Busted by the pen nazi
October 28, 2009 9:42 AM   Subscribe

I got a traffic citation last night, and I think the cop was a dick. I want to report him, but I want to do it the right way. What do you think?

I was driving home from work last night in my husband's work truck, and he pulled me over because one of the tail light covers was broken, making the tail light white. Also the license plate was not illuminated, and partially obscured by the trailer hitch ball thing. Yes, I know, but my driving was scrupulously correct, and people were passing me left and right. I admit, I wasn't cheerful. I was anoyed. I had to call my husband asking where the registration and insurance was, and the heater is broken so I was freezing. The cop comes back and explains that he is giving me a warning, and hands me the clip-board to sign. I had my pen ready and began to sign my name, and he pushes his (cheap) ball point pen at me and says, kinda beauracratically, (I don't recall the exact verbage of any of the exchange, so I'm paraphrasing) "Use this one". So I said "Why" and he said "just use this one" and I said "why? this is a regular ball point pen" (it was a Zebra F-301 ball point. It wasn't a purple glitter gel pen with a fuzzy cap and a bell). He says, pulling away the clip board, "You want me to go back and make this a citation?" I was incredulous. I asked again "what is wrong with me using this pen" He said again "You want this to be a citation? Is that what you want?" So I took his pen and went to take back the clip board, and as I did so I said " I'm going to report you." and he grabbed back the pen and clip board and said " ok you just got yourself a citation".

He goes back to his car, and later returns with the citation, handing it to me, along with his stupid pen. I took the clip board, and began to sign it with my pen; Whats he gonna do about it at this point? He actually hadn't figured that bit out yet because he again asked me to use his pen! I said "What are you gonna do if I don't, arrest me?" He nodded in concession, I signed my citation, and he stalked away without another word.

OK so I know my getting to use my pen on what is now a $103 citation phyrric victory. My husband says I should have been cheerful and compliant, and just gone along with him so as to minimize the damage a person with power over me can inflict. I know that is the more practical approach, but WTF! Is it really ok to threaten me with a citation because I question his insistance that I use his goddam cheap ass pen?!

I don't want to argue this in court; not the right forum. I do wish to report him to his supervisors. I'm sure more level headed, and reasonable people in law enforcement would want to know that one of their officers is an immature jerk on a power trip. I think something like this should go in his file...

Hive mind, how best to report this? Thanks
posted by hollyanderbody to Law & Government (83 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
From your story, it sounds like the police officer wasn't the immature jerk on a power trip.

Don't report this - don't waste any more time for the police officers.
posted by quodlibet at 9:45 AM on October 28, 2009 [66 favorites]


Who knows why he wanted you to use his pen. Could be some department regulation. In any case, you had the officer giving you a warning - even though he's standing out in the cold waiting while you call your husband to find the registration. All you had to do was sign your name. Instead, you threatened to report him. I can't say I'm the least bit surprised that you ended up with a citation instead of a warning. I also highly doubt reporting him will get you anywhere.
posted by sanko at 9:47 AM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


You're being obnoxious and unreasonable. And btw, cheap-ass ballpoint pens are the best for carbonless copy sheets.
posted by phunniemee at 9:47 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, knowing what country and/or locale (for example, if you're in the US, what state) you live in will probably help us get started. It really depends.
posted by koeselitz at 9:48 AM on October 28, 2009


You could write a letter to the head of the particular police precinct, but sorry, they're probably going to be laughing as hard as I'm laughing right now. This Askme just made my day.

Ballpoint pen, cop, "pen nazi", "What are you gonna do if I don't, arrest me?".... it's just too good.
posted by meerkatty at 9:49 AM on October 28, 2009


A cop is giving you a warning instead of a citation for a minor violation of the driving code.
Who in their right mind would be arguing about what pen they would use?
posted by demiurge at 9:49 AM on October 28, 2009 [21 favorites]


I dunno, sounds like you were both being dicks and he won because he's the cop. I do feel that it was unprofessional of him to, in effect, punish you for saying you were going to report him. You can report him to his supervisors but it's not going to go anywhere, if you actually want to make a stink your best bet might be to write a letter to the editor of the local paper or something.
posted by ghharr at 9:50 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


phunniemee, my pen would have worked just as well on carbonless copy sheets.
posted by hollyanderbody at 9:51 AM on October 28, 2009


And by the way, my experience is that Zebra F-301 ballpoint pens, while nice as pens in general, do not really work on carbon-paper copy sheets of the type generally used for police forms. That was probably the pen issue, although obviously how it was handled may be debated.
posted by koeselitz at 9:51 AM on October 28, 2009


Ah. I stand corrected. Sorry.
posted by koeselitz at 9:51 AM on October 28, 2009


It sounds like you both had your adrenaline pumping and got territorial. . .about a pen. I really don't understand why you questioned using his pen & refused to do so. I don't think reporting him is necessary or will accomplish anything, other than someone hanging up the phone and turning to someone near them and saying, "get a load of this." I would let it go.
posted by katemcd at 9:53 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I am, by nature and experience, suspicious of police and almost never give them the benefit of the doubt. This is not one of those times.

