Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Traffic Stop In Manheim, PA

"The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced." ~ Frank Zappa

Well, last week I mentioned being pulled over by a Conservation officer, and said I would tell about that later. I guess now is as good a time as any.

On my way to Lititz, Pennsylvania, I have to drive right through the middle of a town called Manheim, PA. On this particular day, I confess I didn't have my mind completely on my driving, as often happens when you drive over 300 miles a day.

I drove up the exit ramp from State highway 283 and stopped at the stop sign. After the traffic cleared I turned left over the viaduct (Why a duck? why not a chicken?), and proceeded eastbound towards Manheim. There are approximately 5 miles between the exit ramp and the city limits of Manheim. As I passed the exit ramp from the opposite direction, I noticed what appeared to be a police car getting ready to turn right off the exit ramp. Then as I got closer, I was able to read the words on the door.

They read, "Pennsylvania State Conservation Department"

Often I pass Conservation department cars and don't concern myself with them as they aren't real police officers. So, I was nonplussed when the car fell in behind me.

Within one minute after that, I spilled the can of Diet Mountain Dew I was drinking from, right into my lap. Actually, what happened was I was holding the can and it slipped from my grasp. I caught it, but when I did, Mountain Dew shot out of the can and all over the drivers side of the car.

OK, no problem. I knew I had some paper napkins in the car somewhere left over from some burger snack I'd eaten on another occasion. But I looked and offhand, didn't see one. I decided they must be under something or on the floor between the passenger seat and the passenger door. So, I began foraging around in my car, as I drove, in an attempt to ferret out any stray napkin lurking just out of the reach of my outstretched hand.

Consequently, I took my eyes off the road for a second, and the right side tires of my car slipped off the blacktop, and onto the shoulder, which is no more than a foot wide, kicking up some dust in the process. I simply steered the car back onto the pavement, and with a glance in the rear view mirror, and noticing the "officer" was still behind me, proceeded down the road into Manheim. During the next 5 miles or so, I managed to find a napkin and sopped up the mess as I drove.

I had passed the town square and was reaching the other end of Manheim, when a glance in the mirror revealed the Conservation officer's car had it's flashing lights on.

Not really sure what protocol is in this situation, I decided to err on the side of caution and pulled over, only to discover, to my chagrin, that he followed me to the side of the road, parking behind me. I was clueless as to what my offense was, but was confident he would no doubt tell me.

He didn't. At least, not right away.

He exited his vehicle and approached my car cautiously, stopping his progress just behind my drivers side window, where he asked politely for my drivers license. I handed it to him and said, "What did I do?"

He didn't answer, but instead, asked, "Do you have your registration, please?"

I handed him my registration and asked again, "What did I do?" To which he replied by asking me if I had a proof of insurance card.

I handed the card to him and again requested that he please inform of what I had done. Still no answer.

Then he ordered me out of my car, and as I got out, I noticed two actual Police cars pulling up behind his car, lights flashing.

Now I was getting nervous. Had I inadvertently, and without knowing it, ran over a pedestrian? The "Officer" then told me I had run off the road 3 times, nearly hitting a telephone pole the first time. To which I replied, "Yes, I did drop off the pavement once, but I never came close to hitting any telephone pole."

The real police officers arrived, one standing to one side of me, the other to the other side and between me and my car. At this point I wouldn't have been surprised if they had pulled their guns and hand cuffs out.

I heard the Conservation officer explain to the first cop that he had observed me driving erratically, and repeated the lie that I had left the road 3 times and almost struck a telephone pole. Only this time, he added that I had driven off into a field.

Explaining to the officer on my left that I was not drunk, and what my mission in Manheim consisted of, I even attempted to pop my trunk to show them the material I was delivering. This action was met with a stern warning to "Step away from the car, sir" and "Keep your hands out of your pockets, please".

I turned my head to the right and saw the conservation officer bending over and into my car, lifting the almost empty Diet Mountain Dew can out of the cup holder, and sniffing the opening.

Now, by this time I was beginning to get a bit annoyed. One of the real officers distracted me again by telling me that careless driving was a crime, too, and I began to wonder what the punishment is in Pennsylvania for encroaching over onto the shoulder of a narrow 2 lane curvy road.

The Conservation officer asked me what was in my cooler. I replied "More Diet Mountain Dew", and he asked if I minded that he see for himself. I had nothing to hide, so I allowed him.

Then the officer that had been radioing in my personal information came back to me, and warned me that I didn't have a lot of room left for more points on my license. I thanked him for stating the obvious, and he handed my papers Back to me.

