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Old 02-03-08, 12:03 PM   #1
Eli_Damon
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police officer's inappropriate behavior

I was wondering if any of you had any advice on how to deal with this guy. I have encountered him twice so far.

Yesterday, I went to the Hadley police station to report being harassed by a schoolbus driver while I was riding. He started out by telling me that I was violating the law by riding there. He also told me that the driver's behavior could not be considered criminal because the driver did not make an explicit threat (e.g. "I will run you over."). I happen to know that neither of these are true. He also made up stuff that he added to my story and then, when I repeated my story, he accused me of having changed my story because it didn't have any of the stuff that he had added. It seemed that he was lying in order to make it look like I was either lying or confused. He strenuously resisted filing my report, although I eventually got him to do it.

What do you think I should do?
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Old 02-03-08, 12:14 PM   #2
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Perhaps a backstory might aid us in understanding the situation. So far all I've seen is a bit of I said / He said.
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Old 02-03-08, 12:14 PM   #3
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There are usually places you can file a complaint against police officers. You can either file it with the officer's supervisor, or with a municipal (civilian) watchdog.
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Old 02-03-08, 12:18 PM   #4
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I was wondering if any of you had any advice on how to deal with this guy. I have encountered him twice so far.

Yesterday, I went to the Hadley police station to report being harassed by a schoolbus driver while I was riding. He started out by telling me that I was violating the law by riding there. He also told me that the driver's behavior could not be considered criminal because the driver did not make an explicit threat (e.g. "I will run you over."). I happen to know that neither of these are true. He also made up stuff that he added to my story and then, when I repeated my story, he accused me of having changed my story because it didn't have any of the stuff that he had added. It seemed that he was lying in order to make it look like I was either lying or confused. He strenuously resisted filing my report, although I eventually got him to do it.

What do you think I should do?
Our interpretations of things are much more biased by our prejudices than we realize, and police are not immune from this. That's a more likely explanation for what is going on, coupled with a desire to not have to deal with the hassle of filing what he probably genuinely believes to be a pointless report, than deliberate lying on his part.

Be friendly and make sure you don't have a chip on your shoulder. Try to get the guy to like you and relate to your story before you tell it to him, and read him as you are telling it (something we are unable to do on this forum - which leads to a lot of communication problems), and adjust accordingly.

Also, play dumb (but do it convincingly or don't do it all - if he realizes you're playing him it will backfire). "You mean I'm not allowed to ride on that road? I had no idea! Would you be so kind as to tell me which law I'm violating when I ride there?" "Huh, so when a bus driver yells angrily 'GET OUT OF THE ROAD!' and drives dangerously and aggressively close to me, that's not legally threatening my life?" As long as you believe there is at least the tiniest possibility that he might be right, you should be able to ask questions like this genuinely and honestly.
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Old 02-03-08, 12:33 PM   #5
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I was wondering if any of you had any advice on how to deal with this guy. I have encountered him twice so far.

Yesterday, I went to the Hadley police station to report being harassed by a schoolbus driver while I was riding.
Most Cops know as much about bicycle laws as the BF intarweb legal eagles that post here
know about reality. I would imagine defending a bicyclist is lower than Crossing Guard detail.
Call the school district and file a complaint. Bus Co's are mostly contractors and the School
District has leverage over them in some ways. If they are a contractor, call the company
who should be available easiliy through public record, and tell them you are going be a
problem for them until this is rectified. They dont want problems and will probably tell
Bubba to cool his jets when passing you and it will be done with. Good luck .
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Old 02-03-08, 12:42 PM   #6
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Tell us the story with the bus?
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Old 02-03-08, 01:19 PM   #7
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Tell us the story with the bus?
Yes, yes, tell us.
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Old 02-03-08, 01:41 PM   #8
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Sometimes the only way to get proper attention is to video tape the incidents with the bus driver. You will then be able to SHOW the police officer (and anyone else, in case he isn't responsive). No more he said/he said, just the facts.
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Old 02-04-08, 07:30 AM   #9
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Get the school bus number and district and file a complaint with the school district .I don't think the school want's one of there bus drivers going toe to toe with a cyclist,especiallly with kiddies on board.As previously posted go to the cops supervisor.
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Old 02-04-08, 01:17 PM   #10
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Tell us the story with the bus?
I did follow up with the bus company and the registry of motor vehicles about the schoolbus driver but the story isn't that interesting. I'm much more concerned about the officer's behavior.