You didn't need to be "cheerful" or "compliant". You didn't have to be a smiling zombie, just thrilled to be botherd by the cops. You just needed to not be a dick. He even gave you multiple warnings before he have you a citiation.

Was the citation needed? No, but you tried his patience for no reason whatsoever. Even if the citation was not entirely proper, the cops you report him to will never do anything about it whatsoever. (And if the cop actually is the power-tripping type, could come back to haunt you.) Don't report, pay your fine and learn when to keep your mouth shut. And keep on rockin' in a free world.
posted by spaltavian at 9:55 AM on October 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


my pen would have worked just as well on carbonless copy sheets.

Yeah, but so would his. So why DID you care what the hell pen you were using?

Not that it made sense for him to care what pen you used either. But to my mind, if you're going to risk angering a guy who has the ability to arrest you, at the VERY least make sure that you're risking angering him for a better reason that "I want to use MY pen".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:56 AM on October 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Apparently the Zebra F-301 is a great pen for police citations.
posted by sanko at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


At this point I wouldn't report it - it's just going to look like you're trying to get out of your ticket using some insane issue involving a pen.

My advice for next time - COMPLY, then report. It would have been much more effective had after he threatened you with a citation you just took his stupid pen and signed the warning. You could then have reported his behavior after the fact and included his preoccupation with using his cheap ass pen and threatening you with more severe penalties if you didn't use it.

But, first COMPLY.
posted by Sassyfras at 9:58 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The officer wasn't the dick, you were. He's probably had issues in the past with some pens not writing properly or pressing all the way through the carbon copy, or whatever. Most likely he knows his pen works properly and it's just easier to have everyone use it. Or a million other reasons other than because he wanted to hold power over you.

If you still feel you want to report it, the best way is to call the police department and ask them what their process is to file a complaint. They'll give you a form to fill out. Good luck with that.

Although it's not the forum to complain about the officer, you might want to fight the ticket. Go into the hearing with your tail between your legs, explain that you were having a bad day and you didn't understand the logic behind why you had to use his pen (maybe make up some story about how you sign everything with your lucky pen or the pen your grandma gave to you on her deathbed, or whatever) and perhaps they'll reduce it or turn it back into a warning.

In future, the proper response to "I'm going to let you off with a warning." is "Thank you."
posted by bondcliff at 9:58 AM on October 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


My husband says I should have been cheerful and compliant, and just gone along with him so as to minimize the damage a person with power over me can inflict.

Your husband is right. You didn't play nice and you got yourself kicked in the ass a little harder. I don't think reporting him will do anything productive, except for continuing to make you bitter when nothing comes of it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 10:00 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The cop knows his pen works. He doesn't know whether your pen works or if it's the kind of pen that doesn't come through on carbons, or where the ink doesn't show properly on a photocopy (some pale blue inks don't copy well). So he just wants to get the paperwork signed with a pen that he knows works and then everyone can go on their way, goodnight ma'am, drive safely, have a nice night. But once you started being difficult, he pushed back, and you ended up with a citation (albeit signed with your' pen).

Let it go. Pay the ticket. Sign the cheque with your special little pen and feel smug as you do that the cop didn't win this time.
posted by essexjan at 10:00 AM on October 28, 2009 [45 favorites]


Reporting the cop will be only an exercise in frustration for you, as I imagine this thread may be, as well. At the end of the day, it will be a he said/she said exchange over a pen, your refusal to follow directions from the officer and your claim he was unprofessional. The cop, or his union rep or whatever, is going to reduce this argument to you being some crazy lady, and it will not look good--who knows, you may get a reprimand yourself for a spurious claim. No one wins.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:01 AM on October 28, 2009


Frankly this is all academic at this point. We can all argue about whether you did the right thing or whether you did the wrong thing, hollyanderbody, and people probably will; I just figure it's fair warning you.

Meanwhile, if you tell us which state you live in (I'm assuming you're an American like me) some of us can actually give you an answer – how to file a formal complaint, who to talk to to file that complaint, et cetera. Until you tell us (generally) where you want to file that complaint, we really can't answer the question.
posted by koeselitz at 10:01 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


You were wrong. Remember the whole Henry Louis Gates incident? He was wrong, too. You do whatever a police officer tells you to do, unless it is illegal/infringes on your rights. That's just how it works.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 10:04 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


It just cost you $103 to use your own pen.
It would have been free to use his pen.

Think about this and then decide who's really being unreasonable here.

If/when I ever get pulled over, it is "Yes, sir, no sir, thank you sir." end of subject.