They "let me off" with a warning of the dangers of driving erratically in Manheim Pennsylvania.

But I was late for my drop off. And all because of an over zealous Game Warden. I think I was released because he wasn't qualified to make the judgment that I was driving carelessly.

Now, if I had been a fish...

15 comments:

Etchen said...

WTF? Of course the officers let you off, they can't just take the word of a frickin game warden that you were driving erradically, it nver would ahve held up in court(or so says me and my totally unqualified opinion on legal matters) All I can say is Pennsylvania is known as the doogie mill capital of the world and therefore in my completely biased and inflammatory opinion...Pennsylvania people suck. ;-) (I'm just still bitter, b/c that's where it was that I got pulled over and harrassed ab. the whole gas station thing)

Mike's America said...

Well at least you didn't have a cooler filled with poached game in the car.

Some of these wannabe cops have a chip on their shoulder a mile wide.

They can't get a job as a real cop, and probably because they failed the psychologic profile. Either that or they WERE real cops and got fired for being dickwads like this guy.

It's incidents like the one you describe that undermine respect for the difficult and important work of law enforcment.

Mark said...

Etchen, doogie mill?

old soldier said...

Good thing you weren't in AL. We had a game warden shoot an unarmed person at a gas station, because the GW mistook him for a suspect. Long story short, the GW was charged, arraigned and stood trial.

Good thing you didn't have a dead songbird in your car grill or you could have been charged with illegaly taking game.

Etchen said...

Oh God, I swear if i don't learn to use spell check, I'm just going to make an ass out of myself on a continual daily basis. I meant doggie mill(aka puppy mills)

Mark said...

etchen funny you should mention that.. there is a house in Lititz that has a sign in front that says, no more puppy mills.

Tom said...

If you had been a fish, would that mean you would have been on the hook?

I know, bad joke, brain hurt...

ChrisWoznitza said...

Hi ich bin Chriswab aus Bottrop !! Viele GrĂ¼sse !!

Trader Rick said...

We classify CO's with jail guards and the Border Patrol--neanderthalic cretins...

Erudite Redneck said...

In some, if not all, states, game wardens are peace officers, in other words, they are "real" police. Theyt usually, as in this case, defer to local police departments.

You made a few common-sense mistakes. The best thing to do when you're stopped by a cop is .. NOTHING, until you're asked. Then, do exactly as you're asked, being as coutesous as can be.

Cops are the front line of the executive branch of all three levels of government: Federalm in that your constitutional rughts are in their hands; state, in that they are upholding states laws; and local, in that they are upholding local ordinances.

Because o the proliferation of "COPS" shows and other such crap on TV, many cops think like the jackbooted jerks they act like.

And the best thing to do is, as Clayton Williams, Texas oil man and Republican gubernatorial candidate (against Ann Richards), said of an inevitable rape, "Lay back and enjoy it."

Otherwise, you might get shot or feel the full force of all three branches of government unloaded on your unsuspecting heiny.

(Valytie Williams, BTW, lost the lection the day the words he said hit the press, as he should have.)

Oh, and it always surprises me when supposed law-and-order types complain about things like this. :-)

Erudite Redneck said...

Arg. "Valytie Williams" = "Claytie Williams."

Dan Trabue said...

So, it could be this fella was on a powertrip. OR, it could be that you were swerving a bit because of your spill (when the proper action would be to pull over) and the officer noticed it and rightly assumed your driving might be impaired.

If it HAD been a drunk swerving on the road and the officer had decided not to stop them and they went on to kill someone with their two-ton bomb on wheels, we'd all be pretty pissed at a certain officer.

I'm with ER. It's a difficult job to be an officer of any sort and we should support them when they're only doing their job.

Now, if you had done absolutely nothing wrong and you were pulled over, then I'd be more likely to side with you. But you admit to swerving - even off the road a bit - so cut the guy some slack.

Liam said...

You're lucky that it was the Game Warden and not the Police Officers who were following you. Certainly in the UK reaching under seats to find napkins would be classed as driving without due care and attention and would probably get you a fine if you were seen by the police. I expect there's some similar laws in the US. You had a lucky break!

Dan Trabue said...

The latest news from CNN:

"Multitasking drivers are three times as likely to be involved in a crash as more attentive motorists who don't dab on makeup, eat breakfast, or chat on cell phones, a new study reveals. Almost 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes happen within three seconds of some form of driver distraction, according to the report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute."

No mention of those who spill and then clean their car while driving, though...

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by: Lamar Cole