Thursday, November 06, 2008

in[pursuit of]justice

"I witness injustice everyday," I said to Sam as I walked into our apartment. She lay on the love seat in the living room, heavily insulated with several fleece blankets.

She pulled them away from her mouth. "I have a sinus infection," she sniffled.

"This community has an injustice infection," I said and sat down on the couch across from her.

Just minutes earlier, as I was walking from the train station to the Superfresh on my way home from work, I witnessed a young man being pulled over by the police. As I crossed Cedar, fortunately at a cross walk, this young man (most likely a Case Western student), cut diagonally through the intersection. As he did so, a cop at the stoplight hit the siren and ran the red light, nearly running me down as I crossed. I made my way to the sidewalk and walked past the car. The officer, an older white male -- a hardliner, to be sure -- asked the kid for his ID. He obliged, and I could hear the officer preparing his manufactured speech about how jaywalking is illegal and how we have laws for a reason.

I recognized this cop -- let's call him O. Hardline -- from a previous run-in I witnessed some months ago. One night last spring, I was walking up from the train station. A young man (again, probably a Case student) rode past me and continued on up the hill. At the intersection of Cedar and Euclid Heights, this same cop, O.Hardline , flashed his lights and pulled over the kid on the bike. As an avid cyclist, I was curious to hear the offense, so I stuck around. After the two parties split, I asked the cyclist what he had done. Basically, the cop pulled him over to see if his bicycle was registered, which is mandatory in Cleveland Heights. Naturally, the guy did not have his bike registered. O.Hardline informed him that he was okay to go this time, but if was caught again riding an unlicensed bike, he would be forced to pay the $80 fine.

I have a hard time understanding a mandatory regulation for registration of bikes. Not only that, the method of enforcement is completely unconstitutional. Does this instance suggest that O.Hardline pulls over every cyclist that crosses his path (or every jaywalker, for that matter)? What happens if the person presents a valid license?

'Thanks for your cooperation. Good day citizen.'

'And a good day to you officer. May God Bless your civic vigor.'

I doubt it.

It appears as though the Cleveland Heights PD is content serving the public by fleecing it, through outrageous parking fines (my girlfriend once got a ticket for parking with one tire against the curb -- and this was on Christmas night, with snow on the ground), enforcement ofunnecessary laws (jaywalking, are you serious?), speed traps, and more parking tickets. Oh, and parking tickets. Lots of em.

As I witnessed O. Hardline drawing up a jaywalking citation, a Superfresh employee came outside for a smoke break.

"Damn," he said, "who getting busted?"

"That guy just got pulled over for jaywalking."

"Are you serious? Man, that's fucked up. That's the same dude that fined me for jaywalking. What a fucking prick."

"Yeah, he's a dickhead." I reiterated the story of the fellow on the bike. "We live in a police state," I said.

The guy shook his head.

"Bullshit, right?"


I ask you, as active citizens, what can we do to combat the injustice that we are faced with everyday? At this point, I am at a loss. Maybe. . .maybe we should start thinking about injustice, familiarize ourselves with it, begin noticing it in our day-to-day lives. Once we begin noticing it -- forcing ourselves to notice -- maybe then we can conjure a way to correct it. In learning the symptoms, we can in turn inoculate ourselves against injustice. Then maybe we can figure out a way to make a difference.


MikeS said...

That only partially surprises me. Part of it has to do with where you're at. It's no secret that Cleveland Heights cops are massive fucking pricks. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

As for what we can do, I simply don't know. They are the police. They enforce the law. What does one do when one's own police are being dicks? Most of the time I would assume it's one man's word against another's, with a costly and extended legal battle ensuing. What might be the worst thing about your story is that there is ZERO you can do about that officer. I'm sure that by law, what he did was perfectly fine.

It's less of a matter of his actions being lawless than it is a matter of his actions being infrequent. And THAT, my friend, is something that we will never win. I don't know if you can sue or win a battle where the argument is "The officer doesn't do this regularly enough."

Again, I simply don't know what one can do against that besides perhaps move out of Cleveland Heights. =\

theodore said...

I bet that is the same guy who 'pulled' Austin over on his bike and give him a ticket.

Austin went to to court and successfully argued the fine and got out of it, on account that he did not live in Cleveland Heights. He researched the law and found that Cleveland has a similar ordinance, but does not enforce it.

Never the less, he was still stuck with paying $90 in court costs.

I completely think the cop knew that Austin would get out of the ticket, but he would still be stuck paying court fees, thereby making Cleveland Heights $90 in the name of Austin's 'victory'.

I do not know what could be done. Contact Cleveland Bikes perhaps? Research other cities ordiances on the subject?

Get a petition drive to get a measure on the ballot in the next election to have the CH's bike registration laws revoked?