An open letter to the jane q. public i wrote those tickets to…

Dear Jane Q. Public:

I recently became aware that you took a few minutes out of your life to send an online complaint to my Department’s Internal Affairs Division because you were upset that I would not listen to your excuses about why you drove through that red light a couple of weeks ago and also because I addressed you in a tone that you thought was less than respectful. You also thought that it was ridiculous that I wrote you an additional ticket for not having your two year old buckled into a car seat.

I’ve been given a copy of the letter because I have to take time that could be used patrolling the streets in order to address the complaints you’ve lodged against me to my superiors as well as to the Internal Affairs Division.

I do remember writing you those tickets, yes. I recall that you eventually said you were sorry that you ran through that red light, but you were in a hurry to get your son from a lacrosse camp he was attending. You were quite pissed off when your apology didn’t make us all squarzies, right? Do you remember how mad you were?

I remember several things that you said and did during the course of our encounter that I mostly ignored, but I’ll go ahead and address them right now.

First and foremost, I remember that you didn’t roll your window down right away while I stood outside your car in the afternoon heat waiting patiently for you to acknowledge me. As a younger officer, standing outside a car like this would have made me feel like a jackass, but I’ve been around long enough that these sorts of passive aggressive actions don’t affect my mood anymore. I will say that it sure looked cool inside your $70,000 Porsche Cayenne. I admit that I was a little bit jealous. You see, the a/c in my patrol car hasn’t worked all summer and my very own ten year old family car has more and more difficulty everyday cooling me down on the drive home from work.

You were quite busy on your cell phone talking to somebody. You were very animated and managed to avoid looking at me for several minutes before you finally rolled your window down just a little bit. That somebody on the other line turned out to be your big deal lawyer husband. Do you remember those were your words to me? When you finally rolled down your window, the first thing you said was, “Here, talk to my husband, officer. He’s an attorney and kind of a big deal in this city.” Oh how mad you were that I didn’t take your phone to talk to him. Your husband wasn’t driving the car and I certainly believed you when you said that you were running late to pick up your son. What was he going to say? You see, it didn’t matter to me whether or not your husband would tell me that he knows the mayor or that he is friends with some commander in my police department or even a police department other than my own. Maybe he would have said that he gives lots of money to Backstoppers to support the families of first responders who die in the line of duty. That may have softened my mood just a little bit, but at the time, I didn’t need or even want to hear any of that.

I remember you telling me that your husband works at a prestigious local law firm and that you work part time as a volunteer at your children’s school. I didn’t ask you what your husband did for a living, or even if you were married. That you would imply that such things matter during the course of our encounter confuses me. I did ask where your kids went to school, because I have kids of my own and I figured you brought it up because you wanted to talk about it. You said that your kids go to a swanky private school many miles outside of the City where we met. You and your family live in one of the wealthiest suburbs in our area, and I recall telling you that I thought it was a nice area and that I’d heard the school your kids attended has a great reputation. You were surprised to hear it when I mentioned that I had family that lived out that way as well.

You also asked me, at the same time you were rifling angrily through your purse for your license, whether or not I had anything better to do than write tickets to tax paying citizens. I heard what you said, but I said “excuse me?” to see if you’d repeat it to my face and you did! You looked right at me and said, “Surely there’s something more important to be done in this City than writing me a goddam ticket!” Whoah, I thought! Using the Lord’s name in vain isn’t necessary, but I assured you that were there something more pressing to be dealt with currently that I’d be there and left it at that. I didn’t even touch the fact that as a volunteer at your kids’ school, you weren’t really much of a tax paying citizen.

Boy you were mad and I could tell you were on the verge of tears. It’s possible that you were trying to make yourself cry because that would surely cause me to lighten up, right? You were fuming as you handed me your license and insurance information. I have to be stoic in the presence of others while I’m on duty, but when I got back to my car to run your information, I felt bad for you. Isn’t that silly of me? You clearly have a pretty charmed life compared to most and I was feeling bad for you a little bit because it was me causing you to be upset. That’s just the sort of guy I am though. I have a soft spot for people in distress, and I’ve given many many many people the benefit of the doubt and let them go with just a warning. I wasn’t in the mood to give breaks on this day though.

