Street smarts: Melander is WPD's traffic guruScott Melander is the Woodbury police department’s traffic unit. Not in the figurative sense, as in he’s the face of the unit or its critical link.
By: Mike Longaecker, Woodbury Bulletin
By Mike Longaecker
Scott Melander is the Woodbury police department’s traffic unit.
Not in the figurative sense, as in he’s the face of the unit or its critical link.
“We call it the traffic unit – it’s one guy,” said Woodbury Public Safety Director Lee Vague.
Melander is the department’s one and only member of the traffic unit, a role created in 2009 in response to his desire to form a more responsive approach to city traffic issues.
“I’ve always enjoyed traffic safety,” Melander said.
As the department’s traffic guru, Melander maintains a narrow focus on three roles concerning traffic: enforcement, education and engineering.
The enforcement side of his job is perhaps the easiest to define. He writes tickets.
The education role takes on different assignments for Melander: he teaches driver’s education classes, he speaks to health classes at East Ridge High School and he’s the department’s media liaison for anything traffic related.
To date, Melander has instructed more than 3,000 students, Vague said.
The engineering side is what Melander said is “interesting and fascinating to me.” While wearing that hat, he is part of Woodbury’s Traffic Control Committee, where city officials work on group solutions to traffic problems.
Seem like a lot for one guy?
“Unfortunately, I’ve got lots of job security,” he said.
It’s fortunate then for Melander that he enjoys the work.
He became a police officer after working nine years as a paramedic. During those years, Melander was exposed to numerous fatal motor vehicle crashes – most of which were preventable, he said.
“So many crashes were senseless,” he said.
And they always involved one or a combination of the same root problems: alcohol impairment, unworn seat belts, speeding or distracted driving.
So he became a cop. Before long, Melander noticed that the bulk of complaints received from the public centered on driving. But prior to the unit’s formation, it was difficult for an officer to focus on traffic issues while balancing other patrol responsibilities.
After drawing up a proposal for the department, Melander got the green light from Vague.
“I don’t like the cookie-cutter approach” to traffic enforcement, Vague said. “I’ve never been particularly interested in numbers of citations written.”
Vague said he prefers the “big picture” approach that Melander takes.
“It’s truly got to be about traffic safety,” Vague said.
Looking ahead, Melander sees an expanded unit, with at least one more officer. In fact, a second officer is slated for the traffic unit whenever staffing allows, according to the department’s five-year plan.
“It’s just a matter of looking into our crystal ball,” Vague said.
Meantime, Melander is in for help this summer; different officers will be assigned to work with him for one month at a time.
The goal, he said, is for the unit to eventually step up its education and enforcement roles.
Melander said he intentionally aims to be a moving target for traffic violators.
“I work whenever I need to work,” he said.
If that means he has to focus on a daytime traffic problem, he works days. Same goes if there’s a nighttime problem.
Perhaps surprisingly, Melander aims for a thank-you after every traffic stop he makes.
He said he figures he makes good on that goal 95 percent of the time. Even if he’s half right, it’s a notable achievement – given the fact that he almost always opts for tickets over warnings.
“You don’t see a long-term change in behavior with warnings,” Melander said.