I like law enforcement. I spent 20 years covering crime, riding with police and firefighters, sitting in trial, covering stories. If you know me, especially if you are in law enforcement, you know this. For the rest of you, I want to start by saying I do not now, nor have I ever had it out for anyone. I do believe that the same way we taxpayers who pay the salaries follow rules enforced by the police, the officers are also subject to rules and can’t just do whatever they please, for whatever reason they choose.
On March 3, I was coming through Adair about 5:15 – the way I do most every week day. I noticed the law enforcement contingent was parked at Dollar General wih their lights going. I turned onto Highway 28. When I was passing the school, at 30 miles an hour, a police SUV flew up behind me and drove so close to my back window, if I had tapped my brakes he’d have hit me. It was dangerously close tailgating. I thought he was probably going to a wreck. He couldn’t go around me because there is a bottle neck of traffic at the school around that time. I was meeting a steady stream of cars, all creeping along at the school speed limit. He turned his lights on about at the county barn. I thought he was just really anxious to get around me. I pulled off at Larry’s. Derned if he didn’t come in behind me.
The guy gets out and goes right up to my back window to look in my car. He looked in the side windows on both sides. He stopped me to look in the back of my car. I have no doubt of that because it’s what he did. There was something in there alright, an empty orange lick tub I use to keep my groceries from rolling around.
When he fnally got up to my window, he asked if I had my license on me. At no time did he ever ask for my insurance.
“Do you have a medical condition?” I said no.
“Are you under the influence of anything?” I said no.
He said I was all over the road and he thought I must have a medical condition or be under the influence of something. Now if I had been all over the road, I would have caused someone to go in the ditch or hit me, because there was traffic. Nobody honked at me. Nobody made rude gestures. And we were going very slow. I might have waivered a little when he drove up on me so close and tailgated, but I was not all over the road. What he was doing was fishing. He was looking for something and he had to have an excuse for stopping me. I don’t care so much that he was fishing, if he had just said have a nice day and let me go. But he asked me questions. Where I’m going, where I work. None of that was right after he discovered there was nothing wrong with me, I was not under the influence and apparently whatever he was looking for in that lick tub was not there. Also, it was not a routine traffic stop because he never asked for my insurance verification.
I hate to be wooled around and that’s what he was doing, so the next morning I called town hall to get on the agenda and tell the council my story. I just wanted them to know what happened and what the people who live in the town are paying for. The stop would not have bothered me so much if he hadn’t kept saying I must have a medical condition, and if when he realized he wasn’t going to find what he was looking for he had let me go on my way. In an effort to keep the whole thing quiet, the clerk told me Officer Carlos has a body cam and she would ask the Chief of Police, Glen Parham I learned his name was, to look at it. I said fine, maybe the chief could just call me after he sees the video. I knew that the body cam can be turned on and off at any time and it might or might not show the whole situation. Jeannie Gingrich the town clerk was very nice that time. I figured I’d get a call saying sorry the guy overstepped a little and that would be the end of it. From March 4 to March 29, I heard nothing.
So, I called to get on the agenda. Ms. Gingrich was not so nice this time. She told me they had all looked at the video and the officer did nothing wrong. I asked if the video showed me going all over the road which was the reason for the stop. Of course it doesn’t. Of course it also doesn’t show him walking right up to the back of my car to look in, nor his looking in the side windows on each side. She said she would set it up for me to see the video before I got on the agenda because the officer did nothing wrong, but then she made a little threat. She said Carlos had a passenger who would be his witness and they would both be there if I got on the agenda. Oh I see, there is no proof of the swerving that caused the stop, there is no proof of the officer searching my car through the windows, which was what he obviously wanted to do, but there is a witness, D. J. Peper, who would say I was swerving and there was nothing to my wild accusation that I was stopped so Carlos could look in my car. Two against one and no proof. And of course Carlos would say he asked me questions because his concern for me and my medical condition was so great.
Whatever the body cam shows it will not tell the tale of what made me mad about the stop. On a pretext, I was stopped so an officer could look inside my car, which it is illegal for him to do. I am writing this so the people paying this man to do a job will know how he spends their money. I will never know what he was looking for, but I guess an orange lick tub wasn’t it.