Getting all pissy over ANYTHING with a person with a loaded revolver on his belt accomplishes nothing.
posted by willmize at 10:07 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Let it go and consider it a lesson learned. You're not going to get anything but further headaches. Giving a warning instead of a citation is a discretionary power that cops have. Technically, they don't have to give any warnings but do so for good will and education. You screwed up. Cops enjoy wielding petty authority and you tried to take that away when you were already at a disadvantage. But filing a complaint will get you nothing here.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:07 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have met plenty of dick cops, and unless you comply with stupid requests, there is nothing you can do, and unless you are somehow assaulted, doing something won't be much help anyway. Next time, use his pen. A pen can not poison you.
posted by itsonreserve at 10:07 AM on October 28, 2009


It takes two people to fight over something stupid like the correct pen to use on a carbonless form.

Your husband is absolutely right. You had every opportunity to get out of this without a citation and you argued over your pen. Sometimes the grown up thing to do when dealing with someone you think is acting aggressively and irrationally is to just give them the victory. If you do that, they'll think they won and be happy, but you'll know you won because you were the one that chose when the argument ended.

In this case, you may have won the battle, but you lost the war. That $103 is the cost of this valuable lesson, and reporting him will result in nothing but him being angry and remembering you next time you get pulled over.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:09 AM on October 28, 2009


Your complaint comes down to the cop not being willing to explain that he didn't want to take the chance that your pen wouldn't carbon-copy as well as his. The cop, by the way, was probably unaware that the pen was a Zebra F-301, which "would have worked just as well on carbonless copy sheets"; he'd probably just had other people use their own pens only to have problems later when he discovered that the ticket didn't copy properly.

You got so annoyed that he wouldn't explain this to you that you talked yourself into a $100 ticket. In short, you were - and I think I'm being fairly objective here - an idiot. Maybe your next AskMe could be on where to find a local anger management class?
posted by Dasein at 10:10 AM on October 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


Don't Talk to the Police
posted by nomad at 10:14 AM on October 28, 2009


BTW are you sure you're out $103? - from your story these sound like "fix-it" tickets that should only require fixing the reported issues and getting them signed off (which you need to do anyway.

At least in CA - you can fix these and get them signed off by an officer and that's it, no fine required unless you don't fix the issue.

(and what everyone else said, you can complain if you want but it won't do you any good)
posted by bitdamaged at 10:16 AM on October 28, 2009


"how best to report this?"

I wouldn't. But, to answer your question, you should think about how you will frame what happened. The way you framed it here focuses on your anger and the cheapness of the pen. That's not going to get you anywhere (as I'm sure you know!).

"he pushes his (cheap) ball point pen at me" - Was this done in a threatening way, or a way where it might have hurt you? If so, say so.

Do not highlight that your pen and his pen were of a different caliber. Instead, highlight that you were cold and had a pen out, and felt comfortable using yours and didn't understand why his was the preferred one. Why were you more comfortable with your pen? Was it a control thing? If so, don't say why at all. If there was a different reason, like you were freezing and didn't want to pull your hand outside, you were upset from being pulled over and not thinking quite right, etc., then say so. It's natural to be upset by being pulled over, and a lot of people feel shocked and very vulnerable at that time. Still, I am not sure how you're going to come off as anything but someone who was obstinant and got taught a lesson about being so.

Then the exchange over reasoning for the different pen - I'd say that you want to highlight his tone. Was he yelling, screaming, or did he otherwise seem out of control? Were you afraid he might pull his gun on you or endanger himself? I'd highlight that, if so. If not, obviously that'd make the complaint much less effective.

Finally, think about your goal. Are you trying to punish him? If so, don't bother. If, however, you're trying to protect other people from unpleasantness, highlight that. Highlight if he seemed to undermine the sense of respect one should have for officers. In other words, give whoever is listening or reading a thread they can follow re how to deal with the issue and how to frame the issue when they approach the officer. Otherwise your call or letter will seem like useless complaining.

That all said, the best thing I think you can do right now is take a day or two before contacting anyone. Distance will help you figure out the best way to frame your argument so that an objective person will not react as most/all the readers here have. You may also decide not to report the guy at all in that time.
posted by lorrer at 10:17 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm going to agree with you that the officer in question was on some sort of power trip with the whole pen thing. Unfortunately, there's a chance that if you do attempt to file a complaint, you'll get more of the same.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:19 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Well, if you were being "obnoxious and unreasonable" you weren't the only one. I disagree with the negative comments here. There would have been nothing wrong for him to give you an explanation that would have made an obviously annoying situation a little less annoying. He didn't give you this service because he chose not to. That's unkind. Maybe there are regulations about pen use we don't know of, but there is no regulation against normal human interaction.
Perhaps he had a lousy childhood; we, or at least (clearly) the OP and myself, had a lousy childhood too, largely because of our innocent exposure to people such as bus drivers, post office employees or school officials that had fun dishing out their petty domination fantasies whenever given a chance (that is, by default, to any kid that crossed their path). If it isn't an excuse for us to get antsy in a situation like this one, it is at least a good explanation.