Anyway, I was riding on a road with one narrow lane per direction. The schoolbus came up behind me but couldn't pass. There was heavy traffic in the opposite direction. I was at the right edge of my lane, which left enough room for small cars to squeeze by but definately no enough room for a schoolbus. So the driver honked and yelled continously until, after about two minutes, we approached an intersection where the road widened. The bus passed me and stopped at the red light. I stopped right behind it and read its license plate number. It was not the worst motorist behavior I've experienced but it was the first incident in which I was able to get the license plate number and I did not want to waste that opportunity.

The story of the first time I encountered this police officer is a little more interesting. About a year ago, I was returning from having a root canal (divided highway, two narrow lanes per direction). A guy in a pickup truck (they always seem to be the worst, don't they?) came up behind and held down the horn continuous until finally he passed me and turned into a driveway. I thought that this would a great opportunity to talk to him about his hostility so turned into the driveway too and tried to talk to him. It didn't go very well and he ended up grabbing me by the throat and throwing me to the ground. I called the police and the officer who responded argued that I was responsible for having been attacked. Having just been attacked by a total stranger, which had never happened to me before, I was somewhat dazed and not able to be as assertive as I should have been. So I allowed the officer to avoid filing a report. My mom has a friend who is a lawyer (criminal defense) and this lawyer called the officer and asked him about the incident. To her, the officer accused me of continually changing my story about the attack. As I said, I was a little dazed so I might have been unclear about the order of events but I certainly had been consistent about the events themselves. I knew who had said and did what even if I was not clear on when. Anyway, my throat was sore for a while but I was not seriously injured. I gave up on the incident and resolved to be more careful next time.
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Old 02-04-08, 04:56 PM   #11
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Sound like the school bus driver, although guilty of being a jerk, didn't actually do anything that the officer could press charges for, but the first instance where you were grabbed by the throat is a different story.

All I can say is that if anything similar happens in the future, make your statement in writing and refer back to that statement so nobody can say that you've been "changing your story".

Stay safe
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Old 02-04-08, 04:59 PM   #12
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In your story from a year ago you initiated contact with a fellow that had demonstrated buttheadedness and "thought that this would be a great opportunity to talk to him about *his* hostility" thereby getting yourself roughed up. You then expected the City Employee (aka this police officer) to do what? Issue a citation to Butthead on your say so? Arrest him? For what? You physically approached him at a place he probably had a legal right to be (where you may not have had similar access rights) to discuss "hostility". A wide range of guesses could be made about what you said and how you said it, but without digressing, Butthead probably had his side to share with the Officer. In the view of the Officer you created the situation by not just going on down the road when you had the chance, which would have obliged him to cite you, not Butthead, for whatever crime would end up in front of some local judge.

You carry your perspective into your report of being "harassed" by a school bus driver, again, expecting him to do what? Do you really think that the folks that run your town and oversee the Police Department want to go to court to discuss citations and/or arrests made by Police Officers based solely on reports of offensive behavior made by you? Maybe you should run for office in your town on that platform and see how you do.

For good or bad, that's not how 99.9% of the Police Departments work. I don't care how many of them have "To Serve and Protect" painted on their fenders. If you get flattened by a School Bus, the Police will make a report because there is evidence admissable in a court of law that you were killed. If somebody can *prove* (or plausibly argue) that your squishing was intentional or due to negligence, and who done it, the DA *might* decide to prosecute and ask a Judge to issue a warrant. Then, and only then, will the Police Officer get into his car and go do something. That is, if the DA doesn't hear about your rep and decide you were probably trying to create an "incident" and just got accidentally run over.

So your original question was how to deal with this guy. If you are sincere, take some time to find out what Police Powers are, and what Police Officers can and cannot do. If you study well, you will find out that he did you a favor in the first instance, and you didn't give him anything worth doing in the second. If he remembers you like you remember him, you've got a heckuva reputation to overcome. If you can't bring yourself to apologize to him, and explain (convincingly) that you were the one causing problems, at a minimum you've got to stop making reports that people are being mean to you.

The majority of the murders in this country are committed by people that know each other. Many of those murders are preceded by a long list of Police reports of serious crimes (e.g. assault & battery) and in some cases, legal restraining orders. The victims still die when the perp ignores the paperwork and kills them anyway. Somebody honks at you in an impolite way and you want to deploy that same legal system? To what end? To engender fear in the local driving population that a vehicular slight committed against you will land them on the local Police Blotter? Let me suggest you don't want to ride around town on your bike with *that* reputation.

I don't like to be honked at any more than the next person, but you make your choice about how you may be treated, what the results will be, and what you can control when you choose your vehicle. When I'm on my bike I do the best I can to take care of myself, I don't pick fights with people strange to me, and I have no delusions that any Law Enforcement organization is going to make everybody drive nice on my say so. If they *see* something happen they *might* write a ticket; but that could go well or not-so-well for me.

