Traffic Legend Slowing Down To Enjoy Life
Santa Clarita deputy said to have ticketed three generations of Santa Clarita youth.
A deputy sheriff whose name is often preceded by “The Legendary…” – or something not printable on a community website – is retiring this week from what he calls “the greatest job in the world.”
Tommy Banks, who has issued more than 30,000 traffic tickets in the Santa Clarita Valley over his 34-year career, is putting his patrol car in park and taking up pursuits he never had time for, like traveling.
“I’m going to Laughlin,” he said, smiling as wide as a Super Bowl winner headed for an amusement park. “The time is right to go. I’ll miss this job very much, but I’m really looking forward to doing nothing.”
The spectrum of people who have met Banks through their drivers’ side windows cuts across every class, from politicians to soccer moms. Banks said he figures he’s ticketed three generations of Santa Clarita’s kids and Sgt. Debbie Miller said that half the deputies working at the local station have received tickets from him, most of them when they were teens.
Banks laughs when he hears “The Legend,” protesting that he was just doing his job.
“The legend is that I worked hard. I think it’s the fact that I don’t like people violating the law, even doing it intentionally,” he said, referring to the infrequent accidental speeder whose attention lapsed. “They endanger themselves and others; people don’t realize they’re behind the wheel of a 10-ton death machine. Their safety has always been my main objective.”
Banks admits to seeing many repeat offenders, chiding them that they “didn’t learn the first time.”
“There’s one guy I’ve ticketed five times,” he said. Banks is most familiar in Canyon Country, trying to ride herd on Whites Canyon Road and Sierra Highway, where violations are rampant. He is quick to point out that Canyon Country isn’t the only place where drivers break the law.
“There are a lot of moms driving on the West side, thinking of things other than driving,” he said. “But offenders aren’t exclusively women.”
In fact, Banks was once accused of singling out women for his enforcement, which resulted in a close examination of his ticket book. The result: 198 tickets given to women and 198 given to men.
“People were surprised,” he said proudly.
Contrary to popular rumor, Banks has never ticketed his wife or daughters. He says he’s received two tickets in his driving career, one when he was 17 and the other when he was 18. He remembers the offense: running red lights.
“The first one I didn’t deserve,” he said, remembering that day in Burbank when he was pulled over. “The other I got by Pierce College. Both were unintentional.”
“I try to tell people when I stop them that it’s not a punishment, it’s really an eye-opener,” he said. “Sometimes people need the reminder.”
With the city’s growth over the last few decades, Banks is ready to leave. He remembers fondly the time when Santa Clarita really was a small town, with some real characters.
”We had some interesting whackos when we were small. This really was a family community and our station reflected that.”
Now that his ticket book has been retired, Banks is looking forward to riding his motorcycle and spending time at the horse racing track.
“I’m a workaholic, I admit it,” he said. “I never took time during my career to travel, so now my wife and I are going to do some traveling.”
Seeing America up close and personal is on his list, as is a visit to every national park. He’s also ready to spend some serious grandpa time with his grandchildren, who are sure to be stellar drivers when they grow up and take the wheel.
If there is a deputy looking to fill his formidable boots, Banks has a little advice: “You have to be firm and dedicated and work hard,” he said. “Realize that what you’re doing is good, not bad and that you’re helping people whether they realize it or not. Bottom line, you’re keeping other people safe from them.”