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He's got the beat: PCH duty

June 25, 2008|Susan Carpenter | Times Staff Writer

"Speeding, speeding, speeding." Those are the top three traffic violations Deputy John Young has been ticketing in his five years as a motorcycle officer for the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, Malibu division. But on July 1, when the new hands-free cellphone law goes into effect, talking and/or texting may nudge their way onto that list.

I caught up with Young, 43, to chat about his beat patrolling one of Southern California's most beloved routes, the Pacific Coast Highway.

What's the inside scoop on the hands-free cellphone law from a law-enforcement perspective?

I can't tell you about the inside scoop. I can only tell you about mine. I'll be looking for it because it irritates me, especially when you're on a bike. It's the most dangerous thing. People say, "Can't you multitask?" Well, controlling your speed and direction and braking -- I think driving is multitasking to begin with.

What recommendations do you have so people don't have to meet you?

Pay attention. There's a time and a place for everything. Doing an extended wheelie through Malibu on July Fourth is not the time.

Your No. 1 violation is speed. What's your favorite ticket to write?

When someone cuts me off. A lot of people who blindly cut me off on my motorcycle, they can't believe they're getting a ticket. They'll say, "I didn't do it on purpose." If I thought they did it on purpose, they'd be going to jail.

Do you have a quota?

No. It's against the law.

So you get what you get.

Like any guy who works in a warehouse making widgets, we're expected to put in a good day's work, but there is no definition of what a good day's work encompasses.

What's the average fine on a ticket?

I don't know the fine. I pull people over from other states, which happens a lot in Malibu, and they ask what the cost is. I don't know, and they get all mad.

How does your laser work?

We shoot up to 2,000 feet away. From that distance, I have trouble telling if the vehicle is maroon or red. I can't see if you're a man or a woman. I can't tell a whole lot about anything other than your vehicle or speed. I didn't stop you because you're this or you're that.

So you're not profiling?

There's no profiling going on with this job. All I can see is your car and that's about it.

How do you know you're stopping the right vehicle after you've lasered it?

I get a good look at it. People always ask me, "Are you sure?" I promise you. If there was any doubt in my mind, I wouldn't be talking to you. I don't pull people over to ask, "Do you think you were speeding?" It doesn't work that way.

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