It's for your own safety. Oh, and, you're going to jail
June 2, 2003 5:55 AM   Subscribe

Are seatbelt violation tickets a good use of police resources? This guy didn't think so. So he walked up to the police officers on the detail and politely told them so. The cops were thrilled to hear from this citizen. So thrilled, in fact, that they gave him a tour of the local booking facility.
posted by baltimore (25 comments total)
Cops abuse power : news at 11.

I once spent the night in the cells (here in the UK) for flagging down a police van. I flagged it down because there was a guy lying in the gutter in a pool of his own blood, and I thought maybe I should ask police to call for an ambulance. The police disagreed.
posted by influx at 6:22 AM on June 2, 2003 [1 favorite]

Got to agree with the perfesser on this one. I, for one, am just about to ask the motorcycle types how they lobbied the state legislatures to weaken the mandatory helmet laws. Something about individual liberty being eroded. Maybe we can do the same thing for seatbelts (which I happen to wear religiously), but I don't like being told and/or ticketed.
posted by newlydead at 6:30 AM on June 2, 2003

Just asking but what exactly are the officers gonna do? It's like bitching to the teller that that the price of peanut M&M's is too expensive. I'm sure she'll reduce the price, special just for you. Besides the guy became a bit of an ass. Sure, the officers gave him a snarky reply but even after telling him to get lost three times he carried on with his 'verbal parrying'. If someone comes up to me complaining about some sucky part of my job I have absolutely no control of and doesn't get the hint to take a hike, then he needs a bit of a reality check. Does he think cops want to be checking seatbelt violations? I bet they were just as PO'ed as him doing it.
posted by PenDevil at 6:35 AM on June 2, 2003

That's exactly the problem, PenDevil - the worst kind of copper is a bored copper.

Fine, I'm sure they saw him as an irritating busybody. As far as I'm aware, thats not an imprisonable offence in the US. I hope.
posted by influx at 6:37 AM on June 2, 2003

Sure, the officers gave him a snarky reply but even after telling him to get lost three times he carried on with his 'verbal parrying'.

According to the professor, he was asked to move on only once.

I guess it's all in who you believe, isn' it?
posted by Cerebus at 6:37 AM on June 2, 2003

You want to complain about what a cop's doing? Call the cop's supervisor or write a letter to the editor. Don't go committing POP (Pissin' Off the Po-lice) unless you want to risk getting nailed for disorderly conduct, which covers a multitude of sins.

Cops are people too, even if that means they're assholes too. Don't go bugging them if they're not actually violating laws themselves, in which case, use the chain of command.
posted by alumshubby at 6:38 AM on June 2, 2003

Yeah. I love "disorderly conduct". What you're doing isn't really illegal, but we got a law that's vague enough to take care of that.
posted by trharlan at 6:52 AM on June 2, 2003

christ, doesn't that asshole understand that we are at WAR?
posted by quonsar at 7:01 AM on June 2, 2003

You will obey!!!! Reality will appear with a suddenness that will leave your stomach writhing and your cranium blank and numb and all will be the same in the world
posted by unklspot at 7:27 AM on June 2, 2003

yep, who do you believe? the cops who said "move along 3 times" or the professor who said "they came running up to me from behind"?

even with witnesses (even video!), cops usually win when it comes down to judgement calls.
posted by tomplus2 at 7:29 AM on June 2, 2003

The most recent case I've known of personally where disorderly conduct came into play was somebody flipping the middle finger at some cops. Now, how stupid can you get?
posted by alumshubby at 7:41 AM on June 2, 2003

Cops are people too, even if that means they're assholes too.

Yes, but they have a gun, a badge, and a legal system which will back them up. More power, more responsibility; we don't need to (and should not) cut them as much slack as we'd cut an ordinary citizen. Sure, harassing cops is dumb. For that matter, I wouldn't even say hello to a cop if I could avoid it, simply because I don't want to attract any of their attention. But the fact that we know cops sometimes abuse their power does not mean we should just forgive them for it when it happens.
posted by Mars Saxman at 8:28 AM on June 2, 2003

Don't go bugging them if they're not actually violating laws themselves, in which case, use the chain of command.

The professor mentions that one of the cops was chain smoking. I don't know if it would work in the US, but I once saw a similar scene unravel in Madrid. The details of the story don't really matter, but the setting was similar: some professor-type (i.e. clearly better educated that the cops he was addressing) was raising all hell over a minor issue. Only in Madrid the proffesor quickly put the cops in place by pointing that they were either on duty or smoking, since those two activities were incompatible with each other according to the rule of law. He then walked away under the very surprised look of the coppers. I kid you not - and I also do not know if he pulled a risky and bold bullshit-fuelled move on them. The cops certainly looked pretty dumstruck to the spontaneous audience that had gathered.