I felt less sorry for you when your name popped up with a red notation on my screen as having an outstanding warrant from that swanky municipality where you live. Imagine my surprise to see that it was a warrant for speeding.

I sat in my car for a little bit longer than necessary to suck in some of the luke warm air coming from the vents of my police cruiser and to run some scenarios through my head. I imagined taking you to jail for your warrant and the fit that would have caused you to have! Can you imagine?! I saw you looking, no, you were sneering at me in your rear view mirror as you talked on your phone yet again. You were clearly perturbed. Do you know what though? If I can be honest with you, I was a bit perturbed too and I’d like to tell you why.

My attention was first drawn to your car by the sight of your two year old jumping up and down in the back seat while you were weaving in and out of traffic without using your turn signals. Did you even see me as you passed me? I was doing 35 mph and you passed me right there even though I was in my marked police cruiser. You were doing at least 50 mph. I don’t have radar handy when I’m driving down the street so I couldn’t tell exactly how fast you were going, but other drivers notice such erratic behavior and they were looking at me with facial expressions that said, “Hey, don’t you see that woman driving like a maniac?”

I did see you, just like all the other commuters you were annoyed with having to share the road with saw you. I noticed that the light ahead had turned red and thought that I’d pull up alongside you at the light to tell you to please slow it down a little bit and be done with you, but you had other plans. You drove right through that red light without giving it a second thought. Not only did you not slow down, but you actually sped up to beat oncoming traffic coming perpendicular to you through the green light! Several cars honked at you but you didn’t care. You just traveled on like it was they who were at fault.

Again, those drivers who had to stop for you all looked at me and I could tell their faces were saying, “What the fuck, officer?” I hear you guys I nodded and I turned the lights and siren on to pull you over and that’s when we met.

I remember you well because I remember your bouncing baby boy in the back seat having the time of his life. I remember when I was a lad, we used to jump around in the car like that. That was many years ago though. Times have changed and kids need to be buckled in at his age now. I also remember that he looked a little bit like my own two year old son and even more like another Jane Q. Public’s two year old boy who I met at this very same intersection just a few days earlier. I met him as he lie dying in the back seat of his mother’s SUV, not buckled properly in his car seat. His mother didn’t run the red light that day her baby boy stopped living on this earth, no. She ran into a car whose driver ran the red light exactly as you had just done. Exactly the same!

That was only a few days ago and I apologize that my heart wasn’t interested in listening to your excuses that day. You see, that boy’s little bloodied face and blood stained blankie still haunt my memory. I worked that scene just long enough to have to see a dead baby I could have done without seeing before I was relieved by accident specialists so that I could go onto the next call as though it’s no big deal to see dead babies and then carry on with life.

That’s one of the funny things about this job. We have to put away what just happened, no matter how awful, so that we can move onto the next call. Sometimes the next call is something mundane and our minds are elsewhere. Those next callers deserve our undivided attention as they explain to us how their expensive items that they left in the front seat of their parked car while they were in a bar were stolen. Sometimes they sense that we’re not 100% interested in what they have to say and that we seem to be going through the motions and they call us on it. They call us on it right there on the spot, or sometimes they do what you did and lodge an official complaint, never knowing that it isn’t that we don’t care about their loss, it’s just that we haven’t quite cleared our minds of the loss we witnessed just hours before that still occupies our brains. That face. That blankie. That woman crying, wailing like she was crazy. I bet she was crazy at that moment. I know I’d have been crazy, and I bet even you, Jane, would snap as well.

So to you, Ms. Jane Q. Public, I’m sorry that you caught me at such a bad time. Had we had the same encounter a few weeks before, it’s possible that I’d have listened to your excuses and sent you on your way with a warning instead of writing you tickets that you earned. Does writing those tickets bring dead babies back? No, of course it doesn’t. Will it give the many people who travel through that intersection and see a cop writing a ticket pause next time they approach the intersection as the light turns red? Maybe not. Does writing those tickets help me in some way that may or may not be perverse in your opinion? Yes, it does. If it didn’t, I’d have let you go on your way to get your son, along with your other son. The one who but for chance could have been that boy who’s face put me in such an unforgiving mood on that day.

