Read that carefully: I have a thing with law enforcement, not for law enforcement.
What that means is that, over the past 20 years, I’ve amassed a fairly high number of, shall we say, random meetings with law enforcement officers, usually on the side of the road. I blame the officers themselves, really, at least the ones in the early days. For 12 years I was married to a cop – first he was a small town officer, then a deputy sheriff and then eventually a police officer in the city I was working – and for six of those years I covered crime as a reporter.
I knew the members of the law enforcement fraternity and I knew them fairly well. I drank beer with some of them, went to ball games and parties with them. I threw showers for their weddings and first babies and they (or their wives) threw showers for mine. We were family.
And, as family members often do, they would tend to look the other way when minor infractions occur, like when I would drive 65 in a 55 on my way to work. In 13 years of commuting to work, I was pulled over 33 times – but only received three tickets. I was scolded – a lot. One state patrol officer – a man I actually knew from high school – took his hat off and yelled at me, but didn’t write a ticket. Another trooper gave me a warning – then blew his copy up into an 8×10 replica and left it on my husband’s desk.
You can see how the habit was fed. If you do something, get caught and don’t get into trouble, what’s the motivation to stop doing it?
After my divorce and move out to eastern Iowa, the one thing that I forgot was that I didn’t know the officers out here. I’d go speeding by and get pulled over, but there was no turning the other way, no “speeding forgiveness.” Not even a lecture. Just a ticket. And it didn’t take too long for the tickets to add up and for me to get a personalized invitation to driver’s school.
That essentially ended my speeding habit, as well as my getting pulled over on a regular basis. In the last five years I think I’ve been pulled over three times and have gotten one ticket.
Until this month. In less than two weeks I was pulled over twice, and both were symbolic of just how bored the police in my little burg must be.
The first time was a Monday afternoon (Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birthday, so I wasn’t at work) and I had borrowed a friend’s Hyundai Sante Fe to pick up an entertainment center my daughter bought online. Halfway there I passed a police officer on the side of the road – and he quickly got behind me and turned on his lights.
The offense: A headlight was out. (Ooooh, call in SWAT. Did I mention it was the middle of the afternoon?) I told him it wasn’t my car, he didn’t write a ticket and told me to fix the light. I said I’d pass the message along.
Two nights ago I was driving home from the gym and got a block away from home when, again, a police car got behind me and turned on his lights. I could swear it was the same officer.
This offense: A broken plate bulb. Yes, that’s right, the little bitty bulb over my rear license plate was out, and apparently it’s against Iowa Code to not have your license plate illuminated. Cuff me officer, I can’t believe this danger to society is still walking the streets.
I guess I should be happy that the police department in my community is so under-worked because of the low amount of crime that they have to find silly reasons to pull people over — but trust me, when it comes to random meeting of officers I’m well over my quota.