State Police Will Be Good Soldiers if New Anti-Smoking Law Passes

Even with laws that seem impossible to enforce, cop spokesman says they'll get it done


(WTNH)  There was a time, not terribly long ago, when state and local police officers working the roads and highways needed to watch out for things like speeding, drunk driving, trucking violations, stolen vehicles, etc. But the job description has greatly expanded in the enforcement department, especially as it concerns what’s going on inside vehicles.  Now cops have to check if everyone has seatbelts on; if drivers are talking on their cell phones, free of any hands-free device; if a driver is texting; and soon, perhaps, if an adult is smoking in a car with a little kid along for the ride.

Connecticut lawmakers are taking up a bill to prevent people from smoking in a vehicle when there’s a child inside 6-years-old or younger, and to trick it up just a bit more, a child of any age who weighs 60-pounds or less.  Second-hand smoke dangers are well-known, and laws to prevent it are in place everywhere from airliners to office buildings.  I don’t question the good intentions of the proposed law.  It’s the enforceability factor that has me thinking.

How can a state trooper cruising along at 65-70 miles per hour tell, at a glance, if a) an adult is smoking in a car b) if there are children inside c) if any of them are 6 or younger, and d) what the children weigh?  Is that even possible?

In a word, yes, according to the spokesman for the Connecticut State Police. Lieutenant J. Paul Vance told me today that he hadn’t even heard yet about the renewed call for a small-child-in-car smoking ban, but didn’t bat an eye (we were talking on the phone, but it didn’t sound like his eyes were batting) when I asked him if such a ban could be enforced.

“We don’t traditionally have much input into the bill-writing process,” Vance said, beyond providing statistics and information.  But he said they’re not asked what sorts of challenges new driving laws present police concerning enforcement, and that there’s never been any pushback on the part of already-busy officers or their unions. The big reason for that, Vance says: they’re that good.  “Our folks can do that (keep an eye on and in vehicles on the road).  They’re very heavily trained in driving skills, and multi-tasking while they’re driving.”

But mostly, it sounded to me like Lt. Vance was channeling Sgt. Joe Friday from “Dragnet,” whose response to every comment, from citizen gratitude to outlaw orneriness was a simple, “It’s my job..I’m a cop.”

“Our men and women are out there to do a stellar job,” Vance told me.  “And the work they provide speaks for itself.”