in about discrimination, Officers will not make any random checks at all. Now from the civilian perspective, if you are responsible and renew your registration faithfully, how do you know if others are doing the same? How many times have you driven around and observed expired registration stickers on cars and wondered why the cops aren’t stopping and ticketing those other drivers?
As for the rationale by the Milwaukee Police Department that the elimination of stickers will cut down on thefts, I agree. It will. With that rationale, maybe the Governor should eliminate Check Cashing places then since it is well known in Milwaukee that numerous crimes of theft and robbery occur in and around Check Cashing places. Why not legalize marijuana or other drugs? I can go on and on with this, but I think you should be able to get the point from what I’ve written.