As a matter of definition Walter’s Theory of Police primarily states:
If you are traveling by car and see a police patrol car, the odds of you seeing another police car before your trip is over goes up by some tangible amount. If you see a second police car, your odds of seeing a third police car before the end of your trip increase again.
Basically, there’s a pattern of grouping of police cars in a particular area and during a particular time period. So, when you’re on the road, be careful when you see the first cop; expect to see another one.
I came up with this theory in 1976. If it’s ever in print somewhere else, fine. I don’t have a problem with other people having the same idea. I just thought you’d like to know.
Everyone who knows me knows my theory. I don’t particularly obsess over it, but everyone who travels with me knows this pet theory of mine. I realize of course that at some point in your journey, seeing a police car won’t invoke conditions where my theory can be tested. Naturally, if you’re pulling into your driveway and you see a cop car down the street, the theory won’t do much for you. Additionally, if the first thing you pass out of your driveway in the morning is a police station filled with cop cars, this theory also will not help you.
See a flaw in the implications of this theory?
Of course you do. There has been many questions asked of this theory :
- What happens when you see a fourth? (Yep, the chance of seeing a fifth cop go up again.)
- That you’re a cop yourself? (Smarty-pants)
- Does this mean your under arrest?(What, you have something to hide?)
- You’ll pull down your street and see fifty cop cars all waiting for you?(Dude, chill out.)
- What about funeral processions? Do cop cars escorting official processions count? (No.)
- Do fire engines count? (huh?)
- “I just saw one cop car on my trip today! Your theory sucks!” (Hey! It is my theory. Your mileage may vary.)
Eventually (if you keep seeing police cars on your journey):
I’m not really obsessed with the theory, but I am convinced that at its core, the theory rings true.
What made me think about this was a TV show. There’s a new CBS network show called “Numbers” or “NUMB3RS” (It’s a geek thing) where the hero of the show is a mathematician. The mathematician works with his brother in the FBI to solve cases. (Hey, it’s TV, it could happen!) I enjoyed how, in the first (pilot?) episode, the FBI brother provides FBI provided statistics about criminalist cases, and the mathematician brother converts real world observations into seemingly abstract mathematical formulas.
It’s been obvious to me that there’s a definite pattern behind whatever parts of “Walter’s Theory Of Police” that work. (I don’t even call it “my theory” anymore. I really do refer to it as “Walter’s Theory of Police”). I’ve speculated that there’s a relationship that’s pretty obvious — that right around 8am, there’s a large flux of police, probably coinciding with a shift change. While this may vary for the areas involved, it certainly makes sense. Fluxes in observed occurrences of police cars on the road in the areas I traveled would certainly match up with some sort of duty assignments. So, any mathematical equation that would account for an otherwise (seemingly) “random” observation of a police car on the street might remove travel of the police cars due to shift changes and other related activity (The “donut shop” as cop attractor concept — in my observation, the donut shop is replaced for the most part by selected – not random – convenience stores)
Remove the grouping and normalize the baseline percentage chance–
Once the “organized grouping” is taken out, what would then explain seeing more than one police car on your path in one day, when (for example) you wouldn’t normally see any? Walter’s Theory of Police generally implies that a traveler would normally NOT see a police car going from point A to point B, and the chance of seeing one on any particular day would be some small fraction, multiplied by the number of miles traveled. The baseline of that chance of seeing a police car is regionally dependant. If you’re driving around New York City, there’s a high number of cops you might see on the street, and a high baseline would be established. If the person lives in a rural area, the number of police/state troopers etc are lower, and a lower baseline could be assumed.
Once you remove the grouping and normalize the baseline, you’re left with the seemingly random “grouping” in time and location. In a perfect world, you would have intentional grouping of police coinciding with the grouping of crimes, but for the most part, I’m discussing cops that are on patrol and are looking to pass out tickets. In that regard, I’ve found that Walter’s Theory of Police seems to hold true for a majority of roads where I travel. Many days, no cops on my travels. But when I see one, there’s a good chance I’ll see another on the same trip.
Now, it would make sense on some days before a holiday that there are generally fewer patrol cops on the street. For all I know, they might get the day off before a big traffic flow where they’re all working. Cops that know to be out at night around closing time for the bars probably take a break around 10pm. I’m sure there’s some local predictability in the way cops police the streets, but that actually goes to reinforce the Theory rather than detract from it.
If Walter’s Theory of Police is generally correct, what does that tell imply? It implies that some days most police are doing non-traffic stop related activity on side streets that aren’t normally traveled, and some days nearly every cop is traffic duty. In large metropolitan areas, there will be a full time squad dedicated to “Traffic Enforcement” and those fine peace officers are probably a bit more “random” than most. But when the other cops are charged with bringing in more tickets, you seem to see cops everywhere, all at once. Thus, Walter’s Theory of Police was born.
Finally, if Walter’s Theory of Police is generally correct, it implies one more thing.
On the whole, if the positioning of traffic cops isn’t random, than the traffic stops they make are not random either.