Caught a cop parked in a handicapped spot - what to do ?
March 25, 2014 4:09 PM   Subscribe

I was traveling today when I pulled off the interstate into a rest stop and found a sheriff's car from another county parked in a handicapped spot.

He wasn't there for an emergency or anything, and in fact, of the handicapped spots available, took the one nearest the non-handicapped spots. Of course all of the non-handicapped spots there were also available, so his parking in that handicapped spot saved him a walk of about 6 feet. And the restroom was another 250-300 feet beyond that. The rest area was in Columbia county, WI and the sheriff was from Walworth County, WI.

Anyway, I snapped a few photos - he was gone long enough for me to roll up, walk the dog, get my phone, walk over there, and go back to my car - point is, I don't think he was in a hurry.

So, my question - before I go emailing random county people like a crank - should I do something about this ? What ? People parking up those spots illegally piss me off, but I also don't want the bros to taze me.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt to Law & Government (27 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
He didn't take up a regular spot and you have no idea what was going on. I'm not sure this is a case that the Internet Justice League is ready to tackle.
posted by bensherman at 4:16 PM on March 25, 2014 [25 favorites]

On the scale of "asshole shit that cops do," this rates somewhere between speeding and putting on the flashers just because they don't feel like waiting at the light. In terms of corruption we're talking about the equivalent of cosmic background radiation.

There is nothing you can do about this, and anything you might try would probably just get you an incredulous look at best; I doubt if they'd even bother to laugh at you. If you want to put a stop to this sort of thing, I would suggest campaigning for systemic, root-and-branch reform of the entire law enforcement system because that's what would need to happen before this kind of casual, unthinking, everyday venality became anything other than ubiquitous and normal.
posted by Scientist at 4:22 PM on March 25, 2014 [13 favorites]

This is the kind of thing you put on Reddit for upvotes and Reddit gold. Past that, the utility is limited.
posted by klangklangston at 4:24 PM on March 25, 2014 [9 favorites]

Police don't seem to be constrained by parking and traffic regulations in general. I wouldn't bother trying to do anything about this.
posted by clockzero at 4:25 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sounds like the thing a local newspaper would love... Pics etc plus an op-ed...
posted by chasles at 4:25 PM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Maybe he was taking a call on domestic abuse, and making sure there was already an officer on his/her way? Or had just got back from a shaking case, and just pulled into a spot to breathe for a moment. I mean, probably not. But he might have been, and given his profession, is it really that surprising?

Or maybe he's just an asshole. But this isn't so egregious I think we ought to call this *obvious* corruption.
posted by jjmoney at 4:34 PM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you Google around, this kind of thing shows up on the local news all the time, but usually in the context of "actual handicapped person unable to find spot".
posted by acidic at 4:46 PM on March 25, 2014

posted by zippy at 4:47 PM on March 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Here's the Contact Page for the Walworth County Sheriff's Office. Email the address for "Administration" and attach the photos. Just a simple, factual "here's what I saw, it bothered me" note will do just fine.

If the Deputy had a reason to be there, she or he will be fine.

If she or he didn't have a good reason, maybe they'll get a talking to.

There is literally zero reason not to drop them a line and it may do some good.
posted by kavasa at 4:57 PM on March 25, 2014 [22 favorites]

Best answer: I'll be the lone dissenter and say that I would totally call the Sheriff's office, state you're a concerned citizen and not happy about what you saw, and ask what email you should send the picture to (you did take a picture, yes?).

Submit it from an anonymous email address if you must. Chances of this doing anything are low, but I think it is worth the 2 minutes this will take you. And speaking as a public servant, polite calls from the public always get passed on to me, often along with one or more others, with an explicit direction that I look into X.

Keep it super civil and polite in tone, both on the phone and via email. Say it in the tone you could imagine yourself telling an elderly neighbor that the butt-flap on his long-johns was hanging open (polite, a little hesitant to say anything, but CERTAIN that they want to hear what you're saying).
posted by arnicae at 5:01 PM on March 25, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: I know of one case where a cop was punished for something like this.
posted by chrchr at 5:13 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Send it to the local news channel. Or do what arnicae suggests, and somewhere toward the end of the conversation mention "I was about to send it to KRAT [local tv station] but thought perhaps I should ask the sheriff's office first." This works best for an outcome of mild schadenfreude.
posted by tapir-whorf at 5:35 PM on March 25, 2014

It's possible to both have a disability and be a police officer. While I think pointing it out to the cop's bosses is a good idea, be careful how you word your letter.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:09 PM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: The corpse in the library: "It's possible to both have a disability and be a police officer."

This (like the cop tore an ACL or something and is on light duty) though here anyways they'd still have to have a hang tag.

Or they had some police duty reason to park there (though I can't imagine a reason to park illegally in the described situation).

Either way reporting them in those cases won't harm them and if might at least come up in a meeting or something.

And because you have photo proof you could even just submit anonymously and be immune to retribution.
posted by Mitheral at 6:55 PM on March 25, 2014

Is this really a battle you want to fight?

I once saw a cop almost run down a woman in a motorized wheelchair in a crosswalk. Why? Because she was crossing against the light.

I was pretty steamed and mentioned the incident and reporting it immediately afterwards when I met a friend of mine who happens to be a lawyer specializing in civil liberties.

"Kokuryu," he said, "Is this something you really want to initiate? You could be identified forever more as a troublemaker by this police department. It might make traffic stops pretty nasty."

While I think standing up for our rights is pretty important, there are some battles worth fighting and paying the price for, and some that are not.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:07 PM on March 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd maybe even be a little more annoyed if it were the only disabled spot, but there were more, empty ones and several empty normal spots? Sounds less like the cop was flouting the rules and more like he was preoccupied with something else and didn't realize he was in a disabled spot. I've done it, by mistake
posted by ctmf at 8:21 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Considering the apologies for cops you find on this thread alone, it's pretty clear nothing will happen.

