Sunday, December 07, 2008

Andy Not Barney

Barney Fife putting his bullet in his pistolThis post isn't meant to disparage our law enforcement officials. I have a high respect for most of the people who lay their lives on the line to protect us, and I have some respect for all of them. In fact, my Grandfather was a police officer in Salisbury for 25 years. However, there are those on the force who would do well to read the article I read today by Paul Jacob and pattern the enforcement of their duties more after Andy Taylor than after his deputy, Barney Fife.

Now the antics of Barney Fife were plenty fun to watch on TV, but if any of you have ever been stopped by an overzealous cop, you know that there is nothing funny about encountering one in real life. I once had to endure a frisking and vehicle search once because a cop (who stopped me for a burned out headlight) noticed that I had a billy stick in the back seat of my truck under all of the other junk that was laying on the floorboard back there. He acted as if I was going to whip that thing out from the back seat and come through the window and beat him to death with it before he could get his pistol drawn! I had forgotten it was even back there!

And bad guys beware, if you happen to get stopped at a traffic stop here in my hometown, you'll get the entire squad pulled up around you. I can't tell you how many times I have seen someone stopped here with 3 or 4 blue-light specials parked behind. (Perhaps I am naive, but ALL of these people can't be dangerous criminals, can they? If so perhaps I should move!)

And then there was the recent experience that I had where I was given a ticket for an out-of-date inspection tag. Before you all start saying that I should have had it inspected, understand how things work here in NC. Everything here is now done electronically. If you haven't had your car inspected within a reasonable amount of time from the due date, the state sends you a letter letting you know that it must be done by a certain date or you will be fined $250. There is no court involved. You either get it done or you send them a check for $250.

One night I was riding home from a football game when I encountered a traffic stop in town. As I said earlier, my inspection was out, but instead of reminding me that it needed to be done, he gave me a ticket and informed me that if I got the car inspected and took the proof to my court date that the DA would throw it out. I sat there 10 minutes waiting for him to write the ticket. He took 10 minutes to write it. Then I had to waste my time and gas to drive to Salisbury for court. The DA's office spent I don't know how much time preparing the documentation for the docket and then the DA spent an additional 5 minutes talking to me. The end result? The ticket was dismissed and the court didn't get one red cent from me. My point being why did the officer waste all of that time and expense when the whole thing could have been resolved much more cheaply had he let the state send their letter?

The sad fact is that cops are trained to do petty, stupid stuff like that, and the rationale is that they might catch a fugitive or axe-murderer while doing it. I'm sure that they do occasionally, but it would be nice if some of the yahoos were reigned in every once in a while.

And for those of you out there protecting us and using a little common sense about stuff like that, my hat is off to you. Thanks for your service.

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