States Highway 275: Valley
Police Department, 1985 through 1993
All of this was coming off of United States Highway 275 and running
through our community!
early 1960’s to nearly the end of the Twentieth Century, United
States Highway 275 between Waterloo and Fremont, Nebraska was considered
as one of the most dangerous stretches of highway in the State of
Nebraska. For the most part, it was a mostly two-lane highway which
enters the state from Iowa over the South Omaha Bridge. It spans
west across Omaha, along the Union Pacific Main Line, which includes
much of the industrial and distribution districts of that city.
Still running parallel to the Union Pacific Railroad Main Line,
US-275 turns northwest in Western Douglas County through Waterloo
and Valley, past the industrial complex of Valmont Industries, a
major metal fabrication company, and on to Fremont, a fairly large
city, and the County Seat of neighboring Dodge County, then ultimately
to Norfolk, Nebraska. This highway was not traveled heavily only
due to its path through some major industrial areas, it was also
a major thoroughfare for commuters who worked in Omaha, and resided
in Dodge, and Northwest and Western Douglas Counties.
Department of Roads began work in several phases starting the late
1970’s and early 1980’s to rebuild, re-engineer, and
in many cases re-route US-275. The first two major projects included
the Fremont Bypass, which started in Douglas County north of Valley
near the Junction of State Route 36, and re-routed US-275 along
the east side of Fremont, creating a new Junction at US-30 between
Fremont and Arlington. The other project during this time was a
complete rebuild of the Junction of Nebraska Route 64 near Waterloo.
This was done in conjunction with a total rebuild of NE-64, (Maple
Street,) another highway coming out of Omaha, badly in need of work.
in combination to improvements made to Maple Street (NE-64,) Dodge
Street (US-6,) US-275 is now a newly constructed freeway, safely
bypassing the business districts and intersections of the various
towns and cities. During the 1980’s and 1990’s however,
my work as a police officer, at Arlington, and more predominantly
at Valley was greatly affected by US-275. For the Valley Police
Department, the majority of traffic injuries and fatalities within
the city occurred on US-275. With certain state laws and mutual
aid agreements that existed between Valley PD, the Douglas County
Sheriff’s Office, the Nebraska State Patrol, and the other
neighboring jurisdictions, Valley Officers were frequently dispatched
to traffic related incidents outside of the city along US-275, and
in most cases were the first to arrive on the scene. One needed
to be prepared to deal with victims with massive injuries and remarkable
devastation, to be certain!
road marked as US Highway 275 is the new freeway as it exists today.
The road marked
as West Reichmuth Road, is the Old US-275 which ran through the
City of Valley.
we did not simply sit around and wait to respond to motor-vehicle
collisions on US-275. A third of our overall time was spent on an
aggressive traffic enforcement program with the aim of reducing
accidents primarily in the city, but within western Douglas County
as a whole. This is often misunderstood by the public, who often
views such programs to mean “Speed Trap” or as a revenue
generator for the city. Many translate this to maintaining a quota
or as a means of simply “jerking around” the motoring
Contrary to these opinions, it is simply not the case. Under State
Law in Nebraska, all fines collected for criminal and traffic offenses
are not retained by the local jurisdiction. They are submitted directly
to the Public School District where the offense was committed. From
a revenue perspective, the city has no skin in the game, and as
a side benefit, this could have an off set on personal property
taxes, which the majority typically goes to the school districts.
The other point to consider was the statistical evidence. There
was a clear coloration between the number of traffic contacts, and
motor vehicle accidents. When a high number of traffic contacts,
(written warnings, citations, and arrests,) were issued during a
given year, the number of motor-vehicle collisions would go down
appreciably the following year. If we backed off our enforcement
activity for whatever reason during a given year, the number of
motor-vehicle collisions would rise the following year. Interestingly,
while the majority of our traffic enforcement activity occurred
on US-275, it would have this affect across the entire district!
As part of my duties, I was charged with collecting and maintaining
such statistics for the Valley Police Department. We maintained
these statistics not only to justify our traffic enforcement activity,
these statistics were also required by various State and Federal
Agencies who provided funding, equipment, and training to our agency.
Early on, all this data was collected and analyzed on hand written
spreadsheets, but after the advent of PC Computing, the job became
somewhat easier, and somewhat more accurate. (Inadvertently, this
activity was the first step of several which led me to the career
that followed my Law Enforcement career, which was has been Information
as quotas go; there are none. Our typical smart-aleck response would
be, “We don’t have quotas, they let us write as
many as we want!” But while there were no quotas, you
were expected to maintain your level of activity. If your activity
level declined from what you would typically produce, you would
probably be called into the Chief’s office to explain why.
