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Unprofessional Conduct

I had an unpleasant encounter with an officer of the peace tonight. I have written a letter detailing my concerns with their behavior. I have not decided yet whether to submit it to the police department. (I welcome your comments on this.) I won the last time I fought the government, but this time I really don't care to spend any more time on the matter.

In any case, writing the letter was cathartic. And the fact that I wrote it means that all y'all get to read it.


The purpose of this letter is to report my concerns regarding the conduct of a peace officer.

On Dec. 13th at approximately 7:45pm I went to the WinCo Foods store at the western edge of Hillsboro. While walking up to the store, I noticed a vehicle parked illegally in the fire lane, near the signs urging people not to park there even temporarily. The vehicle was a police car. The officer was not inside the vehicle.

I entered the store and purchased some items. When I left the store a few minutes later, I noticed that the vehicle was still there and that the peace officer was inside it. I approached and told the peace officer that she should not be parked in the fire lane, told her that there was a parking spot reserved for the police, and asked her to move the vehicle to it. At all times I was polite and my voice and demeanor were calm.

The peace officer was not calm, and she did not take my suggestion in a professional manner.

She said that her license plate entitled her to park wherever she wants. I reminded her that she is not above the law. She accused me of harassing her dog (which was barking, making it difficult for us to talk) and that that was a crime. She said it in a manner that felt threatening. I was in no way harassing her dog — I was having a conversation with her. If anyone's emotional state was exciting the dog, it was hers, not mine. Furthermore, it is my understanding that police dogs are very well-trained and that she could have commanded the dog to be quiet. She did not. She asked me to step away from the vehicle. I complied, and she opened the driver's door.

At this point I became afraid of some kind of reprisal, but I stayed calm. The peace officer was not calm - her tone of voice was irritated and defensive. I asked her for her badge number and she refused to provide it, instead telling me to call the police department to get it. Given the date, time, and location (above), you should be able to identify the officer. I do not know whether a peace officer is allowed to refuse a request for their badge number.

She may have been responding to a genuine emergency where the few extra seconds needed to park her vehicle legally, in the space reserved for the police, could have made a difference. But there was no apparent emergency; everything inside the store seemed completely normal to me. Even if there was an emergency, after it had passed and she had the opportunity to return to her vehicle, she should have moved it to a legal parking spot. There are good reasons why fire lanes are no-parking zones, and those reasons are as valid for city vehicles as they are for private vehicles.

It is my opinion that she was irritated by being caught and confronted while doing something she knew to be wrong. Peace officers should be exemplars of proper conduct. Their authority does not entitle them to break the law, and I am disappointed that she attempted to intimidate me rather than apologize for and correct her error.

Comments: 21

1: Poison Ivy
2007-12-14 06:54:26 UTC

What are you talking about? Government officials NEVER disobey the laws and are upstanding, perfect citizens, trying to hold our country together. They never speed, cheat, embezzle, sexually harass, lie, coerce, threaten, or otherwise engage in immoral activity.

And they always listen to reason.

2: anonymous
2007-12-14 08:23:08 UTC

Diplomatic Immunity!

Oh wait, they don't have that. Never mind.

I've lost count of the number of times I've seen a police officer turn on his or her flashers, run a red light, then turn them off and continue at a normal speed. Maybe they really are on their way to a bank robbery, but somehow I don't think so.

3: Don Lloyd
2007-12-14 13:20:45 UTC

I think that you were exercising poor judgement in bringing up the subject in the first place. The chances of a fire occuring in this particular place in the few minutes that the police cruiser is going to remain there is miniscule. If you are attempting to modify the behavior of the officer, you need to do that back at the point where psychopaths are preferentially recruited to be police officers. Virtually every police officer is going to misbehave in much worse ways almost every day. It makes no sense to buy trouble.

Regards, Don

4: Anonymous
2007-12-14 16:48:15 UTC

Were you an employee of the store? No? Then you had no business telling the police officer to move the car. None. Of. Your. Business. Nothing to see here, move along.

