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Friday, October 01, 2010

Police, Justice, Saints

Have you ever been stopped by the Police?

The most common encounter with the Police, for most people, is either because something bad happened to them, such as a burglary or car accident or some other thing, or, perhaps, a traffic stop, better known as “being pulled over."

Has this ever happened to you?

How did you react?

Did you curse or maybe even go so far as to swear (take the Lord’s name in vain)? Did you break into a sweat, feel your blood pressure increase, hear your own heart beating in your ears without benefit of a stethoscope? (As an aside…did you identify any heart problems in that experience?)

Most importantly, did you harbor resentment against the cop who had the audacity to stop you?

Think about it, and after reading this post, think about it even harder.

Last Sunday when heading back to Minnesota from my short hiatus in Wisconsin, I was driving happily along the freeway, enjoying the fall colors, creeping past a few cars, always mindful of my speed, especially since Wisconsin and Minnesota do not have reciprocity.

Then I happened to see, in a flash, the blue car with the white stripe sitting in the median.

Whenever I see a squad car, I check my speedometer and usually see I am fine. That day, I saw that I was doing something around 80 in a 65.


I hit the brakes immediately; only an arrogant idiot continues in his bad behavior as he encounters an authority figure. Looking into the air and whistling, for some reason, just doesn't seem to be effective while driving.

I watched in the rear-view mirror as the dreaded Wisconsin State Patrol car pulled out of its spot and accelerated, knowing darn well that it was because I was the idiot that cop was after.

Carefully, when I could, even though I hadn’t yet seen the lights, I moved into the right lane, and, still watching, saw immediately when that terrible Car of Judgment changed into my lane, following me. I knew what that cop was doing in preparation for the stop and I knew that it was over.

When I saw the lights come on, I was happy to see that we were approaching a rest stop, and although it had not been my plan to rest there, I took the exit and pulled over, thinking about the safety of the State Trooper who was stopping me.

My idiocy and inattention to my speed had put that cop in danger; I was glad for the opportunity to minimize it as much as possible while still stopping obediently without causing that unknown cop any additional stress.

Traffic stops are stressful enough.

I know; I’ve been there. I HATED freeway stops. In my department we walked up on the passenger side where we could, but all too often, the offender, in doing what he was taught, pulled up tight against the median or sound barrier in order to be out of traffic. That meant that I, as the Offending Police Officer, had to hang my authoritative rear end out into 65 mph freeway traffic, and God (as well as all cops know), drivers are oddly attracted to light.

Traffic stops are what kill most cops, y’all. It’s not Hollywood’s version of shootouts or cop show’s depiction of dangerous people who are stopped. Simply put, it is average people doing stupid things that force the police by necessity to be placed in a dangerous position that leads them into being killed.

Think about that and think about it hard the next time you complain you are stopped.

If that cop stops you and is hit by someone else, it’s YOUR FAULT. Period. Deal with it.

Were it not for your own breakage of the law, that cop would not have been standing there talking to you about the dumb thing you did to cause him or her to be standing there. And therefore, he or she would not be present in that location to be taken out by a drunk, or a driver even less inattentive than you, etc.

I’m sorry, I’ve been digressing. We were talking about ME weren't we?

Yeah. Me. The Offender.

I pulled over, finding that my cousin’s instruction on my cop-status-even-after-leaving-law-enforcement still remains: once a cop, always a cop. While I greatly cared about my own problem of, well, quite honestly, either paying for a ticket I couldn’t afford on the spot, or going to jail if I couldn’t or didn’t have the proper information, it was more important to me that the officer who was stopping me not be killed in doing so.

Yeah, my cousin (God rest his soul) was right. That training in stopping and being stopped really changes those who experience it. His observation, as I have now learned, goes far deeper than mere training; it goes all the way to deep respect and a true desire for the good of the other, if we are to become philosophical about this.

I also have to say that, even further, when you’ve broken the law, you know it, and you KNOW when what is happening to you is Justice.

As I waited for that Officer to approach my window, I thought hard about Justice. I knew I was caught breaking the law. It didn’t matter that I had not intended to hit such a speed. The fact was that I had not realized I was going so fast, and only that Squad had made me look, at that moment, at my speedometer. Yes, this traffic stop was objectively Just: I was breaking Wisconsin Law, and I was going to pay for it.

I watched to see how the officer would approach. She was coming up on the right (shoulder) so I closed my left window (to block traffic noise), opening the right one, my driver’s license already in hand.

She bent down and said to me, “You know I got you speeding.”


I was resigned to my fate already, wondering how I was going to pay this fine without going to jail.

I handed her my license and realized I was an idiot for not also having my insurance out, for which she had to ask. As I dug through my purse pocket, I found old insurance cards and began to panic. Was it even POSSIBLE that I did not put my current insurance in my purse??

I’d CITED people for having no insurance for that very failure!

As I, in growing panic, went through thing after thing in that pocket, my hands beginning to shake, I envisioned my car being towed in one direction while I, in handcuffs, went in another to await court the next day.

My friends, speaking as a former cop, even the most strict of MN cops did not recognize WI cops for being merciful. I’m sure they had the same opinion of us, all because of reciprocity laws.

The law is what it is. We were servants of that was the Trooper at my window.

Thankfully I found my insurance card and handed it over. Then she asked me for Registration.

For those who don’t know, in Minnesota, this is sent to you by the State when it is time to purchase your tabs. There is something that is noted as a “cab card”, and that is your Registration. To be safe, when you purchase your Tabs, take everything the State sends you and keep it in your glove box to prove your Registration. Anyone can see your Tabs  on your plate, but the Registration has a bit more info and is easier for a cop to see if they have to stop you when you do something dumb.

I knew mine was in my glove box…somewhere. I told her verbally where it was, knowing what it is like to stand outside that window. She gave me permission to open my glove box, and I let her get a good view before I reached into it.

I also had to tell her that I was removing my seat belt in order to better access the contents. (I did NOT need a seat-belt ticket added on to what I was certain to be paying!). She told me that was fine.

Great. I paged through a whole bunch of crap I didn’t even realize was in my glove box and couldn’t find the document. My hands were shaking, I had already said to myself, “I was IN law enforcement…I know better than this…!” (I think she heard this although I meant only to be berating myself! *embarrassing*!)

Finally she said, “That’s fine. Does your car come back to you?”

“Yes. I am the only owner, everything is current.”

I’ll never forget what she said next: “I’m only going to write you a warning today. Stay in your car and I’ll be back."

I sat back, amazed.

I am the first person I know of from Minnesota who has EVER been let go with a warning from the Wisconsin State Patrol.

She would have been well-justified in writing me a ticket, which she told me when she came back, started at $200.

I don’t know why she let me go. Had I been stopping me, I am not at all sure that I would have been so merciful. 80 in a 65 ISN'T small potatoes! That’s speeding in any state, no matter what the law. ONE mph over the limit is an objective breakage of the law.

I was over by about 15 mph.

She handed me the Warning, my license and insurance, reminded me to keep it to 65, and told me to be safe. I told her the same.

As I drove off, I pulled out my rosary and I prayed it in both thanksgiving for this great mercy, and I prayed it for the Trooper in both reparation and for her safety.

I screwed up, she caught me, and because of my actions, I put her in danger.

Don’t comment below and say that by being a Trooper she takes that risk; that’s quite obvious and actually is a really stupid comment. She doesn't go into business to ask YOU to put her in danger!

The fact is this: you and I, when we break the law, whether frivolously by mistake or intentionally out of arrogance, we both put the officer who is bound to do his or her job, in serious danger.

Danger that would not exist for them were it not for our personal actions.

If you are one of those who were ever stopped for a traffic or other offense,  how did you react?

Were you arrogant? Angry? Did you wonder why they weren't stopping "REAL CRIMINALS"?