After understanding and relishing this connection, in my opinion, you'd nevertheless better just pay and go on.
posted by Namlit at 10:19 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Geez, people. Can we quit piling onto the asker for just a moment? I think she's got the point.
posted by koeselitz at 10:20 AM on October 28, 2009


I hate cops even more than the next guy, but it sounds like you were a jerk. Don't issue a complaint.
posted by I love You at 10:20 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


WHERE ARE YOU?

Really, we need this information to answer the question.
posted by koeselitz at 10:21 AM on October 28, 2009


I'm sorry but you were entirely out of line. Didn't your parents teach you how to interact with police officers?
posted by prunes at 10:21 AM on October 28, 2009


I got a traffic citation last night, and I think the cop was a dick. I want to report him, but I want to do it the right way. What do you think?

I think that reporting this would be foolish and detract attention from the very real and serious issues with regard to police abuse of authority. It sounds like the cop was kind of rude. It sounds, on the other had, like you were being a real jerk about the whole thing. The guy was giving you a warning and you got all hopped up about the fact that he wanted you to use his pen?

The best way to report this is to write down exactly what happened, read it over a couple times to see if you can identify where you erred, and then throw the report in the trash. Because nothing here is worth reporting.
posted by Justinian at 10:22 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your question was: what is the best way to report this? It depends on what your goal is.

If your goal is to feel better because you've gotten to tell your side of the story, write letters to his supervisors, his colleagues, the local paper, and the mayor. It'll make their day to hear this hilarious story, and you'll get the feeling of being able to tell someone.

If your goal is to get the cop in trouble, there is no best way, because it's not going to happen. Not in any jurisdiction anywhere in the US (or most places with which I'm familiar in the world) is a cop going to get in trouble for this. Even if he had done something actually wrong, he'd tell a story in which you were breaking the law and were belligerent about it, and his superiors would laugh at the idiot driver, and that would be the end of it. You are never going to get revenge or "justice" or anything along those lines, so stop thinking about it.

Is it really ok to threaten me with a citation because I question his insistance that I use his goddam cheap ass pen?!

Yup. It absolutely is. He did you a favor by ignoring the fact that you broke the law in several different ways. You were a jerk about it. He is entitled to not extend random acts of kindness to people who are jerks to him.
posted by decathecting at 10:22 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've worked with law enforcement officers for over 20 years. And I am also not a traffic saint. Please don't report this officer: he had discretion over what to do here, and you pushed him in the wrong direction, so no one is going to discipline him. But more importantly, officer reporting should be saved for officers who do things like harass minorities or engage in unwarranted violence. You trivialize serious reports by complaining about this incident. In the future, I suggest you 1) have your documents with you in your glove compartment 2) be courteous and call the officer "Officer" 3) never admit you did anything wrong, just say "really?" or "thank you for informing me," and 4) thank an officer who says s/he is giving you a warning, then sign with their pen if they give you one. Good luck with your next encounter.
posted by bearwife at 10:23 AM on October 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


The most likely outcome of your complaint is to teach the officer to not give warnings anymore.
posted by smackfu at 10:26 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


The cop comes back and explains that he is giving me a warning, and hands me the clip-board to sign. I had my pen ready and began to sign my name, and he pushes his (cheap) ball point pen at me and says, kinda beauracratically, (I don't recall the exact verbage of any of the exchange, so I'm paraphrasing) "Use this one". So I said "Why" and he said "just use this one" and I said "why? this is a regular ball point pen" (it was a Zebra F-301 ball point. It wasn't a purple glitter gel pen with a fuzzy cap and a bell). He says, pulling away the clip board, "You want me to go back and make this a citation?" I was incredulous. I asked again "what is wrong with me using this pen" He said again "You want this to be a citation? Is that what you want?" So I took his pen and went to take back the clip board, and as I did so I said " I'm going to report you." and he grabbed back the pen and clip board and said " ok you just got yourself a citation".

Please note that I have a history on this site of second-guessing the actions of police officers and of finding their general conduct with citizens abhorrent; in this case, however, you are clearly in the wrong. His request that you use his pen was completely reasonable. Your insistence on using your own pen is ridiculous.

When someone who does not like the police hears only your side of the story and still concludes that you are 100% wrong, it is likely your complaint will go in the "crazy" file by any administrative or investigative department. You will find no relief. I suggest that you let this incident go.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:26 AM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I see no evidence that this cop was being a dick. As essexjan explained above, he probably had perfectly good justification for asking you to use his pen. Think about it from his perspective for a minute: he's standing outside in the cold, he's already giving you a break by issuing a warning rather than a citation, and in thanks you give him a hard time for no reason whatsoever, then threaten to report him in response to a simple request. Just drop it.
posted by purplemonkie at 10:27 AM on October 28, 2009


It was a freaking PEN. Why does it matter? You just cost yourself $103 for a meaningless point of principle. How does that feel?