I am treated differently when I drive my pickup truck (I'll bet you knew I was one of "them" all along) but it's funnier when some guy in a Honda Fit is trying to intimidate me by honking and driving within inches of my Class III hitch receiver because I'm doing the speed limit or honoring a bicyclists right-of-way up a hill where I can't see to pass or opposing traffic makes it too tight a squeeze.

Most folks get over those kinds of things pretty quickly though...
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Old 02-04-08, 06:13 PM   #13
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In your story from a year ago you initiated contact with a fellow that had demonstrated buttheadedness and "thought that this would be a great opportunity to talk to him about *his* hostility" thereby getting yourself roughed up. [...]
I admit that I made a bad judgement. However, (1) it was a public place so I had every right to be there, (2), my approaching him and arguing with him, which is not at all illegal, does not warrant his physically attacking me, (3) regardless of the fact that the police officer did not have enough evidence to warrant pressing charges on my behalf, he should still have taken me seriously and treated me with some sympathy rather than immediately assuming that I was not credible and (4) he should not have resisted taking my statement.

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You carry your perspective into your report of being "harassed" by a school bus driver, again, expecting him to do what? [...]
I expected him to (1) be familiar with the law, (2) represent his knowledge of the law truthfully, (3) acknowledge that the driver's behavior, as I reported it, was threatening and therefore was an example of a pattern that the police should be somewhat concerned about, and (4) take my statement so as to establish a pattern of behavior in case the driver was involved in another incident.

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For good or bad, that's not how 99.9% of the Police Departments work. [...]
I know that and I considered it a problem to be addressed. That is why I am discussing it in the "ADVOCACY & Safety" forum.

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[...] If you can't bring yourself to apologize to him, and explain (convincingly) that you were the one causing problems, at a minimum you've got to stop making reports that people are being mean to you.
I consider it more than meanness. It is a threat. I think that most other cyclists and would-be cyclists would consider it a threat and I believe that the driver intended it as a threat even if they did not intend to follow through on it.

I find your attitude upsetting. If you brought the same attitude to a discussion of sexual or racial harassment, you would be on the express route to pariahhood. "Motorists will be motorists" does not fly any better than "boys will be boys".
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Old 02-05-08, 05:46 AM   #14
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Maybe a peace offering to the bus driver. Drivers don't just hate cyclists, they hate all other drivers as well. So perhaps a gift of some sort to convert the bus driver to an ally. I think a fresh cup of coffee and quality donuts once a month would do nicely. And don't mess with it at all. Just a nice cup of Joe. You'd be the only person on the road that has ever done diddly squat for the driver and would have to think of you as a human being, if not a new friend.

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Old 02-05-08, 07:04 AM   #15
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I admit that I made a bad judgement. However, (1) it was a public place so I had every right to be there, (2), my approaching him and arguing with him, which is not at all illegal, does not warrant his physically attacking me, (3) regardless of the fact that the police officer did not have enough evidence to warrant pressing charges on my behalf, he should still have taken me seriously and treated me with some sympathy rather than immediately assuming that I was not credible and (4) he should not have resisted taking my statement.



I expected him to (1) be familiar with the law, (2) represent his knowledge of the law truthfully, (3) acknowledge that the driver's behavior, as I reported it, was threatening and therefore was an example of a pattern that the police should be somewhat concerned about, and (4) take my statement so as to establish a pattern of behavior in case the driver was involved in another incident.



I know that and I considered it a problem to be addressed. That is why I am discussing it in the "ADVOCACY & Safety" forum.



I consider it more than meanness. It is a threat. I think that most other cyclists and would-be cyclists would consider it a threat and I believe that the driver intended it as a threat even if they did not intend to follow through on it.

I find your attitude upsetting. If you brought the same attitude to a discussion of sexual or racial harassment, you would be on the express route to pariahhood. "Motorists will be motorists" does not fly any better than "boys will be boys".
Well there you go, that's probably the basis of your frustration.

First, while you don't think it is illegal to approach someone (a stranger?) for the purpose of arguing with them, you're actions easily and quickly cross over to assault. All the other person has to say is that they felt threatened by you and took steps to defend themselves. If you compound your poor judgement by approaching a stranger with something in your hand (e.g. a tire pump, a water bottle that could be metal, a bike lock, etc) in most states they can kill you (if they do it quickly) and will not be charged with any serious crime.

"Well your Honor, I'm not sure what happened. I tooted my horn at this bicyclist to let him know I was there when I passed him, the next thing I know I turn around and there he is screaming at me about something with what looked like a club in his hand, so I hit him once with a tire iron. I feel real bad that it killed him." Case closed.