5: Anonymous
2007-12-14 17:12:58 UTC

Definitely send the letter on to the department/ precinct she belongs to, then “cc” and send a letter to each the mayor and/ or governor, then the local news stations, KATU, KOIN, and KGW. That should make it a little more difficult to ignore.

Why should bad behavior be acceptable for a politician or the police?

6: Poison Ivy
2007-12-14 17:22:22 UTC

Hey! He had every right to remind the officer of her mistake/wrong-doing. The police are not above the law and therefore should be accountable and cannot take advantage of their power. And her reaction makes her look more guilty because she knows she's in the wrong and doesn't want to be told what to do because she doesn't have to take it from people like "us".

7: Captain Arbyte
2007-12-14 20:48:59 UTC

Anonymous #4,

Why should I need to be affiliated with the store in order to have an interest in public safety?

What if there had been a fire? What if a child had walked across the road starting from near the police car? (The posted signs explicitly mention the risk of children being hit by other vehicles as a reason not to park there.)

Am I supposed to let police park in front of fire hydrants, where blocking crosswalks, and in handicapped parking spots, too?

The people entrusted to uphold the law should be held to the same standard as everyone else. Their occupation does not entitle them to a different set of rules. They should strive to be model citizens who avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Public servants are our servants, not our masters. I pay her salary -- she works for me -- and I am not satisfied with her performance.

8: Sister
2007-12-14 23:16:07 UTC

Just a small side note. Police dogs aren't taught to control their barking. In fact they are encouraged to bark anytime someone approaches. It's a warning to the office to pay attention and an intimidation tactic.

9: Anonymous
2007-12-14 23:34:59 UTC

Who can blame her for feeling threatened? I've seen you; you are a very intimidating man.

10: Captain Arbyte
2007-12-15 02:11:42 UTC

LOL #9 :)

11: Mrs. Flik027
2007-12-15 16:25:49 UTC

Oh, please mail it in!!! I LOVED reading about ur last lil government thingy and I'd LOVE to read more on this matter!

I think you are completely correct. Many many celebs and people of higher authority think they are above the law. This will help put one of them back in their place.

p.s. Just hope she didn't write ur license plate number down to give you a hard time from this point on. ;)

12: Matt
2007-12-15 16:35:39 UTC

I have to agree with you, Kyle. Several good comments have been made already regarding this topic. The Police are supposed to be protectors and they are supposed to be examples of good behavior. You did nothing wrong in confronting the Police Officer about her behavior, and I think that you should send the letter into the police department. Even if nothing comes of it, you can say you at least tried to notify someone there about the situation/scenario.

13: Captain Arbyte
2007-12-15 18:33:43 UTC

In a different incident apparently on the same night, a police cruiser was almost towed away:

… the tow truck driver eventually locked himself in the truck cab while arguing that the police car was parked in a fire zone.

"It's a police car," Pohlman says he responded.

That is not a reason.

The tow truck driver was fired. (!)

h/t Stella

14: Anonymous
2007-12-16 19:29:11 UTC

No question-- submit it. If for no other reason than the badge number. If she's in the midst of an emergency, leave the lights on. If she's on a stake-out, don't park in the fire lane.

Also, the employees of the store are the LAST people who are going to question the city. They need annoyed public safety people on them like they need a bankruptcy.

This is precisely the kind of information the higher-ups need to get on their people. It's not a huge deal, they can deal with it in briefing and get on with their work. But they need to be squeaky clean in order to keep the respect (or get back the respect) of the public, their only true boss.

15: Anonymous
2007-12-17 04:09:07 UTC

I spoke to a police officer I know and they are exempt from traffic laws. He said that typically they do park in front on a call to a store for shoplifing because they don't know how the suspect will react and thus need the car nearby. He did say from a PR perspective, he doesn't think it appropriate to abuse the exemption.