Is it really ok to threaten me with a citation because I question his insistance that I use his goddam cheap ass pen?!

Like it or not, he is in control of that situation. The best thing you can do next time is just do what he asks and sign with whatever pen he wants. Do not report this, do not make a stink about it next time, just let it go.
posted by pdb at 10:33 AM on October 28, 2009


WHERE ARE YOU?

Really, we need this information to answer the question.


No we don't. The question has already been answered correctly (about 20 times over)without knowing where she is.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:35 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


My first thought, if I were a police officer trying to get someone to sign something, and they insist on using their own pen would be disappearing ink.

You got exactly what you deserved and should be grateful you aren't in for worse. You argued yourself into a ticket, congratulations. In some departments, he would have tazed you, and such a tazing would have passed the review board after the fact. Right or wrong, the time to argue with a police officer is in court, not on the side of the road.
posted by nomisxid at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2009


I'm in Arizona
posted by hollyanderbody at 10:40 AM on October 28, 2009


Maybe he stopped you because you were a woman driving a truck. Maybe he decided to give you a warning instead because you had to call your husband and thus you no longer reminded him of some kind of tough woman, the kind who drives a truck and who makes him feel insecure. But then you ruined it and got tough, perhaps because you sensed he needed you not to be and resented it. Surely (may I call you that?) it wasn't really about your pen. And, having lost the power struggle, you need to resume it by reporting him.

Of course, this is all speculation on my part. But that's all we can do with the information you've given us. My last speculation is that you'll get no satisfaction from reporting him, and might even feel worse when you realize how useless it all was.
posted by Obscure Reference at 10:44 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


When someone's trying to give you a break, let them.
posted by meadowlark lime at 10:45 AM on October 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


It sounds like you were annoyed about being pulled over while having "scrupulously correct" driving in the freezing weather and you took it out on the officer by arguing over a pen. He was doing you a favor by letting you off with a warning and instead of acting grateful (as you should when anyone, officer or not, does you a favor) you had a bad attitude and the kindness he extended you was rightfully revoked.

Let it go.
posted by CarolynG at 10:46 AM on October 28, 2009


Arizona – okay.

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety:
Any citizen, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or nationality, who witnesses or has knowledge of police misconduct, may file a complaint. Misconduct may be defined as actions which are in violation of state or federal law, violations of departmental policies or procedures. Generally, complaints are filed through the supervisor of the involved employee, however you may also file a complaint through any supervisor, the department’s Duty Officer, the Professional Standards Unit or by mail.
Here are the proper forms for doing so:

  • Online form
  • Printable form

  • Hope that helps.
    posted by koeselitz at 10:48 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]




    Just so you know, if you were ticketed in Maricopa County, I would not count on a lot of action coming out of a citizen complaint of this nature. Thanks, Sheriff Joe!
    posted by pdb at 10:52 AM on October 28, 2009


    [comments removed - please keep answers constructive or go straight to metatalk, thanks]
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:52 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


    How the hell-all did he know what the fuck was inside your pen? Coulda been disappearing ink, coulda been anthrax jelly.

    Seriously, you got lippy with a cop over a pen?

    You're seriously lucky he didn't make you wait while he called for a dog to search your car. You got flippant and mouthy over a pen, which would probably be considered probable cause for a property search to see if they could find illegal substances. Or, he could have done it just to be a dick.

    As someone who has had his rights violated severely by a police officer before, I'm angry that you'd call what happened to you an injustice.

    To be clear: It's not his fault you had a broken tail light, a non-illuminated plate, an obscure plate, that you were late, and/or that your heater was broken. Not. His. Fault.

    He pulled you over for a courtesy stop and was willing to let you off, and you copped stupid over a pen. You are SERIOUSLY lucky he didn't eat your evening.
    posted by TomMelee at 10:59 AM on October 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


    File a report against him and the next time he pulls you over it could be even worse. You seem to have totally missed a $103 lesson that you should choose your battles wisely.
    posted by Daddy-O at 11:02 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


    I guess I am sort of neutral on cops depending on the day. I've dealt with my fair share of them and seen different attitudes and behaviors. Just like every occupation, there are good people and there are assholes.

    I don't think you have grounds to really file anything and to be honest, it will be a total further waste of your time and energy.

    From your own account of the story, it goes like this:

    - You had moving violations in a broken light and obscured plate light. He gave you a warning. Which to me, is always a Get out of Jail Free card and is immediately responded with just a "Thank you, officer" even if I am pissed or annoyed about being pulled over.

    He asked you to use his pen to sign the warning. And we'd have to guess there's an administrative reasoning behind it be it ensuring the carbonless transfer is successful or what. I doubt he's a sales rep from Cheapie Ballpoint Pens part-time trying to convert people from Zebra pens.