The Reddit suggestion was the best so far. But make sure you always vote for the politician that the local police union is against. You're only going to change anything in the long term.
posted by oreofuchi at 8:58 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I once found a sheriff parked in the handicapped spot outside of my local courthouse. After I found a spot to park I went in and complained. They were so apologetic. Jumped right up and moved the car. They did offer that due to construction parking was limited for them, but really if I could find a spot so could they.

I would send them an email with the pics. It may result in nothing but increasing their awareness that the public is watching.
posted by cairnoflore at 9:31 PM on March 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Maybe he pulled someone over, they pulled into the rest area, and he parked beside them - which happened to be the handicapped spot, although he may not have been noticing because he was paying attention to the vehicle.

After handing out a ticket, nature called, and he absent mindedly ran into the bathroom instead of moving the car.

Either way, nthing moving on and doing nothing.
posted by backwards guitar at 10:34 PM on March 25, 2014

Best answer: Well, under state law, "any person" may make a report of a violation of the parking rule to -- well, the jurisdiction, in this case Columbia County, but actually probably the Wisconsin State Patrol because it's an Interstate rest area. If you have all the required information they have 48 hours to serve the offender with a citation.

I mean, that would be the way to really shake the roof. The WSP -- other than institutionalized thin-blue-line solidarity -- has no brief to protect the Walworth Sheriff from his deputies' mistakes, and you never know, may relish the opportunity. Or you could just complain directly and it might well get handled as a personnel matter, presumably "going into his file" and thusly to affect promotion opportunities.

But yeah, if you don't complain nothing will change. It's not like you're going to go in a database somewhere because you e-mailed the Sheriff's Department. I've dealt with our local department numerous times as a witness, as a victim, and in between, and mostly the cops I've dealt with have no frickin' idea who I am.

Maybe he pulled someone over

This was a sheriff's deputy a couple of counties out of his jurisdiction. (I'm in the county next door to his.) He'd be pretty unlikely to just pull someone over, particularly in a rest area, even if technically deputized to do so. And normally it's the state patrol who handle the Interstates, regardless.
posted by dhartung at 10:38 PM on March 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Polite note or call, or both, to HQ. Be anonymous if you are more comfortable staying out of the spotlight.(The longjohns mishap tone is perfect! )

If there is a defense, the officer will be fine. If not, then at the very least it's nice to know the authorities had a moment where they had to consider the fact that sometimes someone is watching.

I, as one little person on the Internet, would appreciate the effort.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:32 AM on March 26, 2014

I'd send it to CopWatch.
posted by corb at 8:58 AM on March 26, 2014

If you do decide to Reddit it, the appropriate subreddit is Bad Cop, No Donut.

I subscribed to it not because I am fervent about monitoring police action, but because I think the name is adorable
posted by CathyG at 9:11 AM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think it's worth reporting as per kavasa's suggestion. I have/had multiple disabled people in my family, so every time I see this sorta thing, it irks me on a "principle of the matter" level. If s/he had a valid reason to park there, as in having a temporary tag, it should've been on the mirror or dash. Realistically, there were other handicapped spots available, so in the grand scheme of things it's more of a faux pas, I guess.

Given that the rest of the lot appeared to be fairly empty, yeah, it would be a random coincidence of events for this one cop parked illegally to prevent a handicapped person from parking in the event that the lot AND handicapped spots suddenly filled up. But still, not cool.
posted by cardinality at 10:56 AM on March 26, 2014

Best answer: Given that he was from another county, if he was there on emergency police business, there would likely be helicopters, police tape and a host of other cops there.

Even a traffic stop when out of jurisdiction usually requires an officer from the actual county to appear on the stop. This is a hassle for cops, and usually only occurs for suspected DUI and aggressive/dangerous driving. (This is why I continue to maintain my 10 over speed when I see local cops outside of their jurisdiction)

It could be he was either running documents or transporting a suspect / citizen someplace, or even just commuting to work/home in his cruiser.

I empathize with the hypocrisy inherent in this, especially as I got a ticket for sitting in my car with the engine running, at 3:00 am on a freezing night, while waiting for someone to come out of the restroom in a highway rest stop in a handicap spot. There wasn't a single, solitary person for miles, and my partner was in the bathroom for a quick pee, but it still cost me $100 for my decision.

I'd still let it go, though. He was likely just being unthinking about it, and it's just one of those "Do you want to be happy, or right?" situations. If there wasn't a handicapped person circling the lot, desperately looking for a spot, then no harm, no foul. I'm not the world police, and while there are plenty of things that irk me in the moment, hanging onto stuff like this and building resentments just isn't worth the mental energy or time.

Calculate the amount of time you are willing to spend on this, and instead commit that to contacting your local city council to improve handicap access and parking where you live. It's a much better return on your dollar.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:41 PM on March 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, there's no way he was there for some police business. And no hangtag - when I was a state employee and disabled they were very clear that I had to use my hangtag to park in handicapped spots. I tried finding that the rules were different for cops (over and above the blue line shit) and as near as I can tell, they need to use a hangtag, too.

So.... I sent an email to walworth county. I might also send one to Colombia county and the Highway patrol. I know it's not the end of the world, but you know.... WTF.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:03 AM on March 27, 2014

Response by poster: I got a response back :
I passed your email onto the patrol Captain. I thought you would like to know that the deputies involved had already self reported the incident to their Captain. I have reviewed their report. The Captain is in the process of taking appropriate disciplinary measures. We do not accept this type of behavior no matter what the excuse. Rest assured it will not happen again.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:59 PM on March 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

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