Humor can be a very good way to diffuse a potentially unpleasant circumstance. I have used it as such, but discretion dictates that I should not use it all the time.
Upon approaching a car stopped for speeding, you might try the following opening statements. If the driver is with his or her family and should a child see his or her parent laughing, it will go a long way toward improving the child’s view and opinion of police officers:
- ”You were clocked on radar doing fifteen miles over the speed limit. Did the salesman tell you it was OK to do that when you bought this car?” This works particularly well if the vehicle is a Mercedes, a BMW, a Porsche or some other ‘high end’ vehicle. The driver generally apologizes immediately.
- “I have you on radar doing twenty miles an hour OVER the speed limit. You’re not delivering blood plasma to the hospital, are you?” This generally provokes laughter, especially when the driver is sufficiently penitent.
- “Sir, you’re parked here in a NO PARKING ZONE. I know it doesn’t say ‘ABSOLUTELY No Parking’ but it DOES say NO PARKING. Is there any reason you are parked here?” Of course, the driver will come up with some excuse like his pregnant wife just ran into the 7/11 across the street, or he was only there for a minute. It’s a tough call especially if the area has become a PARK ANYWHERE AND PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE SIGNS Zone. I have always found this approach to be worthwhile.
Of course, the most flagrant parking violations are the respect (or disrespect) of HANDICAPPED PARKING.
I remember sitting in my patrol car completing a report when two youths pulled into a HANDICAPPED PARKING spot right in front of me. One of them pulled out a HANDICAPPED tag and hung it on the rear view mirror. Then, they walked into the grocery store.
Considering their youth and how spryly they hopped out of the car and into the supermarket, I waited outside for them to exit the store. As they approached their car I asked “Who’s handicapped?” One seventeen year old explained, “It’s my grandfather’s car. He’s handicapped.” I then asked, “Where is your grandfather?” The seventeen year old responded, “Oh, he’s home.”
I then explained to them that the CAR isn’t handicapped. The PERSON driving or a passenger must be handicapped in order to legally display a Handicapped tag. If further advised that they should show more compassion for others who ARE handicapped – by not parking in this spot. I noticed that there were a number of empty parking spaces no more than twenty-five feet away.
I looked at both of them and said “We don’t have a parking problem here, we have a WALKING problem. You two don’t seem to want to walk a little further,” and added, “Please do not park in a handicapped parking spot because the ticket for that violation can carry a fine in excess of $275.”
The dollar amount did the trick. They said that they were extremely sorry and promised they would not do it again. Of course, one never knows whether they’re truly sorry for doing what they did or just sorry that they got caught.
The other frequent handicapped violator is usually an elderly person who parks in a HANDICAPPED spot but displays no HANDICAPPED permit or license plate allowing him to do so. When they are approached, these senior citizens think that, due to their age and possible maladies, they are allowed to park in the HANDICAPPED place.
I usually ask to see their permit. That, in turn, leads them to talk about a litany of ailments (their legs hurt or they have a bad heart). They believe their ailments should allow them to park in a handicapped spot – no questions asked. (Sort of like Monopoly – “Go DIRECTLY TO JAIL. DO NOT PASS GO AND DO NOT COLLECT $200.00)
I usually responded by stating, “I cannot make that decision. The next time you go to your medical doctor, request a letter that can be taken to any Department of Motor Vehicles Office. They can issue a HANDICAPPED PERMIT enabling you to park in these spaces.” Please note that different states and locales do it in a variety of ways. Some permits are issued by town or county offices.
Once again, discretion is the key whether to “issue or not issue” a ticket. Always remember to smile.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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