    You became argumentative. Probably because you were annoyed by the whole situation, not being able to find the registration, etc. And look, it's understandable to be annoyed being pulled over. But you have to check yourself and your emotions. The cop is the last person you should be taking it out on. He didn't break your tail light or obscure your plate light.

    Officer told you again to use the pen and said this nice warning could be turned into the citation it deserved.

    You did not relent and kept arguing.

    Magic police wand waved and poof! You have been granted a citation.

    So I don't think he was being a dick and I don't really how explaining this to any higher ups in the police food chain is going to translate into this guy being a dick or the situation worthy of anything going in his "file" either. From your account, the cop could rightfully describe you as argumentative in the very least and possibly even hostile.
    posted by jerseygirl at 11:03 AM on October 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


    Here's the funniest part of all this:

    I'd bet a decent dinner that the cop never had any intention of citing you until you decided to confront him over which pen to use.

    A broken taillight or other minor car-problem is a great reason to pull an otherwise random person over, get a chance to run the tags and see if it's a stolen vehicle or out of registration, run the driver's license and check for outstanding warrants, and give the car and driver a visual once-over as you walk up and deal with the driver. The point isn't to give you a ticket, it's just to have a chance to run you through a few databases and see if anything pops up.

    I would side with the people telling you that filing a complaint about an officer who (as far as the paperwork will show) merely cited someone for actual violations on their vehicle will only serve to trivialize real problems with police, and would be actively counterproductive.
    posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:16 AM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


    [seriously people, take your cop soapboxes to metatalk this is already a difficult thread.]
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:25 AM on October 28, 2009


    If it was DPS that pulled you over, then koeselitz's link will work. If not, look for the Citizens Review Board or Internal Affairs Department for whatever county or municipality pulled you over.

    Nthing that I hope you learn your leason about being snippy with a cop giving you a break.
    posted by nestor_makhno at 11:29 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Almost all cops I have known, and I've known quite a few, have used black ink pens almost exclusively. I'm not sure why...it could be a holdover from the old days when blue ink didn't photocopy well, but it's a strong preference.
    posted by rocket88 at 11:34 AM on October 28, 2009


    Almost all cops I have known, and I've known quite a few, have used black ink pens almost exclusively.

    And that really could be all that his motivation was here. He might've been a bit OCD about having all his forms exactly the same and a different ink/pen tip size in a stack of forms where his pen was used for everything else is really like screaming in an OCD sufferer's ear.
    posted by Burhanistan at 11:38 AM on October 28, 2009


    Is it really ok to threaten me with a citation because I question his insistance that I use his goddam cheap ass pen?!

    No. It's okay to threaten you with a citation because you were (in his opinion) operating a vehicle in violation of a law he's charged with enforcing.

    He was going to be nice and let you off with a warning.

    You were a dick. About a pen. He, rather unsurprisingly, decided he didn't want to be nice to you any more.

    Your husband is right and you really have nothing worth complaining about here, but maybe you should anyway.

    Get the form, fill it out, and wait a week. Then go back and read your complaint. If you still feel like he was the one in the wrong, send it in. Maybe his boss will implore him to be nicer when giving assholes tickets in the future.
    posted by toomuchpete at 11:40 AM on October 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


    What essexjan said. Suppose the cop had a case or two thrown out because someone used a pen that didn't work properly. Do you expect him to test everybody's favorite pen before having them sign? Do you expect him to explain this to everyone who wants to use their pen?

    "OK, you can use your pen. Let's test it on the bottom corner here first. Now let's have a look to see if that came through."

    Sure.
    posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:57 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


    Giving an officer attitude when you've been pulled over is really dumb. Fact is, with the broken tail-light, you were breaking the law. The officer then actually cut you a break -- for which favor you gave him a hard time over a damn pen. You're really very lucky he didn't ask you to get out of the vehicle for a field sobriety test and a search of the vehicle's interior for drugs, just to make your night really suck. If you had been a man, he probably would have.
    posted by aught at 12:18 PM on October 28, 2009


    From the tone of your letter, it doesn't sound like you've learned the lesson here, which is that being a jerk to a police officer can cost you a lot of money. You had a chance to get off with a warning despite breaking the law. Apparently, though, your desire to use your own pen was worth $103 to you at the time. Now you regret it? Tough luck for you.

    He may have been a jerk. On the other hand, he's undoubtedly seen petty stupidity (like a person's psycho insistence on using their own pen) escalate into more severe situations. He risks his life in a high-stress job. He's probably seen other people's pens *not* work. It may simply be his weird little quirk. Whatever . . . you should have done as he asked, simply because it shouldn't have been a big deal to you.

