Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sometimes you throw the book away

I read in the Houston Chronicle where a DUI crackdown landed the groom in jail on the night his wedding as he left his own reception. Last time I looked, “Up against the wall and spread ‘em”, wasn’t part of the wedding ceremony.

“…a family friend who has known Puckett for 10 years, said he strongly believes the law should be enforced, but that in this case the police displayed a lack of discretion toward the couple.”

The problem with some police officers is they never road with a seasoned veteran in their training phase, one who could teach them how to show discretion while at the same time enforcing the law. I’m not saying the officers did anything wrong; please don’t misread what I’m saying; from what the report showed the letter of the law was enforced.

I had a senior officer explain an interesting perspective on law enforcement the first month or so I was wearing a blue uniform for the Houston Police Department. I couldn’t tell you his name; but what he said stayed with me the whole twenty years I was on the street.

“If you stop someone for a traffic violation and they hand you a valid driver’s license which happens to alert you to the fact that it’s their birthday; wish them a happy birthday and let them go on their way with a simple warning.” That was the first part of the rule; one which sounded fairly innocuous.

“If you stop someone for a traffic violation and they give you an excuse, one which you have never heard before and regardless of whether or not you believe it to be truthful; let them go on their way with a simple warning too.” How’s that for a neat change of pace?

I know I’ve shared this before; here it is again for those who may have missed it. I had a call; actually I was dispatched several times in one night to the same apartment project regarding a loud party disturbing the neighbors. The first time I showed up I warned the parties involved to turn down the music as it was in violation. The second and third times I had to be more than a little inventive; I failed to mention that this was a wedding party and instead of renting a hall these folks had a boom box and several vacant parking places to use as a dance floor.

Instead of writing tickets or hauling anyone off to jail I reached into my wallet and pulled out a $ 5 dollar bill, walked over to the bride and pinned it on her wedding dress. I asked the mother, sitting there with great concern as the “law” had shown up, if it would be permissible to have a dance with her daughter to celebrate the wedding.

After the dance was over I explained that due to the hour of night the music would have to be turned down, opening my wallet to show I had no more money to buy some time for the party. Enforcing the law requires more than a ticket book and a jail; there are time when you have to throw the book away.

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