Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Better Person Than Most

When the name appeared in an online news feed this week, we recognized it immediately, even though the name had otherwise not been in the news for quite some time.

Steven McDonald.

The Steven McDonald who, as a New York City police officer in 1986, was shot by a 15-year-old assailant, rendering McDonald paralyzed from the neck down.

The Steven McDonald who, as someone confined to a wheelchair and requiring the help of a respirator to breathe, publicly forgave his assailant and who stated that if people wished to receive forgiveness, they had to show it to others.

The Steven McDonald whose son, Conor, born six months after the shooting, is today a sergeant with the NYPD and represents the fourth generation of the family to serve in the department.

Steven McDonald died this week, following a heart attack.  He was 59.

The Steven McDonald whose dedication, courage, and indomitable spirit made this wheelchair-bound man stand taller than most able-bodied people.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Rapid Repeat Offender

Earlier this week, a local police department arrested an individual twice in the same day for essentially the same offense.

The first arrest occurred shortly after noon when an off-duty police officer spotted what he believed was a drug transaction involving a person in a white Volkswagen Jetta.  A patrol officer pulled over the Jetta and found several hypodermic needles and a bag with heroin residue in the car.  The driver was then issued summonses for possession of heroin paraphernalia and possession of a hypodermic needle, and released.

Only a few hours later, while conducting surveillance of known heroin traffickers, members of the Selective Enforcement Team spotted the driver of a white Volkswagen Jetta – whom they later determined to be the same individual arrested earlier in the day – meeting with one of their surveillance subjects.  When officers stopped the Volkswagen this time, they found that the driver had ten wax folds of heroin.

This time he was charged with possession of heroin and possession of heroin paraphernalia, and this time he was lodged in the County Jail.

There is, many assert, an epidemic of heroin use in the suburban region in which these arrests occurred.   That an arrest would not deter someone from continuing to seek heroin in the same town in the same car on the same afternoon only underscores that assertion.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Hoon Once and Start Walking

Not very many Americans are familiar with the word “hoon” and the verb, “hooning.”  Hoon is a term with its roots in Australia and New Zealand, and today it refers to anyone who engages in loutish, anti-social behavior.  Hooning, then, is the act of behaving like a hoon, or being, in another permutation of the word, a hoonigan – a verbal mash-up of hoon and hooligan.

Hooning today is a word used predominantly in reference to driving.  Reckless driving, driving a noisy vehicle, performing burnouts, that sort of thing.  While such behavior is anti-social by the standards of modern society, it like many anti-social acts is celebrated in popular culture.  There is a series of YouTube “Hoonigan” videos featuring the admittedly-impressive vehicle-control skills of rally driver Ken Block, and every weekend such behavior is also seen in the victory burnouts performed by NASCAR drivers here in the US.

But back in Australia, hooniganism on the public roads reached a point where the authorities found it necessary to pass what they freely term “anti-hooning laws.”  And these laws have teeth: Once charged with three hooning offenses, one would have one’s vehicle confiscated.  But under the latest revisions of the anti-hoon laws in Australia this past summer, it could take just a single hooning charge to lose one’s car.

A single hooning offense in a school zone could result in the driver losing his or her car, as could a first offense of speeding by more than 90km/h over the limit.  And when you lose your car, you truly lose it.  There will be no getting it back upon payment of a fine or completion of community service or jail time.  Roadworthy cars are auctioned off, while unroadworthy vehicles are sold for scrap.  Profits are directed to road safety programs.

Under the previous three-hoons-and-you’re-out laws, police figures reported that more than 2000 cars were confiscated in 2015 and since 2014 more than 900 vehicles have been auctioned off for more than $1 million.

Twenty-four covert “hoon cameras” monitored by police at strategic locations were proposed with the updated laws, to help with enforcement and lead to more confiscations.

We’re not close to having such confiscatory legislation here in the US, but if vehicular hooniganism should increase, it is not unreasonable to expect legislation to be proposed to combat such a rise.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

News Headline of the Week

From the home page of a regional newspaper yesterday:

Man Driving Naked with Open Beer Crashes into Five Cars

As the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up.