16: Mrs. Flik027
2007-12-18 17:50:44 UTC

So have you decided to mail the letter or not? I'm getting anxious! :D

17: Captain Arbyte
2007-12-19 02:40:20 UTC

I mailed a letter to each the police department and the mayor. I rewrote it; this is what I sent:

On the evening of Dec. 13th at approximately 7:45pm I went to the WinCo Foods store at the western edge of Hillsboro. While walking to the store entrance I noticed a vehicle parked in the fire lane, near the signs urging people not to park there even temporarily. The vehicle was a police car. Its lights and sirens were off and the officer was not inside the vehicle.

I entered the store and purchased some items. When I left the store a few minutes later, I noticed the vehicle was in the same spot but now the peace officer was inside. I approached and told the officer that she should not be parked in the fire lane and noted that this store has a parking spot reserved for the police. I asked her to move her car out of the fire lane and to the reserved spot, which was empty. At all times I was polite and my voice and demeanor were calm.

The peace offer was not calm, and she did not take my suggestion in a professional manner.

She said that her license plate entitled her to park wherever she wants. I do not believe that is true, and reminded her that she is not above the law. She accused me of harassing her dog (which was barking, making it difficult for us to talk) and that that was a crime. She said it in a manner that felt threatening. I was in no way harassing her dog - I was having a conversation with her. If anyone's emotional state was exciting the dog, it was hers, not mine. She asked me to step away from the vehicle. I complied, and she opened the driver's door.

At this point her attitude made me become afraid of some kind of reprisal, but I stayed calm. She was not calm - her tone of voice was irritated and very defensive. I asked her for her badge number and she refused to provide it, instead telling me to call the police department to get it. (Given the time, date, and location of this incident it should be easy to identify the officer.) I think it is seriously improper for a peace offer to refuse a request for their badge number.

The officer may have been responding to a genuine emergency where the extra few seconds needed to park her vehicle legally, in the space reserved for police, could have made a difference. But there was no apparent emergency; everything in the store seemed completely normal to me, and the vehicle's lights and sirens were off. Even if there had been an emergency, after it passed and she had the opportunity to return to her vehicle, she should have moved to a legal parking spot. There are good reasons why fire lanes are no-parking zones, and those reasons are as valid for city vehicles as they are for private vehicles.

The foremost safety hazard in this case is the risk of a child entering the roadway near the parked car and not being seen by an oncoming vehicle. This is the specific risk cited by the signs the store placed near its entrance. If the officer was working in the car, she could not have been watching for children. If the officer was not working, she could have easily moved the vehicle to the spot reserved for police. I cannot think of a valid reason for her to remain parked in the fire lane, especially after being reminded that she shouldn't be there.

It is my opinion that the peace offer was irritated by being caught and confronted while doing something she knew to be wrong. Peace officers should be exemplars of proper conduct and always mindful of public safety. Their authority does not entitle them to break the law by parking in fire lanes (outside emergency situations) and I am very disappointed that she attempted to intimidate me rather than apologize for and correct her error.

18: Mrs. Flik027
2007-12-20 17:19:47 UTC

Yay! Alright...I'll be waiting for a reply-blog from at least one of those government places! :D Yippi!!!

(You've made my day!)

19: Adm'rl Arword
2007-12-20 23:56:48 UTC

"all y'all" is redundant.

20: Enough Wealth
2007-12-22 00:35:27 UTC

I think this is a more sensible action to pursue than your previous legal action regarding a trivial tax amount, but it still seems to be over-reacting to trivia. There are many more important problems in the world, but you seem to only focus on those in front of your nose. Out of sight, out of mind?

Hopefully your letter just results in you being provided with the officer's badge number, and a boiler-plate response regarding why the police can park wherever they please if they are on "official" business, not just in an emergency. Even so, the public funds that will be wasted providing a response to your letter from the mayor's office and police department seems more of an issue that an on-duty police officer parking in a fire lane.

21: Anonymous
2007-12-22 17:20:37 UTC

But don't you see? Little things add up. If people practiced a bit more preventative "cure" to all the screwed up things in the world, rather than waiting until things are bad enough for more people to take note, maybe they'd never get that bad in the first place. If this letter could reduce the corrupt in law enforcement by even one, then it seems worth it. What good is a police officer if they think the law doesn't apply to them? What if that creeps into other parts of their life?

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