incompetent driver + incompetent cop = lousy friday evening

Strawberry Hill Avenue in Norwalk, CT is a one-lane residential street posted 25mph. This street is about 1.5 lanes wide in each direction, but it is still a one-lane street. There are three schools on this street (we live right next door to one of them). The time was between 6:45 and 7:00 pm. Traffic was heavy in both directions. I was making a right turn into our driveway. Or trying to. It was not to be.

Behind me, in a reddish (I think -- it was dark) Grand Am, was Damon Grant, Incompetent Driver and Drummer. Also in this car was Blond Stupid Man (BSM).

Grant, for whatever reason, decides to pass me on the right. Stanley thinks it was because he was following too close, too fast and wasn't paying attention and tried to swerve around me. At any rate, this incompetent driver struck my right front fender as I was turning into my driveway. Grant's car ended up on top of the sidewalk, two piles of ice, and our hedge. I am really glad there were no pedestrians on the sidewalk there or this would have been a tragedy instead of just an extreme annoyance.

So, cursing and shaking, I pulled up alongside Incompetent Driver Grant's car, and turned on the hazard lights. When I could, I got out of the car and asked Grant what the hell was thinking, what kind of a dumbass move was that, etc.

ID Grant: I didn't know what you were doing. You just stopped.
Me: well of course I stopped -- I was turning into my driveway.
SBM: we didn't know what you were doing.
Me: (wondering why SBM needed to know what I was doing as he was not driving) I had my turn indicator on, I was turning ...

More conversation ... I forget it all.

ID Grant and SBM climb out of Grant's car.
ID Grant: What do you want to do?
Me: Call the cops. Do you have a phone, or should I go into my house and call (while writing down the license plate number lest they decide to be totally stupid and bolt -- which ID Grant did not do). SBM digs out a cellphone.
SBM: What's the phone number for the police?
Me: (amazed, then speaking slowly and carefully) 9 - 1 - 1
SBM: But that's the number for emergencies, I can't use that number, blah blah blah
Me: Give me the phone, I'll make the call
SBM finally dialed 911, giving them our address.

We're waiting for one of Norwalk's Finest to show up.
Me: why were you passing me on the right?
ID Grant and SBM: We didn't know what you were doing -- you had your left turn indicator on and pulled over and stopped.
Me: What the hell are you talking about? I had my right turn indicator on and, at any rate, even if I had no turn indicator on, it's still illegal to pass on the right. And I didn't pull over anywhere -- there's nowhere TO pull.
ID Grant the liar: No, you had your left turn indicator on, and we didn't pass you on the right.

And so this non-conversation went. It was clear Grant wasn't enough of an adult to admit that he made a mistake and decided, abetted by SBM, that he would take the dishonorable route of lying and blaming me.

I concluded that he was too childish to deal with further, decided to wait for the cop, and then went to get Stanley -- and asked him to bring the camera for pictures.

Finally, a cop, one Officer Page, shows up. He asked for the story. I tell him my side. Liar Grant tells him his story. Cop doesn't ask any questions, just gets our papers, goes back to his car and begins writing and whatever. Stanley took some pictures, but there was really nothing to see -- my car was knocked out of alignment but no visible damage.

Page finally finishes whatever he needed to do, comes back to us, hands us our papers and says, "You both have the same insurance, so it'll be a wash." That's it? I said something like, "What's the story here? You're not issuing a ticket?" Page said there are conflicting stories, so no ticket. I said "whatever the stories are, it's illegal to pass on the right, so he was wrong." Page said to me: "How many years did you spend in the police academy?"

I was shocked. I gave a lame reply, like "I went to driver's ed." But I was profoundly shocked. Mostly by his rudeness, but also by his incompetence. If I were wrong about the law, he could've just pointed it out. Or he could've just said nothing. But what he did was insult me and, even worse, let this incompetent, lying driver Grant get away without even knowing he did something wrong.

