Running from the Law, Mendo Coast-Style
by Letters to the Editor, January 22, 2010
“I was running from the law
they was after my head
for seeing what was happening
and for the truth I said”
Have you noticed lately the onslaught of highway law enforcement? aka...CHP, sheriff, city police.
Have you been unwilling or afraid to drive somewhere because you might unknowingly have one of your license plate lights out, momentarily speed a little bit, or maybe your car might break down and you have to leave it for 30 minutes unattended? Well, you are not alone.
“We used up three citation books in two days last weekend,” a CHP officer was overheard bragging at Little River Market. “...and I have set up two speed traps between here and Mendocino,” he went on, strutting around the store like some little Napoleon who finally figured out the joke. “I’m going to show these coast people that they have to abide by the law,” he went on to boast.
Last week, a friend of mine was driving to Fort Bragg and his car broke down. He and his traveling companion pulled a little off Hwy 1 onto an intersecting road and while they searched under the hood for the problem, they saw a CHP drive by three times, never once pulling over to offer assistance.
After deciding to go into Fort Bragg and obtain a part to fix the car they got a ride to town. Upon their return, no more than 35 minutes later, they found the CHP officer, a tow truck operator and their vehicle hooked to the tow truck. With part in hand they asked the tow truck driver to let their car down so they could fix it. But the CHP officer (supposedly a servant of the people) said that he had to impound the car since it was already hooked to the tow truck.
The tow truck driver told my friend that this was the third miscall of the day that they had received (a miscall is when the owner of the vehicle shows up before his car can be towed). Since the tow truck driver could not charge for the earlier miscalls, my friend thinks the CHP officer had him tow his car so the driver could bill someone, to the tune of $280 to get his car out of impounding.
I have heard two stories this past week of a CHP officer abruptly turning around (endangering who knows how many people) and then speeding up behind a car and tailgating them for a mile or two or until the tailgated car turned off the road. Such willful intimidation is an increasingly common occurrence this past year.
Another friend was pulled over when she momentarily touched the center line with her tires (as if no one ever does that). The CHP officer (who was joined by another CHP unit) gave her a breath analyzer test. Her alcohol reading was .03, well below the legal limit of driving under the influence. The officers then kept her there for 45 minutes while threatening to arrest her and take her to jail. Finally she was allowed to drive home at 1:30am.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am all for the CHP doing their job of keeping drunk drivers off the road, but .03? Most people probably drive around most of time with that little amount of alcohol in their system. Is this a new strategy of intimidation the police are using? It is not just the CHP. The Fort Bragg police and the County Sheriff have also assumed this repressive posture and active use of constant intimidation.
I would like to know when our supposed “Peace Officers” became “Intimidation Officers.” These men and women are supposed to be public servants. They are employed by “the People” (Us) to serve and protect the common good, not to harass and subject the citizenry to fear and anxiety every time we drive our vehicle. When did we move to a Police State?
I have talked with several restaurant owners who worry they might go out of business because people are afraid to go out to dinner and possibly enjoy a glass of wine, because they might be pulled over for going 35 in a 30 mph zone, or have a license plate light out, or slightly touch the yellow or white road lines, or any flimsy excuse to pull someone over (as if they need one, which they do) and then be harassed for an hour because they have an alcohol blood count under the illegal .08 mark. Who needs the hassle? May as well just stay home. It would sure make their job easier with no one on the road.
I was talking to a friend who knows a sheriff who told him that when he gets drunk, he just calls one of his fellow sheriff to give him a ride home. Well, why are we paying for the sheriff to give rides to his buddies, and why doesn’t he have to pay for a taxi like the rest of us? I guess it’s the “good ‘ol boys” club. What do you think would happen if you called the sheriff and asked for a ride home because you were too drunk to drive? Well, I think you might be carted off to jail for being drunk in public. Maybe it would be a good idea if police officers were required to drive drunk people home. That way we might get our tax moneys worth.
What I really think is at the root of this recent obvious change to the aggressive attitude of our public servants, is not so much that they are this way normally (although, some of them might be, since anyone who wants to be a police officer has some power and control issues they shoul deal with). I would venture to bet that the City of Fort Bragg, the County of Mendocino and the State of California are in such dire economic straits that our public servants have been turned into Revenue Collecting Officers and instructed to squeeze every penny out of the public that they can, all under the guise of keeping the highway safe. “We need that revenue!”
All this does is needlessly harass, disrupt and in some cases destroy the lives of innocent, hard working people. All this for a few bucks.
I think the police, sheriff and especially the CHP need to be reined in. They did not use to behave in this arrogant, authoritative posture and physical intimidation tactics. When was the last time one of these public servants actually helped you without being forced to do so? Think about it. Unless they were actually called to assist you in some way they would just drive by in their car looking for someone to ticket or at least harass.
Even by my writing this article of questioning their motives I am taking the chance that I will be targeted when I drive my car and any minor infraction (or not) will lead to my being pulled over and grilled about my destination, where I came from, for what purpose, or any other thing they could find out to keep me from going on with my business and hopefully ticket me to add to the government coffers. In any case, they would let me know without a doubt that I was being watched by them, so I better be careful of what I suggest or question.
So, in that case, I am submitting this article anonymously. Who needs the hassle?
Call your local representative and voice your concern, if you have any, about the mounting repression from our paid public servants. You can also ask for a hearing with the CHP in Ukiah if feel you have been needlessly harassed or ticketed. The next ticket you save may be your own.
For more tales of Mendo Coast CHP, click here.