    People often say there should be a tax on deliberate stupidity. Sometimes, there is.
    posted by Dee Xtrovert at 1:23 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


    i actually think this is kind of interesting -
    because in my naive perspective:

    you did the right thing - and so did the officer -
    and neither of you have cause to complain

    the officer had cause to pull you over;
    in offering to let you to skate with only a warning,
    a quid-pro-quo of "you play nice, I play nice" was extended -
    your end of the bargain is to thank him profusely, and thus play the game

    But you also have the right to not play the game -
    and thus pretty much demand to get the ticket

    For example, an officer stops you for jay-walking and says he'll not write it up if you promise to never to do it again
    If you don't want to make that promise, but instead challenge the citation, you can do so
    ie, "skip the preaching, give me the citation, see you in court"
    (note I'm not saying this is wise!)

    and that's the right you exercised

    why the fuss now?
    posted by sloe at 1:46 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


    1) There is essentially zero chance that filing a complaint against the officer will get him in trouble or that those who receive the complaint will perceive that he did anything wrong. Deciding whether to issue a ticket or a warning is within his discretion and changing his decision because he perceives you to be a pain in the neck is also within his discretion. He has no obligation to explain why he prefers his pen, just as you don't have an obligation to use it. The price for you is that he might then write the ticket and the price for him is that you might still use your own pen. You don't even have to sign it. People refuse to do so from time to time and it annoys the officer and might result in them adding any additional charges they can think of to the citation, but they won't arrest you for that either.

    2) If you show up in court with proof that the equipment issues have been resolved, the charges will almost certainly be dismissed and the experience will not cost $105. You will have to decide if you would rather pay the fine or spend the time in court.

    3) I do applaud signing the citation with your own pen. At that point, you already took your medicine, you might as well get the symbolic victory. It reminds of bit of the Drew Carey stand-up where he said that he likes to run stop signs in the rain so that he can enjoy watching the officer stand in the rain to discuss it with him. He describes the encounter as "Do you know why I pulled you over today?" "Yep. Do you know why I ran the stop sign?"
    posted by Lame_username at 2:11 PM on October 28, 2009


    You do whatever a police officer tells you to do, unless it is illegal/infringes on your rights.

    no, police officers do not have the right to tell you to do whatever they want unless you are committing a crime - and even then, this does not give them carte blanche

    and changing his decision because he perceives you to be a pain in the neck is also within his discretion.

    this is also wrong - the police officer has the duty to enforce the law & nothing more - he has no right whatsoever to base his decisions on his personal emotional responses

    the cop was a dick - he did what many cops do & used his power to punish you into obeying him to the letter - that's a dick move, especially given his position of power - maybe you were a dick too (didn't sound like it to me) but he has the greater responsibility to act dispassionately

    i wouldn't file a complaint, though, because it would be a waste of time - right into the circular file
    posted by jammy at 3:04 PM on October 28, 2009


    Yes, it sounds like a jerk.
    But yes, it also sounds like you were a jerk.

    Moral of the story? Don't be a jerk to someone who can give you a citation, unless you want one.
    posted by lucy.jakobs at 3:08 PM on October 28, 2009


    He knows his pen works. He does not know that your pen works. He is not required to let you use your choice of writing instrument. Perhaps there was a memo about this, or something.

    Yes, he could have handled it better. So could have you. You could report him, but rudeness is not a crime. Neither is insisting you use his pen.
    posted by RikiTikiTavi at 3:29 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


    I think that, when you report it, you should emphasize the pettiness of it, just be clear that the pettiness was his, not yours.

    If you say "He made me use a different pen," it sounds like you're whining about something insignificant. If you say "He wrote me a citation because he didn't like my pen," it makes it sound like he's the one obsessing over the insignificant, which is what I think is actually going on here.

    This is how bullies operate; they start small and build. Your reaction was rational. Make this clear in your complaint.
    posted by Clay201 at 3:44 PM on October 28, 2009


    Maybe he was being irrational, but I don't think reporting him will do you (or anyone) any good. Let it go, and be thankful in the future if a similar situation comes up and you aren't ticketed for having a burned-out taillight.

    You got flippant and mouthy over a pen, which would probably be considered probable cause for a property search to see if they could find illegal substances.

    Not in this country. Unless she was pulled over by Joe Arpaio.
    posted by oaf at 4:23 PM on October 28, 2009


    Is it really ok to threaten me with a citation because I question his insistance that I use his goddam cheap ass pen?!
    He didn't threaten you with a citation. He performed his duty as a police officer to give you a citation for 3-4 simultaneous violations after his initial courtesy was not reciprocated.

    Maybe I'm a little biased, having never been let off with a warning in my life, including less serious violations.
    posted by Nameless at 4:44 PM on October 28, 2009


    and changing his decision because he perceives you to be a pain in the neck is also within his discretion.

    this is also wrong - the police officer has the duty to enforce the law & nothing more - he has no right whatsoever to base his decisions on his personal emotional responses


    No, you are wrong. The police officer was completely within his authority to use his discretion in this situation. I try not to write "fuck you" tickets, but there's nothing that says I can't. In this situation, if it happened exactly as the OP described it, I think the officer may have taken it too far, but that's just me, and all police officers use their discretion differently. (I also do not make anyone sign warning or traffic tickets, so this wouldn't even have happened here.)

