Education Matters: A vulgar display of power

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

I wrote a few months back about the epidemic of bad driving in our area and discovered that people aren't just annoyed with the problem, they're outraged. I think there has been enough printed in this newspaper that has conveyed that general mood, and I think also that the local police have responded with greater efforts to control it.

One sentence in the piece that got a good deal of response had to do with policemen who engender, especially among teen drivers, a certain contempt for the law for routinely violating what they're asking the rest of us to obey. Rolling through stop signs, exceeding speed limits, failing to signal, etc. — violations that have motorists paying hundreds of dollars in fines.

The impression sometimes given is that they (a small minority, I'm sure) are above the very law they are charged with enforcing. That invites contempt for the law.

So let me tell you about a ticket I got a month ago. Normally I wouldn't bore you with the travails of my personal life, but this little story comes with a lesson. I'll leave it to the reader to decide whether I or the cop is in need of correction.

I received a ticket exactly two blocks from my home in Montrose.

I was proceeding north on Waltonia Avenue when I came up behind a sheriff's vehicle going about 7 mph to 10 mph. I had just been called home because of a medical problem with my grandson (not an emergency, just a high temperature and a nervous grandmother). After following behind the officer at this speed for a hundred yards or so, I tapped lightly on my horn, an entirely reasonable thing to do under the circumstances.

The officer proceeded at the same speed for another 50 yards, and so after waiting for a broken yellow line and a stretch of road where the freeway overpasses — thus no houses on either side of the street — I passed him. I was immediately pulled over. I explained to the officer my family situation and he went back to his car and spent 15 minutes writing me a ticket for a) unnecessary use of horn and b) unsafe passing.

When he returned to my car with my ticket, my temper got the better of me.

"I told you I was in a hurry to get home and you spend 15 minutes to produce this (bovine excrement) ticket? I think we both know why you pulled me over. You're (angry verb here) that a motorist honked at a police officer. I broke no law and you know it. This is absolute (participle/adjective/noun)."

When I did pass the officer I started the maneuver at the 10 mph that I mentioned previously, so speed could not have been at issue. It was a broken yellow line, so it was a lawful maneuver. I don't make a habit of honking at and/or passing police cars, but I explained to the officer my circumstances, and it made no difference as he was clearly irritated that I was urging him to speed up.

I asked why he was going so slowly for so long, and he said that he was looking for someone. I then asked why he didn't pull over, seeing that he was holding up other cars, and his answer was: "I don't have to."

He also told me that it was illegal to pass "in this area." I said that it was a broken yellow line. His response to that was, "Sign the ticket."

When I got home, I sat down and wrote to the captain at the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station, something I've never even thought to do after 45 years of driving. I told him that I've been trying for my entire career as a teacher to instill respect for the law and for those who enforce it. There's no tougher audience for that message than a bunch of 17-year-olds who are quick to tell stories of being pulled over or questioned or sometimes rousted for no other reason than they are teenagers.

We discuss the idea that not everyone who aspires to a line of work is actually cut out for it.

I suggested to the captain that this fellow who cited me does nothing, in my opinion, but invite contempt for law enforcement. For my part, I stand guilty of using highly intemperate language to the officer, but I honestly can't recall the last time I was that angry — and, in my opinion, justifiably so.

Capt. Dave Silversparre of the Crescenta Valley Sheriff's Station called me immediately upon receiving my letter and spent a half-hour on the phone with me. He was professional, courteous, sympathetic — everything the officer I encountered wasn't.

I'll be fighting this ticket in court in about a month. I'll let you know how it comes out.

DAN KIMBER is a retired teacher from the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at

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