Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Crossing The Thin, Blue Line

Visiting the Pumpkin House on Monday cost me $10.

There was no admission, or any charge to take a gander at the punkins. Nope, The Griffiths keep it free. The $10 was was in the form of a parking ticket.

I parked the Film Geek Family Mini-Van a block or so away from the house, and our clan hiked across the rail-road tracks that separate Ceredo from Kenova to enjoy the spectacle. After an hour or so (we love us some pumpkins!) we trekked back to the van, only to find a Ceredo policeman putting a ticket on my window.

"Can I help you?" I asked.

"Oh, you're back. I'll just hand this to you." he said. And he said it with a smile, and with a whole bunch of smarm. He walked around the van, and handed me a ticket. Apparently I--and the whole line of cars that were parked in front of me and behind me--had parked our vehicles with our tires a couple of feet off the small side-road, on a woman's property.

And she was pissed.

I apologized to the woman for parking on her yard. Even if it was only a couple of feet, it wasn't my intention to have my tires on private property. I--and apparently all those who parked around me--thought we were parking on a public portion of the small access road.

Then, the following occurred:

Me: "I understand why you're giving me a ticket, but you don't have to be so enthusiastic about it."

Cop: "Enthusiastic? I'm not being enthusiastic."

Me: "Yes. Yes you were. You seem way too happy to be giving me a ticket. Man, that's just not necessary."

My wife, the daughter of a police officer, realized things were going horribly wrong. She knows me too well, and understands what makes the average cop tick. So, Mrs. Film Geek recognized fully the train wreck that was about to happen. She knew I'm not capable of stopping my little tirade, and she knew the cop was gonna eventually get to the point where he had to put his foot down. Hard, and on me.

Mrs.Film Geek: "Honey, take the ticket and let's go."

Me: "But, I'm not finished talking to the officer."

Mrs. Film Geek: "Yes you are. It's time to go."

So I did.

But, I'm going back tomorrow night, and guess where I'm parking!


jedi jawa said...

Way to go man. The last thing you want is for some overeager cop to crack you over the head and brand you some sort of pumpkin terrorist in the name of homeland security.

Good thing that the Mrs. was along.

Joshua Perdue said...

Watch it-cops shoot first now and ask questions later.
Granted, I'll remember this the next time some prick parks in my driveway.

The Film Geek said...

Hey Jedi: Mostly I posted this story to vent. I've had a life-long compulsion to debate with police officers if I believe they are wrong (and sometimes they are not wrong, and I take my punishment and go), and about the attitude that seems pervasive within the vocation.

On Saturday, at MU's homecoming game, a graduate student was standing--along with all the other students in his section of the stadium--when he was told to sit down by cops. He told the cop to tell the others to sit down too, so he could see when he sat down. He was pepper-sprayed and restrained, ultimately. Sure, he could have sat down...but, why is it wrong simply to comment to the police (which most witnesses agree occurred) "Tell the others to sit down, too."

So, thanks for letting me vent...:)

The Film Geek said...

Man, Josh...I said I thought it was a public access...

primalscreamx said...

Ahh... cops... It amuses me that some cops go out of their way to hide their occupation when they're off the clock. Slinging coffee, I've watched them hold their wallets at an angle to avoid flashing a badge at me. It always makes me wonder.

Anonymous said...

Mrs Film Geeks dad would have shot you back in his day. Now get back to work .

jedi jawa said...

Hey Film Geek, I do admire your chutzpa. However, depending on whether you view cops as underpaid heroes who shouldn't have to put up with your crap or as being one step away from being bloodthirsty Gestapo I've learned something important about life since becoming a lawyer:

Having rights and getting them enforced are two entirely different things.

The one only exists when the other is present and sometimes it will cost you far more than it can ever be worth in blood, sweat, and tears (not to mention money) to have your moment of fun in your rightful act of public protest.

Power to the people man!

The Film Geek said...

