Police forsake friendship, prefer parking tickets

Anthony Maggio

I remember my elementary school days at Our Lady of Grace School in Highland, Ind. Police officer Pete Nelson, “Officer Friendly,” would come to my school and talk to my class a few times per year. On Halloween, he came in to give us safety tips. Other times, he told us to wear helmets when we rode our bikes, not to take candy from strangers and not to play in the street.

No matter what the subject, however, “Officer Friendly” always sported a big smile, and we were always happy to see him. The police department in Highland had done a wonderful job shaping the minds of the Catholic school youth to think police officers were their friends. After all, technically, police should be our friends – their job description says so. Serve and protect – assist and care for (according to my trusty thesaurus) – sounds like a friend to me.

But in my time at the University, both the University and Minneapolis police have managed to rip away from me what “Officer Friendly” spent so much time developing: my trust and general positive opinions of law enforcement officials.

At first, it was little things, stupid things, and really not anything that could be controlled – parking tickets mostly. While these are frustrating, traffic cops are just doing their job by giving me a ticket when I’m parked somewhere I’m not supposed to be.

Then last winter came strike one. It started as nothing; I committed a moving violation one night, according to the two University police officers it took to write me the ticket. I felt the ticket was ridiculous, so I took it to court. After jumping through a few hoops to actually get to a trial, I defended my position and the judge found me not guilty.

That saved me $100 I didn’t have to flush. So what comes to me in the mail not two weeks later? A ticket from the University police. The same officers (I checked the badge numbers) wrote up a new ticket with a new charge from the same traffic stop months before. This means at least one of these officers actually took the time to fill out unnecessary paperwork for that sole purpose – not such a friendly thing to do in my “how to be a good friend” handbook.

So I called my uncle, patrol Cmdr. Steve Nolan of the Merrillville, Ind., police department, who told me he’s never heard of such a moronic occurrence in his career. I then proceeded to the Hennepin County Courthouse, where I spoke to a hearing officer who said the same thing as my uncle and promptly dropped the ticket.

Then came this Halloween – strike two. I live in a house with nine other people. We all have cars, eight to nine of which fit in the driveway. On the morning in question, I needed to run some errands at approximately 10:30 a.m. My car was second in the driveway, meaning I had to move a car to get at mine.

My house has a system when it comes to car moving. If someone else is around, they’ll help you move cars out of the driveway. On this occasion, no one happened to be around, meaning I had to move the car myself.

When this happens, we put the cars on the opposite side of a one-way street until we get to the necessary car. Then we move the cars back into the driveway. Now, granted, the part of the street where we put our cars is a bike lane. However, the United States Postal Service, UPS and other delivery services put their vehicles on this side of the road when they are around.

So I moved my roommate’s car and reversed my car. As I pulled my roommate’s car back into the driveway, a traffic officer pulled behind my car and began writing me a parking ticket.

I asked the officer why he was doing this, and he told me I was illegally parked. I explained to him the situation and pointed out that I was never out of his sight, and neither car was left unattended. He told me this

didn’t matter in a way I wouldn’t call “friendly.” I inquired about how he would solve my driveway problem if he were me. All he would say is, “The car must be parked legally.”

Those of you who know what parking is like in Dinkytown can only imagine what this solution would require. I understand that this officer is only doing his job. The officer’s attitude leads me to believe he had no interest in my concerns or understanding my predicament.

But isn’t he, like all police officers, supposed to serve and protect? And even if what I did was, in the legal sense, “illegal,” who or what is he helping by giving me a $30 ticket instead of asking me to move my vehicle, which is obviously what I was in the process of doing anyway? If this was not an attempt to fill a quota, then the officer’s only motivation for doing this was to exercise the power of his uniform on me, the lowly college student.

I hope that there is no strike three with the Minneapolis or University police, but if there is, I don’t think I want to be their friend anymore.

nthony Maggio is a sports reporter at The Minnesota Daily. He welcomes comments at [email protected]. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]