At one period during my career, I consistently ranked at number
2 or 3 in the county for the number of contacts*, mostly speeding
contacts produced. After I nearly got killed chasing down a speed
violator, I felt that the need to chase speeders was not worth the
risk. My activity dropped, and I was called on the carpet.
level of activity was measured among all law enforcement officers
in Douglas County including the Sheriff’s Office and all cities,
including Omaha. It did NOT include activity from the Nebraska State
Patrol. I was writing a lot of tickets!)
of ‘Tolerance’ often comes up. Tolerance is that wiggle
room between the speed limit and the violator’s speed before
an officer will take the time to pull someone over. There’s
a broad range of variables for how the figure for tolerance is set.
For instance, the Supreme Court established the general level for
tolerance regarding the use of Doppler Radar to be plus or minus
two miles per hour. In general terms, the tolerance is usually set
at ten miles per hour over the speed limit in most places. This
was a matter of economics. The time and resources expended on the
stop, the contact, and the related paperwork exceeded the rate of
return. It’s a cost benefit trade off.
my time working with the Valley Police Department, the speed limit
on US-275 through Valley was very clearly posted at 40 Miles per
Hour. Our tolerance was 20 Miles per Hour over the speed limit.
Yes. That was 20 MPH! That meant you had to be doing 60
miles per hour or faster on US-275 through town before we would
even bother with you, and that was when the 55 MPH National Speed
limit was still in effect! Why was the tolerance that high? Volume.
Even with such a high tolerance level, we were more than extremely
busy pulling over the 60 MPH plus offenders. Our strategy was to
concentrate on the worst of the worst offenders, and it was a target
rich environment. To give you an idea as to the amount of activity
generated, years after I left law enforcement, references to my
specific speed enforcement activity was still brought up on several
internet speed-trap websites. waring motorists to watch out for
me running radar at Valley.
an interesting observation. The speed limit was well posted and
well marked. We were known to be running an aggressive traffic /
speed enforcement program, (i.e. we had a reputation,) and we had
a high level of tolerance. And while most people would think of
the typical speed trap consisting of a cop hiding in the bushes,
or behind a bill board with a radar gun, we had a policy of very
high visibility to the public! We would park alongside the highway,
clearly visible, and in the open. More often than not, we would
have our headlights on, even during the day but especially at night.
Still, we would make numerous contacts for speeding, and issue citations!
is another side benefit to an aggressive Traffic Enforcement Program.
There is also a direct coloration to the amount of Criminal Arrests
made, and the deterrent on crime itself based on traffic enforcement
activity. First of all, when you’re out there making traffic
contacts, you’re being seen, and you’re being seen as
actively working. The bad guy does not know you’re concentrating
on traffic offenses… He just thinks “The Man is
putting people up tight” and wants to avoid that! Next,
and this is important, pulling over a traffic violator is probable
cause to stop. Once the violator has been stopped, the alert officer
is now able to observe any number of criminal offenses inside the
offender’s vehicle. As a result of traffic stops, I’ve
made criminal arrests for abduction, escape, possession of stolen
property, weapons offenses, drug possession and related offenses,
alcohol offenses, (driving under the influence and minor in possession
of alcohol,) stolen vehicles, fraudulently registered or fraudulently
titled vehicles, unregistered vehicles, and illegal aliens to name
a few. The most common was persons wanted on warrants. Not just
local traffic warrants, but criminal warrants issued from within
and without the state. In one case, a subject I pulled over on a
traffic stop was wanted for murder in California!
under the influence of Alcohol and / or Drugs is a very serious
offense, and is something we took very seriously. The investigation
of the greater majority of the injury or fatal motor vehicles collisions
I investigated, or which I may have been involved in the investigation
of were related to DUI or DWI. In the United States, a good deal
of training is devoted to the detection, apprehension, and prosecution
of drunk drivers. Why is so much time and expense devoted to chasing
down these poor drunks? Simple; Drunk drivers kill people! It is
not hard to speculate that the majority of the drunk drivers arrested
by me during my time working with the Valley Police Department were
on US-275. Perhaps seventy-five percent or more of these arrests
were on the highway. I’ll write more about this topic in another
story. There are many!
this was coming off of United States Highway 275 and running through
Purple Sage Law Enforcement