Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Give Them an Inch...

One of the places I like to visit for a good “police” take on things is written by an articulate fellow goes by the moniker, Cerberus. Today’s was a fun read, ”On Contempt for Authority…”, where he pointed to the importance of having a good attitude when dealing with cops and/or judges. I won’t spoil it for you, just go enjoy what’s there and see if you don’t agree.

I’ll chime in now; a chance to share a couple of my own traffic experiences. This is the kind of stuff usually reserved for the police parking lot after gassing up the city ride when officers have a chance to play, “top this”.

A fellow of Middle Eastern heritage was doing a poor job of fleeing, an assumption on my part, as he continued to run stop signs and red lights while I was behind him with my emergency equipment on. When he finally pulled over I noticed several wrecker drivers setting up for a sure thing, having listened to the police frequencies as I explained to my dispatcher what had been going on.

The violator knew he was about to visit the jail house for running from a cop so he starts off apologizing for having driven a car with bad brakes; never would he consider running from a law enforcement officer. I smiled and looked over at the wrecker drivers parked half a block away and I began writing traffic tickets for each and every stop sign and red light he’d run through.

“You’re still going to write me tickets after I explained that my brakes were bad?” He thought his lame excuse would exempt him from the consequences of his actions.

“Yes, Sir; and to show how much I care for your safety and rest of your fellow citizens I’m going to keep you from having to drive an unsafe vehicle.” I nodded in the direction of the wrecker drivers who’d already done their “ritual of the tokens”, a form of drawing straws to see who got the job.

“I think it will be okay if I keep the speed down…” I could hear him sputtering as it dawned on him that he was now a pedestrian.

“I can’t take that chance, knowing your vehicle has bad brakes; what if you had a wreck? I could get sued all because I tried to be nice; no, the car gets towed.”

I offered him a ride to the nearest bus stop; but I don’t think he wanted anything to do with the back seat of my police car. I left him standing on the side of the street several blocks from the nearest telephone; this was before everyone and his brother had a cell phone.

I may have stopped a relative of his downtown, a similar accent; Iraq, Iran or maybe Syria, they all sound the same to me. I observed the vehicle run a red light and, after writing the ticket, the violator tore it up and threw it on the sidewalk. I wrote him a second ticket, littering. He tore it up as well. I explained that he might wish to at least look at the court date in order to avoid my showing up at his door once it became a warrant. I must have had a convincing smirk as he studied my demeanor and was quite certain I would do just that; he picked up the fragments and stuffed them in his shirt pocket.

A month later I was in court for those particular violations; the fellow showed up with his language interpreter and pretended not to speak English. I should point out that during my original “interview” I learned the violator was working on his doctorate in English at the University of St. Thomas; he spoke better English than I did.

I explained this to the prosecutor, one I’d gotten to know over the years, and he told me to “sit back and enjoy the show”. I was able to answer the requirements of law and then listened to the mock third party question and answer session put on by the defendant and his translator. I wondered how long he could keep it up as the prosecutor started to get under his skin with each passing question. It took all of five minutes before the defendant blew up and left a trail of insults, all in perfect English, toward the entire court system, the prosecutor and myself in particular.

The judge was no idiot and had been enjoying the “show”. “I think the court has heard enough…guilty on both charges.” I can’t recall how much the fines were; I was having too much fun doing my Cheshire Cat Grin. Of all the things I miss the most about police work since I retired, those types of interchanges rank high on the list.

No comments: