For this week’s column I had a nice little piece forming about how to get on national television and make a fool of one’s self; based on personal experience, of course. But a situation arose right in front of my nose, or at least in the street where I live, and it caused me to abandon the TV piece in favor of the circumstance unfolding before me.
I believe the driving force behind the switch is my realizing that King City is no longer a town but is indeed a city, and as such the applications of law enforcement have, by necessity, changed. With the advent of greater numbers of permanent and transient residents, it seems to me officer discretion has lessened over the years.
Officer discretion is the latitude which each officer of the law possesses to “call the shots” from the field; in some cases this leeway can mean quite a difference to the parties involved. In last night’s case (I write this in the present tense; actually last Friday evening) it involved a vehicle parked in front of a private drive; this is on the 400 block of Seventh Street, a half block north of the fairgrounds.
Now we who live in the area are accustomed to a marked increase in both vehicular and pedestrian traffic during Fair Week; and we accept that parking spaces, already in short supply, are going to get taken by fairgoers. Now, before going any further, I will state that the driver who parked illegally was just that, illegal. But it is my opinion that the situation could have been handled better. Let me go over a few details.
Firstly, the owners of the property whose driveway was covered did not need the use of the drive last evening. In conversation with the officers who were dealing with the vehicle, they stated that they felt a written citation was in order, but that towing was not necessary on their part. They were informed that a ticket was not an option but that towing the vehicle was required.
In my conversation with the officers, I stressed that given the circumstances, if the officers waited for a few hours, then surely the occupants would return from an evening at the Fair, gotten in their car and drove away and that would have been that. That fell on deaf officer ears. The tow truck was already on the scene and readying to haul the auto away.
The auto was registered as being owned by a Greenfield resident. I argued that if that was the only car available then what were they to do on a cold, windy night without transportation home. The response I received was “they should have thought of that before they parked illegally”; I agree, but I don’t agree their punishment fit their crime. And “they” were not just numbers on a report, they were real humans. But, this auto was surely going to be towed as no wiggle room could be found in dealing with the local gendarmes.
To understand the following, it must be known that Seventh Street is one of the narrowest streets in town, and given the close proximity of the illegally parked vehicle, the tow truck had to be situated so that it blocked all traffic and trapped some neighbors in their driveways and curb parking spaces. And this truck was there until after the two officers had gone; they should have stayed.
In fact, they should have, in my humble opinion, done a better job of dealing with the whole towing logistics before they departed the scene. In earlier conversations with the neighbors, had they asked if the car parked behind the illegally parked vehicle belonged to anyone in the house; it does and had that person been asked, he would have moved his car allowing the tow truck better access and that way it would have taken all of 10-15 minutes to complete the hook-up and tow. When I mentioned this to one officer, he replied it was too late for that and so the truck blocked the street for just shy of an hour.
Nor was any attempt at identification of the car parked in front of the targeted tow, another simple task requiring nothing more that asking those of us who were standing around watching this unfold as we could have told the officers that it belonged, no surprise, to the lady in front of whose house it was parked. Had this been done then the tow truck driver could have more easily and quickly completed his task.
In fact, after the officers had departed this is the suggestion I made to the driver, and sure enough she answered her door and was more than happy to move her vehicle a few feet forward, and within a few seconds the tow rig and its prey were gone. The blocked private driveway now clear, but unused.
The whole thing is finally over, Seventh Street now cleared and life returns to normal. Also returning, not 10 minutes after the tow truck pulled away, was the couple who was now missing a vehicle. I offered the use of the house where I live until they worked things out; they were gracious in their refusal, so I retired for the evening. I hope all worked out well for them.
OK, back to my original diatribe about how our town is now a city requiring less discretion in the application of laws, codes, ordinances, et al. I don’t condone the offense, but I don’t agree it was handled well.
At one point I made it a point to correct one officer, who after I made a statement regarding information my neighbors had passed on to me, stated that “they lied to you.” I felt it was prudent to let him know that we here on Seventh Street who are in close vicinity to each other do not lie to one another; what would be the reason?
Take care. Peace.