Please remember that I’m a person too. Police officers are moms and dads and uncle and aunts. We go to your church and coach your kids. This is just my job; it’s nothing personal.

Respectfully,

That Officer Who Wrote You Those Tickets

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This entry was posted in Police Stories, Stories, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

337 Responses to An open letter to the jane q. public i wrote those tickets to…

  1. I am thankful you are there, doing a difficult job, making things safe for the rest of us. Respect.

  2. wka007 says:

    Reblogged this on Ramblings and commented:
    Nice.

  3. What a great post! I have friends in law enforcement and fire/rescue, some of the best people I could ever know. Personally I’ve never had any negative encounters and I have gotten a ticket or two for minor things like brake light/head light. Both times I didn’t know. If you’re not doing anything wrong you’ve got nothing to worry about.

    Here is a true story of what great people Police officers can be:
    http://mountaingypsy.wordpress.com/2012/11/22/the-thanksgiving-police/

    • See, I wouldn’t have the heart to write somebody for having a light out if I believed they just didn’t know…lol, I suck at writing tickets, honestly. Thanks for sharing that Thanksgiving story, it was awesome!

  4. SocietyRed says:

    Don,
    Everything you write is worthy of contemplation. And excellent.
    Congrats on making the front page (again) with this well written work. Great ride-along!
    Red

  5. Pingback: An open letter to the jane q. public i wrote those tickets to… | The GeoGee Experience

  6. sowingmercy says:

    FAntastic. Thank you for putting up with crap. Maybe you saved that boy’s life. Who knows. If she treats you like that, it makes me wonder how she treats her lawyer husband.

  7. Just goes to show, money doesn’t buy happiness, otherwise she wouldn’t be such a biatch innit….

  8. Stephanie Sprenger says:

    Wow. My hat is off to you. Thank you for such a well-written, riveting post. I know it’s not your “usual” genre, but it clearly illustrates your versatility as a writer. You should be proud.

  9. Carol Montgomery says:

    Arrogant, ignorant woman! Who does she think she is? Thank you so much for being there for us, officer, and laying your life on the line every day for us!

  10. mo says:

    Excellent!!! Congrats for being Freshly Pressed. I hope you don’t mind but I am reposting this on my blog.

  11. mo says:

    Reblogged this on Mo is blogging…I think and commented:
    Excellent post! Hope all my ex-co-workers read this. This Officer should print this post and hand it out with his tickets!

  12. jdomp says:

    If you knew she was ill, would you still feel the need articulate the events here?

    Would you be more understanding of her if that were the case?

    You’ll notice the story you have told is based on a fixed point in psychlogical reality (your perspective), and moves along a timescale. Is there a chance that, seeing the reason for her ignorance towards others from a different angle has the ability to show you why everyone else is also sick? Even your good self?

    Why did she shoot the light. Because she thought she was more important than anyone else. In this ‘important’ catagory you can use any of the following words (worth more, more religious, more worthy, more charitable, more this, that or the other). Do you see where the illness hides. ME

    The inputs I decide to allow in, define my psychology and place in life. My ego decides what it wants to understand of things and halts thought if necessary to avoid understanding fully if that is what is required.

    That ability to ignore the truth and allow the ME to override everyone elses needs and safety and peace is the sickness in humanity, and always has been.

    • I’d have still articulated the story, yes. Unfortunately, we don’t have time to diagnose everybody we encounter each day, though it’s part of what’s expected of us. How she behaved isn’t really the point of this post, it was more about what’s possibly going on in the head of the officer that people may not be aware. It’s plausible that she could write a post about this very same encounter, and because she doesn’t have the benefit of the officer’s thoughts, could make me look like the bad guy in the post. If that makes any sense.