Officer Page did not do his job. He failed in two areas: investigation and prevention. ID Liar Grant lives in my neighborhood, on Lockwood Lane, and will likely be driving on Strawberry Hill Avenue again, and will think it's okay to try to pass on the right. And a couple of minutes of actual investigation by Page would have turned up the fact that MY RIGHT-TURN INDICATOR WAS STILL ON.

I did nothing wrong. But I was the one insulted by a person whose salary I pay.

When I got back in to the house, I called the Norwalk Police Department and asked how I could file a complaint against a police officer. The guy who answered the phone said I needed to speak with a supervisor, and transferred me to the front desk, where Officer Front Desk told me the supervisor would call me back because they were all busy doing something or other. She took my name and number.

I expected to have to call back, but I was wrong: a supervisor, Sgt. Stephen Couture, called me back within the hour. I asked him how to file a formal complaint, and he told me I should come down to the police station before 11:00pm while he and Page were still on duty.

If he hoped that asking me to show up at the police station instead of filing over the phone would somehow avoid the whole thing, he was wrong. Maybe I'm being overly cynical about it, but I doubt it.

Stanley drove me over to the police station. We waited for about ten minutes, and then Sgt. Couture met us and escorted us back to a report room, where I told him my story and my concerns. He said he understood that I feel reprimanded even though I was not at fault, that I was indeed right about it being illegal to pass on the right (and explained the circumstances where it is legal, though on most of Strawberry Hill Avenue, there are no circumstances where it is legal), and that Officer Page was wrong to have said what he said.

Couture said he hadn't seen the accident report yet, but based on what we'd told him, it should've been fairly obvious what had happened. He gave me a copy of the statute regarding passing on the right. He talked to us for a bit about our concerns about the traffic on Strawberry Hill Avenue and my observation that I rarely see the police doing anything about it, and that I didn't think anything will be done until a child is killed on the way to school.

He then told us that Page has been at a call where an old woman was stroking out and had spent a long time there trying to resuscitate her (successfully), etc. I told him that was no excuse for rudeness, that when I had to work in an emergency room if we'd been rude to anyone for any reason we would've been fired on the spot, and that despite the fact that I'd just had my new car (well, it is new to me) hit and I was upset, I was not rude to Page, and that we pay way, way too much in taxes (we pay more than $4,000 a year in property taxes -- and we don't live in a mansion on a huge plot of land, not by a long shot) to take any abuse from any Norwalk employee.

If Page didn't think before he shot off his mouth, that makes me VERY concerned. This man carries a gun -- he MUST think before he does ANYTHING.

While Sgt. Couture was very sympathetic and a pleasant man to deal with, I wasn't mollified. There needs to be consequences for bad behavior, whether it's an illegal pass or a smart-ass comment by an officer of the law. ID Liar Grant's consequence is that his pretty car has some ugly damage (including a torn-off side mirror and some dandy scratches from the hedge), and his insurance rates are likely to go up. But the only way there could be consequences for Page's bad behavior is if I filed a formal complaint.

So I did. I don't know exactly what is supposed to happen, but I have a receipt and instruction from Sgt. Couture to call him if I haven't heard anything in about a week.

Stanley wasn't so crazy about the fact that I did this -- like most people, he's afraid of repercussions by Page or by the Norwalk police in general. That innocent citizens should fear their police department offends me to my very American core. That police officers should get away with bad behavior -- whether it's a smart-ass, rude comment by a cop or even more serious offenses -- because of this fear is even more appalling. "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." (Edmund Burke) It seems like a trivial matter, not worthy of all this effort. But it's a slippery slope -- where does one draw the line? If a cop is having a bad day, will that justify anything?

My next step is to write to Mayor Alex Knopp.

What I would like is a written apology from Page, with a copy of the complaint and the letter of apology placed into his personnel jacket, some more training for Page since he obviously needs it, and for the Norwalk PD to contact ID Liar Damon Grant and let him know that he really did do something wrong -- and I want proof that they did this.

Stay tuned ...
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 01/11/03 at 11:42 AM
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