However, I also stick to the rule of avoiding any and all confrontations with the police.
posted by magullo at 8:48 AM on June 2, 2003

The courts recently ruled in the UK that it's OK for subjects to tell the police to "fuck off", but not "fuck you". Heh heh heh. Still, Breach Of The Peace (Scotland's disorderly conduct) covers a whole lot of things, so I don't know how many have been brave enough to try it...
posted by bonaldi at 9:09 AM on June 2, 2003

The most recent case I've known of personally where disorderly conduct came into play was somebody flipping the middle finger at some cops. Now, how stupid can you get?

I agree that it's stupid, and almost a guarantee that you're getting locked up, but exactly what's the crime in that scenario? Is it illegal for me to flip the bird at an ordinary citizen? or just a cop? can i say "you suck" to a cop? how about "you fascist"? "i don't like cops"? where is the line drawn, and who draws it? it seems to me that, at some point, freedom of speech has to kick in. in reality, though, it's basically up to the cop's discretion. that's a pretty scary thought.
posted by jpoulos at 10:22 AM on June 2, 2003

I have to say, despite my knee-jerk lefty bias against cops, I'm inclined to side with the cops in this case. As someone pointed out above, they were just doing their jobs, and they don't determine policy. I seriously doubt whether a regular officer can pick his or her assignments - they take the duty they're given. The guy's complaint should have been addressed to someone higher in the chain of command - preferably the mayor, the city council, the chief of police, or what have you. I'm not saying the guy should have been arrested, but if he had any sense he wouldn't have bothered to joust with a cop in the street - it's just tactically unsound, quite aside from the risk of getting arrested.

Also, this quote kills me: "You don't spit in the crocodile's eye 'til you cross the river." Apt or not, I'm sure cops appreciate being compared to a vicious and twitchy animal that you shouldn't taunt until you're sure you're out of range of his teeth.
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:13 AM on June 2, 2003

I know this guy. I'm a student at Goucher College, in the mornings I take a shuttle from Johns Hopkins, near where I live, out to Goucher, located in Towson. From time to time David, who is a professor at Towson University, rides the shuttle as well. He's a great guy. I remember when this happened, we were going south on Charles street, took a right onto Museum drive, and the driver, Chip, noticed David sitting sideways in the back of a cruiser (the presence of which had puzzled all of as) looking pissed. I never did get a chance to ask him about it as School ended for the summer before I saw him again, but he's a great guy and I'm glad he hasn't let this rest. His partner is a lawyer, and while I have grown to love Baltimore, I wouldn't mind seeing it learn a lesson about hassling citizens when it has real problems to deal with.
posted by Grod at 11:16 AM on June 2, 2003

Once, while quite drunk, I called a cop an asshole, as he was interfering with our beach bonfire party (we had to get rid of the glass bottles, which is a reasonable policy considering that most people are delinquents and smash them, leaving glass shards all over the beach). Anyway, we then had a chat about the calling him an asshole thing, and I continued to be remarkably annoying -- sarcasm, insults, arrogance, etc. Eventually, a sober friend promised to get me home, and in retrospect, I'm lucky the guy didn't beat me with that night stick thing they carry. But in general, I've found northern California cops to be quite cool regarding relatively harmless drunkenness and general idiocy.
posted by justin at 12:49 PM on June 2, 2003

Soon, my brothers, we shall pass a law against running with scissors. And anyone leaving a hair dryer plugged in shall be subject to penal action. Those who once would use spray paint without proper ventilation shall feel the sting of justice, no rusty nail shall lie aground unpunished, and the woe of a dead smoke-detector battery shall be visited upon the owner tenfold.

And then, my brothers, when we have completely halted the action of natural selection, we shall never again have to teach the heretic screed of Evolution in our schools.

Woe unto you who question our destiny!

posted by scarabic at 1:48 PM on June 2, 2003

... we shall pass a law against running with scissors...
Band together! They are after one of our own!
posted by dg at 4:11 PM on June 2, 2003

First they came with the scissor-runners...
posted by Vidiot at 8:36 PM on June 2, 2003

err...came after.
posted by Vidiot at 8:37 PM on June 2, 2003

I don't think anyone should fear talking to police officers.
posted by cockeyed at 8:56 PM on June 2, 2003

I agree, cockeyed (Rob! Love your site.) But police officers have so much power -- and so much discretion in how it is exercised -- that it's simply wise to be very wary and circumspect with the police if they stop you. Don't forget the magic phrases: "Am I under arrest?" and "Am I free to go?"
posted by Vidiot at 9:47 PM on June 2, 2003

According to the experience of my friends, the following are crimes in the UK, worthy of a night in the cells:

Shouting at guard dogs
Urinating in an alley
posted by Summer at 2:11 AM on June 3, 2003

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