Hey Jedi: It wasn't chutzpa as much as compulsion, but your point is taken and understood.

I don't see the interaction as my rights being ignored or trampled on. To me, the issue raised in my little story and the one I mentioned in my comments is really about an occupation that has, at it's core, the need to distrust people, and to assert authority. And many times, that's absolutely necessary. Sometimes, though, it isn't. And during those times, those who assert their authority unnecessarily are just plain pricks.

As a mental health professional (another clue to my identity, Jedi) I have had ample opportunity to teach classes to police cadets on various topics. One of those topics was how to recognize an individual with a behavioral health disorder, and use crisis prevention techniques to interact with them. During the training, the cops kept saying: "Why do we have to learn this, when we can always use Pain Compliance techniques?"

By the way, they demostrated a Pain Compliance technique to me. It involved pushing the palm of one's hand inward toward the wrist in an unnatural position. It was very painful, and could easily cause one to break their arm or wrist. Might work for a thug shoplifting, probably not for a person in a psychotic state.

jedi jawa said...

Hey man, as a card carrying member of the ACLU I completely agree with you. Your point is a very good one but it is as much a societal problem as it is an institutional one. As my buddy JDB can tell you, one of the hardest things in the world to do is to convince a jury that a uniformed officer did something improper out of malice or wanton disregard because we are conditioned to trust the police from a very early age.

Unfortunately, I feel that this conditioning gives the law enforcement officer an inflated sense of authority (Cartman style) and a feeling of impunity when dealing with their environment while in uniform. I can see the escalation of violence in your example of the Police Academy to its natural cop conclusion. If the wrist lock doesn't work you just shoot the guy because you're a cop and who's going to really question your judgment?

That may be harsh as there are plenty of cops out there who are not like that. I just think that it is a problem that is rampant in society and the institution of law enforcement that tends to manifest itself in many unpleasant ways - like the student being maced for complaining about a legitimate problem because who's going to side with a student vs. a cop.

Just some thoughts - and they are my own.

Jackie Lantern said...

My two cents? Be polite and speak only when spoken to. This applies to everyone, but especially when dealing with the police.

BTW- That move works great for tossing people out of bars and making your nephews cry too. Psychotic or not...your going to get complied with. Ahhh, Akido.:)

The Film Geek said...

Hey Jackie: I agree totally on the polite thing, and I'm not trying to say I was right in my interaction with the cop. In fact, I'm pretty clear I was wrong. I'm troubled, though, when people are expected to be respectful out of fear. In my life, at least, I try to be respectful out of appreciation and understanding of others, and not because I fear them. And I think many times, police trade on the fear they want people to have, and when they don't see it, they think folks are dissing them. I dunno...I just hate the "keep your head down and keep on walking" feel, I guess.

By the way, I once saw a person with severe mental illness be seriously injured because pain compliance didn't work. Some understanding of her illness and how to interact with her would probably have prevented that. I know the mantra is: "resolve the situation safely and quickly" for cops, but the technique they use to carry out the mission could be a bit more effective and adaptable, IMO.

jedi jawa said...

There is an addage that I learned in one of my Negotiations trainings for the use of power that I think adequately sums up what you're saying.

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Hoyt said...

Just make sure that if you pay the parking ticket by mail that you don't use a stamp with a pig on it. This is the voice of experience talking.

The Film Geek said...

Hoyt: That is a great story! Well, no such luck here. Kristy insisted I drive to the Ceredo Police Dept. immediately, and she went inside and paid it herself. I think she was trying to avoid any further drama...

Stitching Barbie Girl said...

hahahaha! I went to the pumpkin house tonight.

It was rainy, muddy, miserable and half the pumpkins weren't lit up.

primalscreamx said...

pig stamps? Oh, freakin' brilliant.

Anonymous said...

Your wife is a wise, wise woman.

Did you know, as a point of fact, that park rangers have the power to arrest you? Yes, they do. **sigh**