Not surprisingly, the driver failed a field sobriety test.  He was then charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and operating a vehicle with an open container of alcohol.  Either there was no statute readily-applicable to his sartorial choice, or the officers on the scene chose the more expeditious route: A cover-up.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

But I’m Only Going One Way

The office window overlooks a section of a busy New Jersey state highway, which is two lanes in one direction at this point.  The two lanes going in the opposite direction are a block away.

It is a beautiful sunny afternoon, and we just glanced up in time to see a motorist headed the wrong way, dutifully minding the speed limit but blissfully ignorant of the One Way signs at every intersection.

From our vantage point this appears to happen about once a month.  Obviously it happens more often, because we can see just two blocks of the road and the one-way portion of this highway is several miles long.

We cringe every time we see one.  Will a driver moving in the correct direction fail to notice?  Will a pedestrian step off the curb, not expecting a car from that side?  Will a driver at a cross street also not look that way?

Somewhat predictably, shortly after the car disappeared from our view we heard the blare of a car horn, as another driver attempted to alert the wayward traveler.  No sounds of a crash, no screech of tires, so with luck it is likely that the problem resolved itself that quickly.

Anyone can make a mistake, but it is hard to be sympathetic to a driver who fails to notice not only the One Way signs but also the Wrong Way signs, the angle parking that serves only the other direction of travel, and the two lanes of oncoming traffic!   However, we have also seen drivers who have made a conscious choice to drive in the wrong direction on this road, deciding, apparently, that it is perfectly okay to do so.... if you use reverse gear.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

New Digs

In the barrier island community of Lavallette, New Jersey, Superstorm Sandy irreparably damaged the borough hall and the police headquarters, such that they had to be demolished following the storm of October, 2012.

Since that time both the police department and the borough offices have been operating out of construction trailers in a municipal parking lot.  It has been challenging, to say the least.

Which is why Lavallette Chief Colin M. Grant was beaming earlier this week as he greeted residents touring the new police headquarters, nearing completion as part of a newly-constructed borough hall.  The new structure, dedicated on Monday while the finishing touches were still being applied, will house not only the police department, but the court and all of the municipal offices.

Also incorporated into the new building is the post office, which prior to the storm was in a separate building that was also rendered unusable.

It is not often that a police chief gets to supervise the design and construction of his headquarters, but Chief Grant was justifiably pleased with the layout, features, and size of the new facility.  Early in the project he toured other police buildings in the state and cribbed some of their best features, and he gave credit to the HQ in Westwood, in the northeastern part of the state, for having provided the greatest design inspiration.

Chief Grant is a relatively young man but is a Lavallette Police “lifer,” having begun his law enforcement career in the town as part of the seasonal force.   The Lavallette PD nearly doubles in size each summer, and Chief Grant rose from being a seasonal officer to a year-round officer to chief.

Final installation and testing of communications equipment is yet to take place, so it is expected that in January the Lavallette police will move from the temporary trailers that have been their home for more than three years.

The original Lavallette Boro Hall as construction was being completed 86 years ago.

The original Lavallette Boro Hall as it appeared in 2010.

The new Lavallette Boro Hsll, clearly inspired by the original but significantly larger.

Monday, November 2, 2015

The Very Definition of Dumb

A New Jersey man on probation for impersonating a police officer was arrested last week on new charges of impersonating a police officer, according to news reports.

This genius was driving a Chevrolet SUV modified to look like a police vehicle with tinted windows, police-type strobe lights both front and rear, police markings and decals, and a siren.  A search of the vehicle turned up handcuffs, placards from the county prosecutor's office, police apparel and an empty firearm holster.

Apparently, being on probation for impersonating a police officer was an insufficient deterrent to police impersonation for this guy.

This time he was charged with illegal possession of handcuffs, receiving stolen property and impersonating a police officer, his vehicle was impounded and he was taken to the county jail in lieu of $20,000 bail.  Think it will sink in this time?