I had the unfortunate experience of receiving a “present” — a ticket — on my first day at the new job back in November. Like a lemming, I followed cars in front of me into the parking garage under the building. I didn’t know then (but certainly know now) that where I went in was actually the exit, and my ticket was for making an illegal left turn.
Okay, I did that — first time, ever, have I received a citation. I haven’t even gotten a parking ticket in my entire 37 years of having a driver’s license.
What bothered me most was that the cop who cited me behaved in an arrogant manner. He laughed in my face and said, “you made an illegal turn, and I’m gotta getcha for that.” With an evil grin, he gave me the ticket and said that I could follow any of the options listed on it.
I am very understanding of the tough job that cops have to do, and am usually forgiving when a cop expresses his annoyance with the dumb things that a lot of people do. I read a number of cop blogs and learn quite a bit from what they say and learn about their perceptions of us “citizens” (though one’s country of origin and U.S. citizenship has nothing to do with it. That’s just “cop speak” and they, like verbal lemmings, repeat what they hear and follow the pack.)
I would have just accepted the ticket and paid the fine if the infraction for which I was cited didn’t involve having points assessed to my driving record. Points are bad things, which can lead to higher insurance premiums for years. I am very proud of my spotless driving record. I really do obey the law when I drive, go the speed limit, park legally, and so forth.
Therefore, I decided to exercise my right to go to court. The court appearance was yesterday. I pleaded “guilty with an explanation.” I admitted that I followed everyone else, and shouldn’t have. I even said that I was “guilty of being a lemming.” The judge laughed, but the cop stood there and continued to sneer. (I mean that. His nose was wrinkled and his face was in what seems to be a permanent grimace.)
I showed the judge a copy of my clean driving record, explained that it was my first day in a new location, and I was disoriented. I apologized for my error and promised never to do it again.
The judge gave me “probation before judgment,” made me pay a fine and court costs, but did not assess any points on my license. That’s really what I wanted, so I accomplished what I set out to do.
However, at the very end of my few minutes before the judge, he asked, “do you have anything else to tell me?” With that, I told the judge that the attitude of the officer was less than professional, laughing at me and using a threatening tone.
I know you cops out there defend that behavior and think “us citizens” are a bunch of whiners. Look, I work with a lot of cops in my civic life, and I am accustomed to the typical “cop attitude” of being confident. There is a difference between confidence and arrogance. When it comes down to laughing and saying, “I’m gonna getcha,” that did it. So I told the judge.
I thought the judge would just dismiss it, as the judge always found in favor of the cops. I don’t question that — cops are trained to record their observations and state them accurately. Instead of being dismissive, though, the judge looked up and asked the cop, “did you say that?” The cop admitted, “yes, sir.” The judge told him not to do that again. Then I was dismissed to await my paperwork, then pay the fine, and leave.
Honestly, I think the cop adopted this attitude because he is assigned to traffic enforcement, and usually operates a motorcycle. (Easy to spot the motorcop uniform of breeches and boots). But in winter, on the day he was laying in wait in that parking garage to nab me, he was assigned a patrol car. I read about and hear from some bike cops I know that they detest being assigned to work in a car. To some of them — at least for that cop who stopped me — that assignment seemed to affect his attitude, big-time. Surly, borderline rude, and not professionally representing the police agency for whom he works.
I am a professional myself, and I expect to be treated professionally. I have to say, 99% of the cops with whom I have spoken or communicated have been nothing but the utmost in professionalism. This cop, however, was the bad apple in the bunch. Heck, even his boots were dirty and unpolished, and his uniform was wrinkled and sloppy. He presents an image of someone who doesn’t care — about himself or how he represents his department.
So, bike cops reading this blog: shine your boots, get your uniforms pressed, and remember that we, the public, judge you as you judge us. Be professional. If we are wrong, we’re wrong, and “us citizens” need to admit it when we err, but we don’t need to be told, “I’m gonna getcha.” That’s childish.
‘nuf said, rant over.
Life is short: admit your mistakes, correct them, and move on.
P.S.: When I was leaving the courthouse, I saw the cop who was the subject of this post leaving, also. He walked to his patrol car, parked next to the courthouse, in a specifically designated “no parking zone.” Not a zone saying, “police only,” but specifically saying, “no parking.” I know that cops get offended when the public thinks that we think they can get by with violations for which, if we did it, we would get a ticket. But when he pulled a dumb stunt like that, it only reinforces the public perception that cops think they are above the law. Instead, they should be setting the example for others, and obey the laws they enforce.