Saturday, September 01, 2007

Abrupt Lane Something-or-Other

I have been hearing a lot lately about police abusing the authority entrusted to them. Among other things, I have heard that law enforcement, specifically police work, attracts a certain type of "macho man" - or at least more than their fair share.

My experience has been different. Just about every run-in I have ever had with the law was pleasant. Even in London, where I hear they are now tantamount to the neighborhood bully, they were polite and helpful. They also carried Glocks. Is that normal? I thought they only carried clubs.

I've never been ticketed unless I was speeding and never "threatened" with punishments for other infractions - save one.

Even when I was 16-19, I was stopped many times (on average every other week or so) in profile checks. This was little more than a nuisance. I realize that kids my age were often causing problems. However, I never recall being bullied or patronized.

The one exception was when a police officer told me he could arrest me for a knife that I had. The knife (USMC Kabar) was part of my field gear and was sitting "out" (sheathed and strapped to my deuce gear) in the back of my truck. He then tossed the knife in the back of truck. Upset, I yelled something at him about respect for the property of others and respect for the weapons of a U.S. Marine. I am sure it was barely coherent and more likely sounded like babble but the point was made.

He said that he was "sorry" and I got into my truck and left him standing in the parking lot. I thought as I drove away from there that was a bit surreal. I also wondered if I was going to meet any of his "friends" as I continued down the road. I did not.

The sad part about that was a nearly identical situation happened to one of my Marines. While I was just in the same parking lot as the office, this Marine was stopped for speeding. It was a different town and, by the description, a different officer. It was not a drill weekend but he had his gear in the cab of his truck. The officer noticed his knife and, according to him, threw it into the bed with the same statement, "I could arrest you for this."

The officers had to be different men, not only because the two incidents took place 40 miles from each other but, in order to see into the cab of friend's truck, he would have to be much taller than the officer who happened upon me in the parking lot.

I suppose that even the machismo of anyone can be shattered given the right circumstances. For some it may be having pictures of them wearing womens' underwear posted on the internet. For others, it may involve being chastized when they least expect it. One that I think may apply to everyone - at least apply to everyone in those situations where machismo and work meet - is having his modus operandi thwarted. I have seen this happend with Marines many times.

However, today, despite the anecdotes to the point, I am writing about a single police officer and a particular incident that happened a few years ago.

I have sometimes seen police officers who have caught people speeding walk into the road, point at them, then point at the shoulder. While this seems a bit foolhardy, it also seems to save a lot of time and gas on the officer's behalf. The only times I have ever received speeding tickets, I was pulled over by an officer in a motor vehicle. I wondered what I would do if one tried to "stop" me using such means. It seems to me that if a police officer is going to give me a speeding ticket, he should at least take the effort to drive after me.

But even today, this has yet to happen. There may be a reason for it.

The Dallas North Tollway is currently scheduled to be opened all the way to U.S. 380 at the end of this month. A few years ago, when only the service roads, two lanes north and two lanes south with curbs, to it had been built but none of the land between the roads had been developed, visibility along the road was severely limited.

Because of the construction and changing terrain, the speed limits were in constant flux. This, coupled with the fact that everyone along the road drives at least 70 miles per hour anyway, makes for a "target rich environment" for officers looking to catch people speeding.

The side roads that were falling apart and soon to torn and paved as the tollway made for perfect spots to "hide" while waiting for speeders. Traffic at 6:00 P.M. was bumber to bumber speeders doing 70. I do not think that officers have "quotas" in Frisco but that was certainly the best place for one to "catch his limit." In doing so, they often did not excersize the necessary caution. Either that, or, for lack of a better word, were just a bit too macho.

I was driving north from work along the service road. I had a Chevy Tahoe in front of me, a Ford F-250 beside me, and a Chevy or GMC Suburban behind me. All of us were doing a solid 60 miles per hour.

I learned later that the speed limit had recently been reduced to 40. By habit, hurry, or reckless regard for the law, we were still doing 60.

My mind was not on the possibility of a speeding ticket. My conscious was paying little attention to anything save the vehicles around me and my sub-conscious to whatever flights of fancy that dwelt there at the time.

Suddenly, I saw the Tahoe in front of me swerve into the right lane, a police officer whose eyes were as big as plates directly in front of me, and that Ford F-250 - now inches from the Tahoe that had been in the lead - to my right. I swerved as close to the Ford as possible. I think he was as close to the curb as possible.

I missed the officer by what seemed like inches.

I looked in my rearview mirror to see him running out of the road and the Suburban smash what had been the officer's radar.

I looked again to seem him standing on the side of the road and the Suburban slowing down considerably. While I stop to assist in wrecks and I make sure that everyone is fine before leaving, my sympathies do not extend to a policeman's radar. I decided it best to continue to the house and let my heart slow down.

Funnily enough, I have not seen them walking into the road to "pull" people over to the shoulder for speeding since.

It is probably best not to live by analogy but I have since taken precaution in my own life not to stand in the way of on-coming traffic, whatever my own machismo tells me to do.

1 comment:

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