Sunday, July 19, 2009

Probable Cause or Intent to Embarass

Ran up to the Stop'n'Go on McMillan this evening -- a local convenient store that is open 24 hours and has earned the distinction of being the Stop'n'Rob for the regularity of burglaries there. Something like once a day, but I don't know that for sure.

As I ran in around 2:30am to pick up a pack of cigarettes (or three), there were three cops out front. I had to be buzzed into the store. I asked what was the problem. The man behind the desk informed me that it was traffic stop -- it, apparently, necessary for three cops to pull someone over. I took my time, intrigued by what major infraction would bring three cop cars -- one without lights -- to go after a girl who looked to be no older than her early 20s and who was panicked on the phone, probably with a friend. By the time I purchased my cigarettes, I walked outside where groups of UC students were slowing down to watch the scene and laughing. The girl's face was buried in her hands as she talked hurriedly on the phone. A twosome was standing outside the doors of the store, smoking, laughing, and talking about the situation. I pulled out my phone to take a picture, and two of the cops, both white, in their late 20s or early 30s, one just under six feet, one a few inches more, approached the car and said, "Here's your license and registration ma'am." That's all I heard of the mumbled conversation before they returned to their cars and let her go.

Assessment: no serious infraction was committed. Had it been a DUI, more would have been done and likely the girl taken off to the Justice Center for the evening. Had she been anything more than just a traffic violation, then more would have been done and the folk around said they had not seen the girl leave her car.... which means this was, at most, a speeding or reckless driving infraction.

They needed three cops for that.

I usually defend emergency responders. For the most part, they do their best with little thanks and people are oft to make quick judgments about them without the full information.

A few weeks ago, I heard our medical director at the Emergency Department teach a second year resident, a medical student, a handful of nurses, and me about patient's dignity. "She's already lost her dignity," he said, "she's in the emergency room screaming obscenities at the top of her lungs. She won't remember you telling her off or making a further fool of her. All it does it make you look bad to the other patients around who just think you're being a bunch of cruel asses. Just get her in, make sure she's stable, make sure she's got all the treatment we can do in her current condition, shut the door, and get out. She'll be asleep soon enough."

It's a valuable lesson, and one I think the cops, this evening, should have taken. She's embarrassed enough, being pulled over on a busy street at 2:30am. Do what you need to do and get her on her way. If you think you need more backup, bring them, and then send them on their way when it becomes obvious you don't.

Otherwise you're just making yourself look like an ass -- especially when you've been running plates to make extra cash for the city, as happened to Katy of KatesRandomMusings.com.

3 comments:

Quim said...

Should a cop wait til after he is shot to call for back up ?
Should a cop wait til an angry drunken mob surrounds him to call for back up ?

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