So you're mad because you got no sympathy from the Cop? Well, some people deal better with hot heads than others. I'll feel sorry for you if it makes you feel better. However, if the Cop let you off without an assault charge and thinks you're a nut for insisting he "take your statement" or whatever, I'm hard pressed to say he committed any actionable infractions. We may all wish for some "Andy Taylor" type to come by and make us all feel better, but you ain't gonna find that in anybody's job description.

HERE'S AN IMPORTANT POINT YOU SHOULD LEARN. Attributing threatening *intent* to common behaviors (like honking at someone on the road or passing too closely) is virtually impossible based on second-hand accounts. As I replied in my last post, if the Cop is actually there to see the "threat" he/she *might* write a ticket based on their personal, verifiable, training and experience. On the other hand, walking up to a stranger and initiating a confrontation *is* a threatening behavior where *intent* is much more easily attributed to the initiator.

Now my tactic of trivializing the "threats" you suffered as "meanness" is an effort to give you a perspective more in line with the legal system you expect to do "something". Nobody hit you, stopped and beat you (or walked up to you to discuss your pig headedness over road usage) so realize there isn't anything this Cop is going to do for you. The problem you create for yourself is that if you ever do call 911 from a ditch your credibility as a level headed road user trying to mind his own business is shot as far as this Cop is concerned. This is not good for you.

Finally, I never said "boys will be boys" or anything like that. You're adding that from your "attitude" and are therefore "lying" and not being "sympathetic" to my opinion.

You should work on that. I'm outta time and gotta go. (wave)
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Old 02-05-08, 07:51 AM   #16
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mitty, you're a piece of work. or a piece of something else.


bicyclists get the short end of the stick by law enforcement, eli. it's reprehensible.
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Old 02-05-08, 07:58 AM   #17
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mitty, you're a piece of work. or a piece of something else.
Bekologist, you are entitled to your opinion. Mine is that WalterMitty was right on target with his analysis of the OP's conduct and the OP's emotionally inflated expectations of an "appropriate" police response to the given situation. WalterMitty gave sound advice to the OP.
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Old 02-05-08, 08:52 AM   #18
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curmudgeons unite!

assault is not a laughing matter, and neither is police bias against bicyclists. Have you read Mionske's "Bicycling and the Law" yet, ILTB?
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Old 02-05-08, 09:53 AM   #19
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curmudgeons unite!

assault is not a laughing matter, and neither is police bias against bicyclists. Have you read Mionske's "Bicycling and the Law" yet, ILTB?
No. Does it advise cyclists to follow strangers to their destination and/or go out of their way to accost obnoxious motorists on the street in order inform/educate them on the error of their ways?
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Old 02-05-08, 09:58 AM   #20
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mitty, you're a piece of work. or a piece of something else.


bicyclists get the short end of the stick by law enforcement, eli. it's reprehensible.
Well Bekologist, I do appreciate your leaving the option open...

I think that everybody that thinks law enforcement can manage or solve society's unsatisfactory interactions will always be disappointed. It would take too long to list all of the groups that feel they are ignored/oppressed/abused/mistreated by law enforcement. I will say that all of the various groups can give examples to bolster their cases, from "Driving While Black" to "MADD" to "DAMM" to battered wives to the ACLU and beyond.

By understanding what law enforcement can and cannot do, we can work the system to our benefit.

If one of those nasty pickup truck drivers (especially that giant Ford turbo diesel model with rear view mirrors the size of barn doors) gets too close to me (i.e. close enough for me to touch the mirror) I may vigorously "readjust" that right side mirror. If the Cro-Magnon operator takes issue with the adjustment, I offer to call the Police for him. I draw my cell phone from my jersey pocket (the pocket with the phone in it, not the one with the gun in it) and show it in my left hand while dialing his tag number. I offer that it's probably best to let the Cops sort this out because in this state we have a three foot law and if any part of my body came into contact with his truck the LEO can decide if he's gonna cite the driver for hitting me or for violating the 3 foot rule. And while I'm thinking about it, my shoulder kinda hurts and I may need to see a Doctor. "What do you want to do Sooper Doody Boy?" (my shoulder was separated in a motorcycle dismount years ago but nobody needs to know that)

I'm not saying this ever happened, but the deck is stacked (by me) to give me satisfaction no matter what SDB's next step may be. You write the ending. [No Cro-Magnons were harmed in the creation of this story]

And then there's times some blue-haired lady is bearing down on me with her right tire on the shoulder (and I'm just left of the white line) and I let her have the road. I always yield to greater mass. Should I turn Grandma in for driving by sense of feel? Probably, and I might if I have time while crashing through the bar ditch to record her tag number and vehicle make and model. But I won't come off as a whiner, or pest to whatever LEO takes my report, or feel victimized if I don't get an "official incident report" recorded in my honor. I'd much rather have a School Bus Driver that sees me, honk like a raving lunatic until I can get someplace wide enough to give way.

