Police, Tickets & You
Have you ever received a traffic ticket?
Who Defines Justice?
When I draw a blank on what I should write for my daily piece, I often navigate to this question site for inspiration. As one would expect, the questions vary. One poster will ask people to guess his height using only the color of his eyes (I didn't realize there was a correlation between height and eye color.). One preteen poster will ask for relationship advice (Does it mean he likes me if he throws blow darts at my head?). One worried poster will ask if the fact that her son only wears blue means that he's on drugs (Unless she posts that her son is climbing the walls, I'm going to assume it's his favorite color and she should cool her jets.).
Today, one of the featured questions came from a woman police officer. Her question is as follows, “I’m constantly criticized & met with sarcasm here on the site because I am a police officer. So many seem to have a problems with authority/police. Why? There (are) laws. Break them, theres repercussions. It’s not that difficult to stay out of trouble is it?” Officer, you make it sound so simple.
Like nearly everyone, I was raised to respect the police. My parents told me to trust the police like I trusted my parents and to always go to them when I needed help. One of my uncles had a friend who was an officer and I liked that man very much. When my elementary school would have a safety day, I would always linger with the police, wanting to hear stories and look at their badge. Up until a few years ago, the police were golden to me. Don't get me wrong. I still respect the police and admire what they do for the community. However, like a child who grows up to realize that their parents aren't invincible, the same goes for my view of the police.
My senior year of college, I was pulled over for the first time. I was driving on a road near my college, doing the speed limit. I had borrowed my Mother's car that had a sticker for the college in the back window. Suddenly, I saw flashing lights. Remembering everything my driving instructor had told me, I slowly pulled over into a "safe area." The officer was this older, fatherly guy. We chatted for a couple of minutes until he remembered that he had pulled me over. He asked for my license and registration saying that I had failed to stop at a stop sign. I didn't believe this, but went a long with it. When he arrived back at my car with a warning, he pointed at the Regis decal and confessed that he basically pulled me over because I was a student. He said that the residents kept complaining that the police weren't doing enough to make sure that the students obeyed the unwritten rules of the community. He said that his boss had told the officers to be on the look out for cars with student drivers and to ticket them. He said that I needed to be extra careful while driving near the college because the police were looking for any excuse to ticket the students because it would quiet the residents. Though the warning was on official paper, he didn't write my real first name or sign it. It worked out for both of us that way. I have to admit that while what he told me made me want to transfer to another college and lose some faith in the police, it wasn't really a bad experience. From that point on, when I'd see him, we'd wave to each other.
Later that year, I got into a car accident on a small, local highway. After the other driver had driven off, I remained. Stunned and shaky, I needed to park in the breakdown lane for a few minutes to calm down. A police officer drove by and, through his speaker, told me I had to move. I explained my situation. He told me I had to move. I told him I needed only a minute. He told me to move. Still crying and trying not to vomit, I started to drive in the "slow lane." He drove in the breakdown lane, watching me, until he got off. I didn't expect to build a warm relationship with him, but I don't think a little understanding would've been too much to ask. He never rolled down his window. He never asked if I needed medical attention. He was incredibly rude and cold.
Last March, I had to go to traffic court regarding a ticketI felt I had been given in error. In short, the officer pulled me over, took my license and registration, literally threw a ticket into the car and drove away. He never once spoke. I didn't know what I had done until I read the ticket. I was found innocent as the judge felt it was given in error. He joked that the officer should've filled his quota in a legitimate way.
Were the above examples not enough, I still have one more to relate. A friend of mine is repeatedly having to go to court involving a driver trying to scam her insurance company for an accident that all evidence shows she wasn't involved in. The police officer who filed the initial report keeps changing his information. With officers with such perfect memories, who needs proof?
If I had a chance to speak to the officer who posted that question, I'd have many things to tell her. I'd tell her that, while I realize that she probably is a good officer, not every officer is as good as she. There are officers who only see the bottom line and pull people over for doing nothing. There are officers who turn the other way when a child asks for help in locating his stolen bike. There are officers who, though good intentioned, pay more attention to rich socialites then to their oath. There are officers who sleep in their cars while on duty. There are officers with huge egos who believe the world belongs to them and all must bow down to their greatness. There are officers who are too lazy to chase after a car going 90 mph, but will throw on their sirens for a driver letting their passenger off at the door. There are officers who use their sirens to get through a red light because they don't want to wait like everyone else. I could go on and on. For every good officer I've met, I've had to deal with two nasty cops.
Officer Poster, we do understand that there are laws that must be followed. Yet, we don't understand why you guys, as models to the community, break those same laws without just cause and get away with it. We have no problem with your authority when you use it properly and treat your citizens with respect. When laws remain what they are on paper and not the interpretation of an officer having a bad day, it is not hard to follow the laws and stay out of trouble. I understand that there are citizens who don't respect the police and commit crimes because they don't care about the law. Yet, those people rarely drive mini vans with "Proud Parent" bumper stickers and bring their crying baby along for their killing spree. Most citizens aren't looking for trouble and would appreciate it if you didn't make any for them. Your filled quota is our bill money.
Despite past events, I still respect the police. They put their lives on the line and do many heroic things. I just wish I could meet some of the police officers from my youth. Those men and women were "neat as a pins" and "fit as fiddles." They were kind and welcoming, taking time to listen to children and to lost drivers. You could trust a police officer to judge the situation on facts alone and not on personal bias. I may just be living in the wrong community. I deeply hope that there are still officers out there who patrol for the good of the people and serve with honor. If the world is still spinning, there must be a good officer(s) and to them I say thank you. Your goodness will give children reason to respect and trust other officers.