If you have broken the law, i.e., committed a crime, it means you are a criminal!Suck it up and admit it, and if you are truly a good citizen, realize that your own actions have placed another human being in danger.

If that cop died while stopping you, you’d live with that for the rest of your life.

So don’t let it happen. Ever.

If you don’t want to watch your speed for your own sake, even if you think it’s nothing to pay a ticket here and there, then think about the cop who might die just to inform you that you’re doing something stupid and should probably slow down before you kill someone.

I don’t personally know the cop who stopped me, and even if she had written me a ticket and made me pay on the spot or, had I not had documentation I legally must carry, had taken me to jail, this post would not change. (Well, it might be more interesting if she had arrested me and taken me to jail...)

But I still want to apologize to her for putting her in danger, and for that matter, the county Deputy who stopped me a few years ago when I missed a 40 mph sign in a speed trap. He was in even MORE danger because, after all, the roads were slippery and he didn’t have the buffer zone of being on an exit ramp.

I don’t know why the WI State Trooper let me go, but I do know this: I want her action to bear fruit. I want to remind people, in the name of the Wisconsin State Patrol, to keep an eye on your speed, not just for yourselves, but because of all the police officers who are willing to put themselves at risk so that others might not be killed by your stupid actions.

I took the lesson and hope it remains with me. As a cop I made traffic stops I intended to be “educative” to the driver.I am grateful to be the one receiving the education and know full well that should I breech the law again, I will not be granted another mercy.

Pray for the Police, every day. Pray for their safety, for their families who wait for them to come home at the end of their shift. Then thank God for them, for were it not for our law enforcement officers, we’d all be living in chaos.

When I was sworn in, my Mom gave me a medal, which she’d had blessed, of St. Michael the Archangel.(I don’t have it anymore as after I left, I gave it to another aspiring police officer. I also used to pray Psalm 190 every day before I went to work.

September 29 was the Feast of the Archangels, October 1st is the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Patron of Missionaries, and October 2nd is the Feast of the Guardian Angels. If Police Officers, everwhere, don’t fit into those categories (including missionary) I don’t know who does!

Please offer your prayers for those men and women who live among you, those you view with dread in your rearview mirror, and those you call 911 for when you are in need of help. Asd the intercession, for them, of the Archangels, of St. Therese, and of the Guardian Angels, for their own protection and for their ability and vocation (small “v”) to protect

And please, in your charity, pray especially for MN State Trooper, Officer Ted Foss, who was killed in a traffic stop. He was the husband of a friend and professional reference and the reason we, by law if not by common sense,  pull into the opposite lane in MN if we see a squad car responding to an incident on the side of the road, be it traffic stop or accident or mere assistance to someone in need of help.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.


paramedicgirl said...

Sounds like you have some some pretty strict laws there. Actually, as of Sept 20, our province now impuonds cars immedialtely if the driver is caught speeding over 40 KPH. Google the conversion to MPH, I don't feel like it!

Several times, I have been let go because I am EMS. Two other times, it was because I admitted my wrongdoing right away and I apologized. I got a warning both times. Now, I just use cruise control, `cuz cars these days are so smooth, you can`t even tell you are speeding til you look at the speedometor.

Adoro said...

Paramedicgirl ~ In my own state (MN)we can challenge the ticket if we think it unjust (only idiots or geniuses do so, and when I was a cop, we prepped for the geniuses), but MN & WI don't have reciprocity, extradition. Among other things. We therefore serve our sentence on the spot or go to jail immediately in order to appear before the judge the next day. Most people have no interest in spending the night in jail.

I think I might use cruise control for the 1st time next time I go to WI just to ensure I don't get heavy-footed again!

Sal said...

Thank you for the reminder. Had not thought of traffic stops that way- though always ready to admit guilt- and will take this to heart.

Have you seen the video of the long form of the St. Michael prayer? There's a copy at "Why I Am Catholic", on his day. The long form is very powerful.