From his Sandy Springs police cruiser, Sgt. Scott Levy points to a car trying to turn left in front of a sign prohibiting it. He waved at the motorist, signaling for him to turn around somewhere else.
“That’s an example of me getting soft,” he joked.
Both Levy and the driver knew the officer could have pulled the car over, but Levy says he’s learned to let a lot go. He understands that while he has the legal ability to take away someone’s freedom, that ability is something he has to take seriously.
Later, he uses radar to measure a car speeding in the opposite lane, driving 57 mph in a 35-mph zone. Again, Levy lets it go.
“I know with certainty, I look at things differently,” he said of the perspective he’s developed after many years of law enforcement. “I’m more forgiving. It’s part of the maturing process every officer goes through.”
Levy attended Georgia State University for business, but started his career with the Cobb County Police Department shortly after family members moved back to New York. Having a fiancé and friends encouraging him to join law enforcement, Levy made a life for himself in Georgia.
He believed his interest in investigating fatal crashes eventually would lead him into traffic safety. “I made a transfer request every six months for five years to go from uniform patrol to traffic enforcement,” Levy said.
Patrolling in Sandy Springs one recent Friday afternoon, Levy, traffic safety enforcement officer and supervisor of nine officers, only made a single traffic stop.
A man stopped his white Acura Infinity facing the wrong way on Mount Vernon, a one-way street. While he sat idling in the driver’s seat, the man appeared both panicked and annoyed when Levy turned on the police cruiser’s lights and radioed dispatch that he was making a stop.
The radio dispatcher didn’t answer when Levy called in his location. Levy jumped out of his cruiser and she did not hear the cross street. The man in the Infinity looked like he wanted to put his car in gear and drive off, but Levy approached the driver, telling him to stay where he was. He checked the tag number and sent it to the dispatcher. Those few seconds where no one knew exactly where Levy was didn’t worry him.
“I will handle what I need to handle,” he says. “The radio will wait.”
Levy said police officers don’t always get a chance to radio the tag in, and Levy says a Vietnam veteran at Cobb County Police Department, Gary Simons, taught him a long time ago to stay alert.
“You need to handle the situation that’s in front of you as if you are never going to get another police officer to come help you,” Levy says Simons taught him. “You do not want to die with your hand on the radio.”
Though Levy didn’t write the man a ticket, his voice carried the aggravation of the driver’s attitude. “He told me he wasn’t driving,” Levy said.
Obviously, the man sat in his car idling, while facing the wrong way, but his choice to act confrontationally with Levy could have escalated the situation. “Unless his car was plopped down in the middle of the roadway, he drove the wrong way on a one-way street,” Levy says.
Levy says the police are out to educate and “obtain voluntary compliance” from drivers in Sandy Springs. He says he’s really not out to write tickets, but he admits the attitude of the driver often determines whether a ticket is written or an arrest is made.
“I’m trying to correct the driving behavior,” Levy says about the car attempting to turn left where a posted sign prohibits it.
Two officers work nights as part of a grant-funded program that came from the governor’s office, Levy says. These members of the Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic look for aggressive drivers and drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
“They hunt impaired drivers and aggressive drivers,” Levy says. His job and his passion, he says, lies in educating motorists and preventing fatal crashes.