    I don't want to argue this in court; not the right forum. I do wish to report him to his supervisors. I'm sure more level headed, and reasonable people in law enforcement would want to know that one of their officers is an immature jerk on a power trip. I think something like this should go in his file...

    Hive mind, how best to report this? Thanks


    I wasn't there, but it sounds like he wasn't the one being an immature jerk, and he was not on a "power trip." koeselitz provided you with what you should need if you still feel like you should make a complaint with his agency. That is your right, after all.
    posted by C17H19NO3 at 5:39 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


    [metacommentary really needs to stay in metatalk, sorry]
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:46 PM on October 28, 2009


    I was going to add extra info, but I'm just going to say:
    1) I agree with the majority. You were in the wrong.
    2) Most cops *I've* encountered have been awesome, friendly people. The kind of people who give warnings in lieu of citations. They also try to ensure that people don't disrespect officers because that way, their everyday job isn't made harder by arrogant wankers thinking that all officers are scum and thus said wankers are above the law.
    3) If you go to court and get the fine dismissed... You've just cost the local county several hundreds of dollars to put alternate officers on, pay court staff and judge, ect. To save $103. Which you *earned* yourself by breaking the law, and being a dick. To someone whose job is to follow laws made by people your community elected. A Community you choose to live in, and thus choose to obey the majority rule. Hope that's worth it to you. I'd think it selfish.
    posted by Quadlex at 7:02 PM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


    No useful advice for current encounter. Advice for future encounter: always turn on your phone camera in video recording mode when you are stopped and approached by police. Just pop it in the cup holder. Don't worry about capturing video...the audio is what matters. If the cop behaves improperly, then you have useful evidence against him. Otherwise, it'll always be your useless word against his.
    posted by randomstriker at 7:28 PM on October 28, 2009


    In future, if you really hate using someone else's pen, just keep picking your nose until it's time to sign.
    posted by arse_hat at 9:39 PM on October 28, 2009


    He might've been a bit OCD about having all his forms exactly the same and a different ink/pen tip size in a stack of forms where his pen was used for everything else is really like screaming in an OCD sufferer's ear.

    The job I was on you were only allowed to write with black ink pens. It is the same with every PD I know of. OCD does not enter into it.

    The professional thing for the officer to do would have been to say, "I need you to use my pen, it just works better on these forms. Thank you."
    posted by nautical-by-nature at 9:48 PM on October 28, 2009


    Go to court. I had a asshole cop encounter in which I really wondered how the cop would defend himself in front of a judge. So I checked the "court option" box. Natch, the asshole didn't show up and my fine was refunded.
    posted by telstar at 11:51 PM on October 28, 2009


    [metatalk is available for your cop/public griefing, please don't do this here.]
    posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:21 AM on October 29, 2009


    Make sure you put into your complaint the reasons why you were driving with a trailer hitch obscuring the license plate, no license plate illumination and a broken tail light.
    posted by Stonestock Relentless at 10:49 AM on October 29, 2009


    Some policemen (not all!) will react negatively to anything that sounds in the slightest way argumentative to them. Sometimes they're just being jerks (just the same as you could meet a jerk doing many other jobs in the course of your day), sometimes they're looking for suspicious behavior for some other reasons. Sometimes those reasons are legit - but the cop can't exactly tell you about it, you just have to hope that this is the reason. In the end arguing with the cop that pulls you over is usually not going to help matters.

    Do think over whether bothering about this will really make you feel any better. If there's a way you can get that ticket price reduced - and you can afford the time off of work to go to court - give it a try. I would make sure to say that "in hindsight it probably wasn't a good idea to sound like I was arguing" - and let the judge know that you just thought it wouldn't make any difference what kind of pen you used.

    ...It does make me wonder - maybe his superior or someone filing reports once chewed that cop out for not having people use a certain kind of pen so that the carbon copies weren't clear or something. I was once given a lecture about "using correct pens/pencils" in a job myself.
    posted by batgrlHG at 5:34 PM on October 29, 2009


    and he pulled me over because one of the tail light covers was broken, making the tail light white.

    That's actually good police work. Some very huge busts started out that way.

    The defensive move is to be super compliant about giving him your license, then act perplexed when it's not in your wallet, then make a big production out of cheerfully searching for it. If you can draw it out real good, after 15 or 20 minutes, he'll get bored or get a radio call for something more important.

    Radioing in for your ID info could take half an hour some places, and it's just not worth it.
    posted by StickyCarpet at 7:21 PM on October 29, 2009


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