THE BUM RAP
At right, a motorcycle police officer hides while waiting to spot a traffic violator. At left, the officer drives through a gas station in pursuit of a violator. In fact, this is the same cop who busted Andy. Andy snapped the picture several days later as the officer went after another "violator."
Caught in a traffic "trap,"
Andy goes undercover
By ANDY MURCIA
Last June a Los Angeles Police Department officer issued me a traffic ticket for making a right turn between 7 and 9 a.m. against the signs. He got off his motorcycle, reached into his saddlebag and pulled out an 8 by 10 glossy photo of the sign that forbids the right turn and showed it to me.
I told him I was aware of the sign because I've lived in this area for many years now. I tried to explain why I felt compelled to turn there despite the sign, but he refused to listen. I even informed him that I was a retired Chicago Police Sergeant, still he would not listen to my reasons for making the turn.
Instead, he insulted me with snide comments. I was driving my wifes Mercedes-Benz, so the officer says: Things must be pretty good in Chicago!
He motioned to my wifes auto with his pen. I think he was inferring that if youre a cop in Chicago, you must be on the take. Surely I must have bought the Mercedes with graft money.
I asked him if he was accusing me of being dishonest. He just kept writing the ticket. He handed me the ticket and I looked him in the eye and told him that, in my entire police career, I never found it necessary to write a ticket for another police officer, active or retired. I think it was especially low when the ticket was for a dubious violation.
You see, it was NEVER my intention to turn right against that sign. But I felt compelled to do it because of the officers actions. There's a Shell gas station at this location and it was my intention to turn right into the station driveway to purchase gas for Anns car. But this officer uses this station as his hiding place to watch for violators of this sign rule. He hides there against a wall. All of us in the neighborhood here know hes there almost every day. When he observes a violator, he roars out of the station fast to catch his prey. He doesn't use the street but instead rides his motorcycle across the apron of the gas station, thereby crossing over the driveway entrances, which provide a legal route for motorists to take into the gas station.
On the day of my ticket, I noticed his motorcycle was jutting outward as if he were about to take off. He had his flashing blue lights on, which made me feel he was in emergency mode. I always stand clear of emergency vehicles by pulling to my right. I did not pull into the station for fear that the officer might be ready to take off and if I turned in front of him Id be causing an accident. Had I taken the turn into the driveway, the officer might have run into the side of the car. I had only the officers safety at heart. So, I felt I had to pass my legal right turn into the driveway and wound up having to make the illegal right turn.
But, as I explained earlier, the cop never gave me a chance to tell him my side of the story. Once he gave me the ticket, he just took off. I stood there feeling very odd. My feelings were brutally hurt by this insensitive officer. It seemed like in those few minutes, all my years as a cop passed through my mindall the many good things I had done to help other officers and their families. This was truly a low point in my life. For the first time in my life I felt badly about having been a cop at all. I was just that bummed out.
Once I got finished feeling sorry for myself, I set about making my case for trial. I requested a court date and they made me post a bail of $159 to have my day in court. I also went undercover once againsince this is what I did most of my years as a cop, it was like going back to work after a very long vacation.
With my camera at hand, I dressed like one of the bums who hang out across from this gas station by the In and Out Burger joint. I felt like I was back on the job. I waited for the officer to return on subsequent mornings. He had weekends off. Sure enough though, he appeared and I got my photo of him shooting across the apron of the gas station in pursuit of a sign violator on his motorcycle. I also found a witness named Paul who has donuts and coffee at a shop in eye view of this Shell driveway. He, too, had seen the officers emergency flashing blue lights on. I was all set for my court date.
Come court day I was sitting in the courtroom before court came to order. The officer who cited me came over to me. He seemed surprised that I was there. Once again he pulled out his photo of the "no right turn" sign. He advised me I could still plead guilty and get traffic school and just lose my bail money. I told him I was pleading not guilty. He looked at my large envelope in my lap and said; Do you have anything you want to show me? I said I did but that I intended to introduce it into evidence during the trial.
There were nine or ten other LAPD officers in this courtroom, all within earshot of the bench where they could hear the cases. I had two good reasons for coming to court. First, I hoped I could prove my innocence. Second, I wanted to at least let the judge and the other officers in the courtroom know that this officer bum-rapped a retired police officer.
I knew he'd get the razzing he truly deserved for doing such a despicable thing, no matter how the verdict went. No matter what the judge did with me, Id be a winner for just being a good guy and he'd be a lousy one. I wont mention this officer by name because Im sure he must have a family and it is not my intention to embarrass his relatives. Nor is it my intention to get the officer in trouble with his superiors.
Well, the clerk called my name and I stepped up to the Judges bench and as I raised my right hand to tell the truth, etc. and I said not guilty, the officer made a motion to the Judge to dismiss the case, in the interest of justice.
Yes, that's what he said. The Judge complied and suddenly I was a free man! I got my bail money of $159 back six weeks later. Why did he drop the charges at the last minute? I'm guessing he did not want to see what I had in my big envelope nor did he want a retired old police sergeant telling the other officers present how this LAPD copper gave him a bum rap ticket. Or how his remarks about my honesty as a cop cut to the very core of me. I was prepared to tell the court who the Mercedes belonged to and how she had asked me to gas it up for her.
I think there's something in this column for all readers to think abouit. You see, I believe our court system is as goofy as it can be on occasion, but it still works most of the time. If you feel you have been wronged in a traffic case, go to court. But first, make sure you have your evidence and know how to explain your side clearly and concisely.
The lesson I learned is that there is at least one bully cop out there who should be ashamed of himself. In fact, I think he should stick that 8x10 glossy photo where the sun doesnt shine.
©2008 by Andy Murcia. The Murcia caricature is ©2003 by Jim Hummel. The photos were taken by the author in pursuit of justice. This column first posted Oct. 27, 2008.
You can comment on this column online. Please address your message to either "The Editors" or Andy Murcia. To send an email, click here and don't forget to mention Andy's name: firstname.lastname@example.org
HOME About Us Index To
Talkback Contact Us