The realm of Law Enforcement is that region of activity after a provable crime has been committed. Manage the crime, manage the criminal, and be a friend of law enforcement everywhere. You help yourself, you help our cause, and you will "heap burning coals" on the heads of our enemies.

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Old 02-05-08, 10:13 AM   #21
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Kudos, WalterMitty
You have done a good job of trying to explain what the "forest" looks like. It is unlikely that the people standing around looking at this or that tree is going to listen.
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Old 02-05-08, 10:16 AM   #22
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this thread is quite interesting as it is a microcosm. There is often no black and white and it is left to individual preferences and prejudices to decide what behaviour is appropriate in a given situation. You can take mitty´s view or you can take Bekologist´s. You can debate it but it is the the preferences and prejudices generated by people with decision making power, e.g police officers, and usually not bike forum members that are more important. These prejudices and preferences depend on various factors such as their own experiences and how they perceive the status of the parties and the prevailing attitudes of society. Mainly I think it is just who the police officer identifies with. If they don´t cycle then they are more likely to sympathise with a frustrated motor vehicle operator than a cyclist. What Mitty says about the inconvenient lack of any corpses making prosecutions difficult is of course correct. But I think the OP realised this and just wanted someone to take his complaint seriously and perhaps have a word with he driver and tell him/her to cool it. We all know what it is like to be threatened by a motor vehicle driver and it is like being threatened with a weapon. But sadly it is hard to change attitudes in the short term.

Unfortunately it would appear that where the OP lives little emphasis is placed on protecting cyclists from threats and harrassment. This attitude spreads and creates a culture where cyclists are forced off the roads. This isn´t surprising but is sad.
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Old 02-05-08, 11:13 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by WalterMitty View Post
If one of those nasty pickup truck drivers (especially that giant Ford turbo diesel model with rear view mirrors the size of barn doors) gets too close to me (i.e. close enough for me to touch the mirror) I may vigorously "readjust" that right side mirror. If the Cro-Magnon operator takes issue with the adjustment, I offer to call the Police for him. I draw my cell phone from my jersey pocket (the pocket with the phone in it, not the one with the gun in it) and show it in my left hand while dialing his tag number. I offer that it's probably best to let the Cops sort this out because in this state we have a three foot law and if any part of my body came into contact with his truck the LEO can decide if he's gonna cite the driver for hitting me or for violating the 3 foot rule. And while I'm thinking about it, my shoulder kinda hurts and I may need to see a Doctor. "What do you want to do Sooper Doody Boy?" (my shoulder was separated in a motorcycle dismount years ago but nobody needs to know that)
Oh boy ... that is quite good. If you did manage to think of this on the fly, then it was absolutely brilliant. If you thought of this in preparation for such an event, then it is just an "average" moment of brilliance.
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Old 02-05-08, 01:31 PM   #24
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I did follow up with the bus company and the registry of motor vehicles about the schoolbus driver but the story isn't that interesting. I'm much more concerned about the officer's behavior.
Tell it anyway. You brought it up in the OP. Besides, it may be very interesting to others who have had a problem with a bus driver but not a year long history with a cop.
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Old 02-05-08, 01:34 PM   #25
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Well there you go, that's probably the basis of your frustration.

First, while you don't think it is illegal to approach someone (a stranger?) for the purpose of arguing with them, you're actions easily and quickly cross over to assault. All the other person has to say is that they felt threatened by you and took steps to defend themselves. If you compound your poor judgement by approaching a stranger with something in your hand (e.g. a tire pump, a water bottle that could be metal, a bike lock, etc) in most states they can kill you (if they do it quickly) and will not be charged with any serious crime.

A few comments about this paragraph:

1) The OP never said anything about holding a weapon or anything that might appear to be a weapon. Don't blame him for something that he didn't do.
2) The OP is correct that it is not illegal to approach someone with the intent of arguing with them and his actions as described don't come close to assault.
3) In most states one will be charged with a serious crime if they end up killing you. The exceptions, in a few states, occur when they feel that their life or the life of someone else is in danger and if there is reasonable grounds for feeling that way. They can't just say "I felt threatened so I killed the guy". That's a sure ticket to the penitentiary in any state.

While I agree with you that it's poor judgement to do what the OP said he did, you're going way overboard in making these statements.
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