      • jdomp says:

        Sure. Perspective and analysis are features of the ego. But there is a perspectiveless, all-wise feature we know little abot becaue it is preferable for our peers and controlers to have us this ‘default’ way. It is just flawed and leads us to believe ‘its ok this way’. It is NOT.

        What I was refering to with her ‘illness’ is the same for us all. We only assume we are not ill, because everyone as as ill as us.

  13. melayne says:

    Well said. I have police officer friends and others in the law enforcement community and it amazes me the patience they have and what they have to put up with on a daily basis. Sometimes I wonder if giving her the story of what you saw would help slap the look of indignation off her face, or if she’d just go on her way anyway, complaining to her friends how horrible you were and how much time you took out of her precious life.
    Good job in handling the situation and hats off.

  14. We live in a world where the rules often apply only to the other person, certainly not us. What you have described here it what I call the, “you caught me so it’s your fault,” syndrome. I spent many years working in and around law enforcement and no matter how bad the crime, how dangerous the action, how much risk was created for others, almost none of the people I dealt with said they realized that their actions had been responsible for our meeting; fewer still took responsibility for those actions because its not the action that is the problem, it’s getting caught. Well stated officer.

    • You’re sure right about that, sir! Nobody feels like they deserve a ticket or to be arrested or to be fired from their jobs anymore. I agree that getting caught is what people are always sorry for in the end, not the infraction. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

  15. Thanks Mo, for reposting this!

  16. MikeW says:

    May your every hour on the job be focused, safe, and as relaxed as possible, whatever you may face. May you and yours be guarded from above even as you guard the many of us below.

  17. Wraps by Amy Jo says:

    Great story!

  18. Whoa, Don, way to go on being Freshly Pressed! Liking the tone here even though I’m more used to your humorous side 🙂

  19. lexiesnana says:

    This post touched my heart. My dad was killed on a side street in Saginaw going 20 miles an hour after a man ran a stop sign and hit him. It was before the laws of safety belts and he fell out of the car and his own car ran him over. He left a wife and five little girls under the age of nine. We know how important safety belts and obeying the red lights and stop signs are. I wish that woman could have seen my dad’s funeral. Thank you for all you do.

    • Your story is so sad and I’m sorry for you. I often wonder about the people left behind when I see a dead body. Who will miss them? Who thinks their loved one is alive and well right now and is going to be stunned to learn from an officer soon that this person in front of me has died? We had a mother a couple of years ago killed on the highway just the day before Christmas. She’d gotten out of her car to help somebody I think. It wasn’t my call and I never saw her, but I still think about her from time to time. It’s funny what the mind wants you to hold on to. I hope all is well in your life today and thank you for commenting.

  20. wannabepoet says:

    Reblogged this on wannabepoet and commented:
    I have been caught myself for speeding; once via a camera and a ticket was sent in the post, and twice more I was stopped. Never once did I dispute it or try and get out of it; I was speeding. I was in the wrong. Thank-you!

  21. Thank you for the AWESOME post. I loved reading it! 🙂

  22. ravensmarch says:

    Every day, I find myself thinking of your profession, “Man, I’m glad I don’t have to do that” and “Man, I’m glad there’s people that can handle doing that,” the thoughts so entwined as to be the same material. Manifold thanks to you and your fellows; I promise to try my hardest to not add to the load through either negligence or an adoption of an unfounded sense of my own importance.

  23. Pingback: Freshly Pressed? Find someone to get fresh with | bl0gdramedy

  24. MissFourEyes says:

    That woman, ugh. You probably saved that kid’s life.
    Congrats on being freshly pressed, Don!

  25. mistyslaws says:

    Holy crap! Entitlement like that chaps my ass. That whole “my husband is powerful and we’re richer than god so we are above the law” attitude makes me want to punch a bitch. And it makes me FUMING mad to see kids rolling around in the backseats of cars. I see that a lot in the city, usually in hoopty cars with no airbags that probably shouldn’t be on the road in the first place. A lot of times it is because they can’t afford the carseats or are just uninformed. Other times it’s just because they are assholes. Affording the carseat wasn’t the problem here, so obviously she is in camp number 2. I have recently been tattled upon to higher powers in my employ by those who feel they are above reproach, so I know a little bit of how you are feeling. This was a wonderful way to fight back. Good job.

