Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's not breaking the law until you're caught

I know, I know, I promised that the next post would be all about God and stuff, but I saw this and just couldn't pass up commenting on it--it turns out that cops who run red lights will have to pay a fine.

Amazing, right? Requiring law enforcement officers to obey the law.

Before you break out the PBR cans that you've been aging in your beer cellar to celebrate, this is only true in Dallas. But I'm holding out hope that rational minds across the country will see this example of policemen being held accountable for acting within the laws that they're sworn to uphold and pass similar legislation.

I'm sure that there are those of you who aren't big fans of these cameras, and who are already pecking in your comments to me about how I'm supporting an invasion of privacy, involuntary testimony against one's self, drivers being presumed guilty before being proven so, and so on. Hey, in case you forgot about recent donations that the Bradstein Household has made to Marion Barry's salary, you're preaching to the choir.

That said, I wish that there would have been a camera recording my encounter with an Alexandria cop at an intersection last week. I was rolling downhill at about 25 mph on my way home on my bike when I saw him approaching the intersection, which is a four-way stop, from my right. This is an intersection that I approach rolling downhill at a good clip, and I can see about 1/4 mile in either direction down the road that crosses the one I'm on so, if I see no traffic approaching, I usually roll on through. If, however, I see a car approaching, I slow noticeably, so they know that I'm not going to blow through. Then, when I get to the intersection, I behave just like a car: whoever got there first, goes first; if two people arrive at the same time, the one to the right goes first; if there's general confusion, I apply the first rule of boating that Dad taught me--give way to superior tonnage--and I wait for the drivers to sort it out.

Seeing the cop approaching at a high rate of speed--one might even say "speeding"--I slowed noticeably and prepared to stop, especially because Alexandria cops have a habit of flicking on their lights and siren five feet before an intersection, blowing through, then shutting them off as soon as they clear the far crosswalk. This cop, however, slowed as though he were actually going to stop, so when I got to the intersection before he did, and had completed my stop, I started up and headed through the intersection. As I got about a third of the way across, I realized that the cop had pulled a bump and roll or, as we affectionately called them growing up in the Golden State, a California stop--stomping the brakes hard enough to make the passengers pitch forward a bit, but not so hard as to completely stop the car.

This meant that I had to swerve to avoid getting run down, which I easily did, since I never really trusted that he was going to stop. I don't know why I wouldn't trust him to stop, given the aforementioned "false emergency," "testing the lights," or "I dropped my donut on the switch for the lights and siren" strategy that Alexandria cops use to bypass stopping, and given that cops are getting caught running red lights in Dallas at a rate of better than one a day--and that's just at the camera-equipped intersections. Why ever wouldn't I trust him?

The best part came after I exited the intersection and continued rolling down the hill to the bike path. I heard the cop roll down the passenger-side window and yell after me, "There's a stop sign, you know!"

Hey really, jackass? Did you see the one facing your direction? And just where does Alexandria send its cops to learn how to drive--Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey? And, if I didn't know for a fact that you'd write me a ticket for asking these questions, I'd come up there and ask them and ask you to repeat that snide, sneering comment to me. After I took down your name and badge number, I'd have a chat with your lieutenant about what official City of Alexandria policy is on police behavior.

And if you weren't a cop, I'd certainly have chased you down and asked you--because I know that I could have caught up to you--just what the fuck you were thinking when you tried to run me down. Just what was so damn important that you had to blow through that intersection and roll over me? Because I'm sick and tired of people who are willing to roll over bikers or pedestrians or ram into my pregnant wife, just because they have poor time management skills.

Fortunately, my Buddha nature took over and I just rolled on home . . . muttering "jackass" under my breath.

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  1. Actually, you could have asked Buddha to glance back and try to catch the cop's car number. You don't need a badge number to send a letter with a time and location to the chief (and the newspaper).

    Riding my bike home from my mother's gravesite one morning last winter, before the grass had even grown in, I slowed as I rolled up to a T intersection with a red light. I was on the side of the T where I wouldn't be crossing any traffic lanes if I kept going, and I was riding on the shoulder. A cop with nothing better to do was standing around on the other side of the intersection. As he saw me coming up he called out, "That's a red light!" So I had to stop. I'm not sure whom it helped.

    Growing up I always thought Palo Alto had too many cops for its crime rate. Some communities don't have enough. I hope the Palo Alto police chief was aware of how her cops were undermining the attitude of the populace toward overconstabulation. (Yeah, I was grateful to know he was spending his time and taxpayer money doing something useful.) Sometimes it's easier to do your job when people think you're useful to have around.

    I know policemen, and I've seen them do a good job. I'm not anti-cop. I'll confess I'm anti-stupid.

    Cops are like guns in this way: Some people think it's better to have one and not need it than it is to need one and not have it.


  2. Anonymous12:00 AM

    Oh man, if you weren't reading me back when I started, google "I fought the law" and blackbeltmama. Read my encounter with a speeding police officer. You'll love it!

    Don't you wish you could say what's in your head?

  3. Anonymous1:20 AM

    Good example of self control.

    I would have still been cursing as I wrote out the check for the fine, with LA Mommy yelling at me in the background for making a snotty comment to the cop.

    One of these days I'll learn to think before I speak.

    Good on you!

  4. As I live in Dallas, this has been all over our news as of late.

    Well, recently, We too at the Duke Household received a citation in the mail b/c in Dallas---I went through a red light. Which, as seen IN THE PHOTO, was yellow at the time I entered into the intersection, but was red when my car was 50% through the intersection.
    So, we received a $75.00 (I think that's how much it was) bill.
    The good news: my car is in my husband's name, so..."honey, here ya go!"

    Who me?
    Run that red light?

    I think that if PD & the FD are not on calls---they need to stop just like the rest of us.
    What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

  5. Another case of those who should be "role models" flaunting their power and authority.

    Though I did catch myself recently saying to my son, "I'm the decider!"

    At that moment part of me was castigating myself for quoting that moron, and part of me was laughing at my pomposity, and part of me was quite pleased at my assertion of authority over that little punk who thinks he can tell me what to do. Good thing I'm not muttering "Jackass" at my kids yet, or I'll need a housecall from Buddha himself.

  6. Here's what happens when state troopers speed:

    So even if you can argue that getting the Governor home in time to broker a meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers women's basketball team qualifies as an "emergency," thus justifying going 91 mph in a 65 mph zone, what justifies a sworn officer of the law letting a passenger in the front seat ride without a seatbelt?

    Did either of them feel they were above the law? The law of physics, I mean.

    They say the Governor should be back on his feet in maybe six months. Right now he can't even talk. Or breathe unassisted.