Wednesday, January 28, 2009

White cane, Stone heart, Lack of discretion

Okay, this story came to me second hand, heard by a fellow motor officer from my agency who happened to be in traffic court when this case was heard.

A brother motor cop from another agency walks up to the podium as his case is called.  He gets up there with ease and stands facing the Judge.  As the motor cop's back is to the rest of the police officers and defendants he stood there.

Seeing that his defendant hadn't walked up to the podium, he turned around.  Here his defendant was walking wearing sunglasses, fishing hat and using a white cane!!

With cops in the room, especially motor cops, you could here the murmurs of their hushed comments and snickering.  

Apparently the motor cop cited him for walking across a street (at an intersection) against a red hand, meaning don't walk.  The motor cop testified that the defendant was not using a white cane that day.

One of three things happened.... 1) The motor cop didn't believe the man's story as "we've heard it all before", 2) This motor cop is too hard core, 3) The old man was a cantankerous bastard and deserved the ticket.

Picture it, an old, fragile man wearing his sunglasses, fishing hat, probably bermuda shorts with black socks and using his white cane, tapping it side to side as he approaches the podium to testify.

Ewwwww!  Not a pretty picture, or at least not one I'd like to be party to in front of all those cops, because cops can be relentless when it comes to laughing at each other.

The old man testifies that he has only 10% of his vision and is legally blind.  He added that he may not have had his white cane with him.  The intersection lacked some type of sound device to let the visually impaired to know if it was safe to cross.

Needless to say, no judgement was made and the case was taken under submission.  Submission is when the Judge needs to review evidence which was submitted during a traffic case trial or does not want to embarrass the officer and makes a judgement later, mailing his decision to the defendant and Officer.

What a kicker, mailing the Judges decision to a blind man.


  1. THAT'S funny!! Judge can always mail a tape containing verbal message exactly same as written message.

  2. While this old man's claim may be bogus, many crosswalks are a minefield for the handicapped and elderly. And, unfortunately, sometimes police officers show a lack of good judgment in dealing with these matters.

    In 2006, the LAPD cited an 82-year-old woman for failing to make it across an intersection in time (story link here) in a case that drew international attention. Rather than stop traffic to assist the woman, the police officer watched her as traffic zoomed around her then issued her a citation. She could have been killed or seriously injured while the police officer sat by and merely watched.

    Although enforcing traffic safety is very important and citations are entirely necessary, that should not be the end-all and be-all of an officer's job. When a pedestrian is in obvious jeopardy, simply sitting by and waiting to write the citation is reckless and unprofessional. Police officers have a duty to alert city officials to problematic intersections, as was certainly the case with the one that trapped the 82-year-old woman. This intersection happens to be only a few blocks from where I live; I'm a very fit 32-year-old man and I had to really hoof it when I'm running at a six-minute-mile pace to make it across in time.

    Even though the intersection was frequently watched by the LAPD so that they could cite jaywalkers who stepped from the curb when the warning was showing, not one officer ever had the presence of mind to alert the city that the intersection was hazardous for older and handicapped people because of short timing on the traffic light. Only after another elderly person was killed attempting to cross the street (when no officers were present) did the city finally do something.

    Public safety is about more than just writing citations. It's watching for dangerous situations. A police officer certainly would stop to assist if a motorist was blocking traffic due to an accident or engine failure. Equally, a police officer should be vigilant about dangerous conditions created by poor traffic design or controls and alert the necessary officials.

    A police officer is also a peace officer. Keeping the peace means working to remove dangers from the road, whether they be errant drivers or hazardous road conditions created by transit officials.

    You have a great blog, and I enjoy reading it. I wish you could come to my street and nail the speeders!