    (Am I wrong, or was this post FP’d? Soooooo many comments! Congrats).

  26. Pingback: Beat out by Charmin | Valley Girl Gone Country

  27. @jesssugar says:

    Great post and I’d like to first note that I, much like others commenting here, could not have more respect for the work that you do day in and day out. I know it’s a job I could not stomach. I guess that my one comment is that it’s also very easy to look at the other person and judge them, not knowing what day they had. I read the post, and see that from your perspective, she was a super self centred wealthy woman with a gargantuan chip on her shoulder. Likely that is true. However, maybe there is another part to her story. Maybe she herself had some pretty crappy things happen in her life recently. Maybe she was returning from finding out her lawyer husband had a fling with her bestie, maybe her 2 year old unstrapped himself (I know my kids could do that at that age) and she was in a rush to pick up her other son who has some unknown illness that he can’t be left alone. Let me be clear here: Rudeness to anyone doing their job is really not cool. However, we all have our days. Again- fabulous post and it makes me feel less stupid for thanking the cops that ticket me :).

    • Thank you for the great comment! You’re absolutely right that she may have been having a day. I wasn’t necessarily judging her myself, and I hope this didn’t sound as though I was. In the grand scheme of encounters, she’s not even in the top 100 worse that I’ve had during the course of this job. She didn’t spit on me, try to punch me, kick me, swing at me with a knife, throw a brick at me, or curse my yet unborn children, so for those reasons, I think she’s ok people!

  28. smoothleaf says:

    If one is alive at this moment it’s because someone saved your life. We very seldom know who it is. I wonder if we as humans will ever grow out of this thing of always having to know who donated what. What has American Idol inflicted on us? Life is a dynamic, not God as Simon Cowell. I can’t stand the judgment cult we are all willingly enjoying a little too much.

  29. Excellent and insightful piece. I’ve been pulled over plenty of times (read dozens) in my driving career and I haven’t received a ticket since I was 17yrs old. I’m 33 now so that’s 16 years without a ticket (moving violations at least, I did get a fix it on a tail light and a seatbelt ticket). Every time that I’ve been pulled over it has been justified. Most times for speeding (up to 15 mph over) couple times after I barely missed a yellow light and a few times for rolling through a stop sign. So I’m not a great driver. I attribute my lack of tickets to one simple thing. I respect police officers. I slow down and pull over quickly, cut my engine, turn on the overhead, put the keys on the dash, roll down the window and put my hands on the wheel. A good first impression will go a long way. when the officer tells me why he pulled me over, I acknowledge it without admitting to it, making excuses, or denying it. In my experience officers don’t expect an admission so long as you don’t try to hard to deny it. What they really don’t want to hear is excuses, making excuses just sounds like you believe you are above the law. Above all else I don’t argue with the officer. It’s his job to report it as he sees it. If you want to argue show up to court and argue with a judge. It’s their job to, well, judge the situation. I don’t have any special credentials that make me an expert on getting out of tickets so don’t take anything I say as legal advice. I’m just an ordinary citizen, which in a way makes my advice more valuable than something from an expert. Showing the officer a little respect has saved me from more tickets than I can count. I don’t take it as a free pass to speed or run red lights. I will keep on trying to be a good driver, but in the event I get pulled over I will stick with being respectful, it’s worked so far.

    • This is excellent advice. It may not work every time, but I guarantee that a person being polite has a better chance than a person being a douche of not being written a ticket. The most important piece of info in your comment to me is that on the street is not the time to argue who’s right or wrong. Obviously, the officer stopped you because he or she thinks you were in the wrong so you’re probably not going to change his mind. If he’s willing to listen to your excuses/reasons, great. I often do, but sometimes I don’t. Just take the ticket though and argue with the officer in court. That’s the venue for venting, not on the side of a busy road where the situation can escalate unnecessarily into something where a person gets hurt. Thanks for the comment.

