For taking a photo of a parking infraction a Fort Lee, NJ bureaucrat threatens to have me locked up, calls cops
To recap: Around the corner from where I live there is a section of road which had been three’ish parking spots. A white curb, a sign indicating it was for residential parking and one indicating when the town cleans the street. There are also two sign posts on either side of that section of the block which indicate the flow of traffic. Recently “No Stopping or Standing” were added to the outside posts and several individuals on the block have found out the hard way that that now means no parking. Given most people on the block has gotten ticketed you rarely will see a car parked there.
So I get off the bus yesterday (2009-09-09 ~6:05pm) and I see that there are two cars parked on that section of the block. I notice that one of them is the same vehicle we’ve seen parked there times before without receiving a ticket. A car which has a sign on the dashboard saying “official police business.”
I took out my camera to record the fact that this town or bureaucrat owned and “officially” used vehicle was parking in a location which had been designated, at least in practice, as not for parking and it had been parked there regularly negating the likelihood it was actually parked there for “official police business.” I took two quick photos and was turning to leave when I hear yelling coming across the street. I look up to see a woman walking down the steps of a house coming toward me. The footage below is what transcribed after I got the chance to switch on video.
The camera started in my hand and then was clipped to my shirt so please excuse the awful video footage. It may as well been audio but more information the better. Additionally the video was edited for time not content. It’s largely unedited with only the time between the woman’s call to the the police and continued dialog cut. Therefore it may be considered repetitive and long winded due to the constant back and forth. I didn’t have the time to edit it for only the good parts.
- The woman refused to tell me who she is. (Update: On a second listening of the first video it appears her first name is Donna. At about 8m10s in you can hear her as she talks on the phone with someone at the police station. Danny or Daren?)
- She refuses to tell me what official police business she’s claiming to be involved in at that moment.
- She implies that because her car is private property I can’t photograph it while it’s parked on a public street.
- She threatens to have me locked up.
- When I attempt to make the point that her business, in regard to potential illegal parking, is my business because she’s supposedly a public servant and that has a different standard from those who work in private institutions she informs me that I belong in an institution.
- In an accusatory tone asks me if I’m a good Samaritan? Don’t I have a life? A job? Something better I could be doing? Why it’s my business? Why am I looking out for my neighbors? “You trying to get into heaven?”
- She calls the Fort Lee Police department. She appears to do so in a personal rather then professional capacity as any other third party to the police would. Two officers in seperate vehicles show up. Officer 220 (Ordonez (sp?) Part 2 10:15) and 224 (Kutrabenous (sp?) Part 3 3:30).
- Officer 220 started off with an attitude. Informed Laur and myself that “She can park where ever the hell she wants. She works for the city.”
- Officer 220 blocked traffic and when informed was completely unconcerned leaving individuals stuck behind him.
- Laur called him out for being confrontational and his demeanor changed. He ended up agreeing that the signs were contradictory and told us that he’d tell other officers that there was an issue with that section regarding parking and not ticket anyone until the appropriate changes were made to the signs/curb.
- We are told we can’t rely on calling the town to get anything done. It must be done in person. Obviously speaking highly of the town bureaucrat’s level of service.
- Officer 220 claims he generally doesn’t give tickets unless it’s unsafe.
- Officer 224 says at one point that she shouldn’t be parked there regardless of signage due to it being effectively a turning lane.
The woman was totally out of line. I can understand questioning the taking of photos or being ignorant of the others who had received tickets but her attitude was completely uncalled for. Clearly she should not have the “official police business” sign in the window of the car if she is in fact not performing official police business and since it seems obvious she was not in fact performing official police business she was caught lying. She made threats and threw insults. And rather then deal with the supposed issue like mature individuals she called for backup. Called her friends / coworkers at the FLPD likely to come intimidate me. Makes me happy to know I’m forced to pay for her “services.”
Officer 220 was out of line too. He obviously was acting with a bias due to his relationship with the woman. Not only was his demeanor unbecoming but his initial defense of her action and claims she is effectively above the law was a clear sign that they see themselves to be of a privileged class. Not unlike how the NYC traffic cops see themselves. The officer attempts to make lite of the fact that these admittedly “bullshit” tickets will have to be fought in court and likely dropped. As if calling out of work to attend said court date is not often a larger cost then just paying the ticket. Unlike those in many government jobs, those in the productive sector of the economy generally can’t afford to randomly take off to fight a $28 ticket regardless of whether the ticket will be waved or not. He also admits that “for the first couple times” getting a ticket I’ll have to be “inconvinenced” and fight it. Why should I have to be inconvenienced? They made the mistake. They are costing myself and others time and money. Both of which we will never be compensated for. And as many know bureaucrats tend to look out for themselves and while I’m unaware of what goes on in Fort Lee many towns will drop tickets against officers and their friends automatically so the claim they’ve gotten tickets before is likely irrelevant. If indeed these tickets are “bullshit” all “No Stopping or Standing” violations issued in the past month or so should be dropped without any effort required by those who had been issued them.
Officer 224 seemed more calm and reasonable. I was a bit startled though when he lightly grabbed my shirt and leaned in to clearly speak his name into the camera. I honestly didn’t hear his name the first time. He probably shouldn’t have done that but given they didn’t make any issue otherwise of my recording and it was probably completely innocent I’m happy to ignore it. NYPD tend to be far more concerned with cameras and confrontational about them.
So any employees of the FLPD, other officers or random bureaucrats… no hard feelings but know that you aren’t above the law. You’re supposed to work for us and if you step out of line there will be those of us who will record your digressions and publicize them. I would hope that you’d agree that this oversight is necessary and beneficial for all involved. We don’t want any corruption and you shouldn’t want to be associated with corruption. And please learn to regulate yourself in such situations. I’ll admit I got a bit testy but I was the one being threatened, insulted, cut off while speaking and had the cops called on for merely looking out for my neighbors well being.
I’ve considered issuing an official complain against the woman especially since she claimed to be acting in her official capacity. However, this post and video are likely to make their way back to the FLPD and to her and I think her behavior speaks for itself.