  30. The Hook says:

    Brilliant post.
    Clever, intelligent and heartfelt.
    Well done.

  31. The Hook says:

    By the way, Parking Wars is one of my favorite reality shows!
    Officers such as yourself are the unsung heroes of our streets.

  32. A.J. Goode says:

    Don!!! How did I miss your being Freshly Pressed?! Congratulations– you truly deserved it. This post was beautiful. You, my friend, are a fabulous writer, whether you like to admit it or not.

  33. I couldn’t imagine having to see the things that you have seen. My brother-in-law is an officer, and I know that he has seen things he just won’t talk about. While I rarely take a moment to thank an officer, moving forward, that will change. Thanks for sharing your experience. And thank you for your protection and service.

    • Thanks dad! I don’t like to talk about a lot of things either until I’m ready, if that makes sense. My wife is great with understanding that. Hope the little cutie is doing well.

      • She’s doing great, thanks for asking! And I understand fully… I couldn’t imagine trying to speak about some of the things you have probably seen. Great that you have an understanding wife at home!

  34. Mariette says:

    My goodness, some people! No one likes getting a ticket and I’m sure it’s not the highlight of your day writing them, but the laws are there for a reason, and it’s your job to make sure there followed & we’re all just a bit safer. I can’t imagine having the patience for a woman like the one you met, especially following the loss of that little boy just days before. You’re a good man; keep up the tough work.

    • Thank you Mariette! I actually suck at writing tickets I’d guess. Normally I talk to the driver and if I feel pretty content that they understand that they can get caught pretty easily next time, I just give them a verbal warning.

  35. Saw this today, thought of you–but in a I Know An Open-minded Writer-Cop way, not a Maybe Stalking Isn’t As Hard As It Looks way. http://www.mindful.org/mindful-magazine

  36. Send these along to LC. Tell him he’s gotta watch them in order. They’re true stories about cops told by one of the best comedians in the business. Just skip the obnoxious intro’s on each one.

    1. Making cops laugh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a77Dw3tNv8o
    2. Road trip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtk5Ej-xLsM

  37. Great post. Thank you for putting up with all the crap. Being late doesn’t give anyone the excuse to run a red light and potentially place themselves and a kid’s life in danger.

  38. This post stopped me in my tracks. What a great reminder for us all. You are a crazy good writer.

  39. gypsytrain says:

    Ha, she seriously said, “he’s kind of a big deal”. Is he a bigger deal than stoplights, premature death, or Ron Burgundy? I think not

  40. pegoleg says:

    Thanks for this sobering, heartfelt reminder that the guy in blue writing the ticket isn’t doing it to ruin our day – he’s trying to save lives.

    Great, great post, Don. Congratulations on a richly deserved Freshly Pressed!

  41. sprunger33 says:

    Reblogged this on crazymomof3in2013 and commented:
    What a great post! Unfortunately this is common all over the world.

  42. rossmurray1 says:

    I had a smart-ass comment prepared as I was about a third in, something about the air conditioning not working but the “vent” certainly is. Then you just punched me in the gut. Well written, friend. Don’t worry about answering this; that’s a whole lot of comments up there.

  43. Karl Drobnic says:

    Thank you for writing those tickets. It was the right thing to do in those circumstances.

  44. Pingback: Freshly Impressed #3 | My thoughts on a page.

  45. Very deservedly FP!! I hate it when adults throw temper tantrums. If you speed, run a light, etc., own up to it and take your licks- and don’t do it again. Driving with a kid not buckled in? Reprehensible! I was lucky enough to be involved in a fender bender when I was 15, with my brother driving, where we impacted with a total of maybe 6-10 mph. Being unbelted, there was no way I was NOT going to end up with my head in the windshield; except that my violin case saved me. From that day on, I will not drive without being buckled up and everyone in my car buckled up. I’ve only had 2 people give me shit about it, and I sat there and waited them out.

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