Riley County police overstepping boundaries with radar habits

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Police officers in Manhattan like to park where they want and when they want in order to catch people violating the law. I’ve seen a police officer park in the yellow curb zone of a side street by a fire hydrant, turn on his radar and pull someone over for speeding. This action is infuriating because it seems unethical.

Unfortunately, folks, there is no law against this. According to Capt. Don Stubbings of the K-State Police Department, it is left up to the individual officer’s judgment to decide where it is ethical or unethical to park.

“They might be in a parking stall, but they want to be out of the way,” Stubbings said. “Citizens may not always know why they are there.”

If a citizen questions why a police officer is parked in the driveway of a business, it is a valid question and should not go unanswered. Stubbings said that places on campus where his officers can park are usually around the K-State Student Union because of high pedestrian traffic. He said they have the ability to radar the whole area without causing a problem.

“We have the ability to send radar both directions on one of our vehicles,” Stubbings said. “That inlet [by the Union] is perfect because officers are not an obstruction to traffic.”

Stubbings said that citizens will call in to the police department and ask if there is a concern because an officer is parked on their street. He said it’s not normal, however, for people to question the officer’s judgment.

Yet citizens should question the officer’s judgment. If a citizen doesn’t like that a cop sits on their street or in a public parking lot, he or she should call the police department out on their mistake.

“If there is a citizen concern, we look into it,” Stubbings said.

The citizen’s concern should be that officers are allowed to park anywhere at any time and ticket people for violating traffic laws. Granted, citizens should be obeying the traffic laws, but everyone gets in a hurry and makes mistakes sometimes.

However, not all may be as it appears. If an officer is stopped with another vehicle in front of them and they have been there for an extended period of time, according to Stubbings, the chances of the seriousness of the offense increase.

“A traffic stop is not always a traffic stop,” Stubbings said.

Stubbings clarified and said that ethical rules are not spoken in law enforcement. He said officers are trained to be ethical in their decision making ability, and that he trusts the officer’s judgment.

This is not just a Manhattan problem. In a July 20, 2002 Los Angeles Times article by Hugo Martin, Los Angeles police were scrutinized for continuously parking in a no-stopping zone downtown. According to the article, Los Angeles police Lt. John Pasquariello said “law enforcement officers can also park at metered spaces without paying, but they cannot ignore other parking laws unless they are responding to an emergency call.”

In agreement with the statement, Matt Droge, public information officer for the Riley County Police Department, said that law enforcement should stay off the road while radaring.

Droge said law enforcement will park illegally in the case of an emergency, but that once again, it is up the officer’s parking judgment. He went on to explain that there are two types of speed detection police use: radar and lidar.

Radar is equipment in the officer’s car that uses radio waves to determine speed, while lidar is the “laser gun” that uses light beams instead of radio waves. Droge said for radar in the car to be accurate, the cop has to have his car parked almost parallel to oncoming traffic. To citizens, this logic opens up parallel parking on the side of streets as an option for cops, although it shouldn’t be an option in the first place.

“Most officers will stick to public roads and parking lots,” Droge said.

If a citizen can’t see the police car while driving down the side of the road, police shouldn’t be parking there. It is unethical to do so. Police need to be open and honest with their citizens because they have a unique career. Police in Riley County reflect police departments across the nation and vice versa.

“Citizens should be concerned that he used his status as an officer of the law as justification for breaking the law,” said Eric Bryant in a April 17, 2008 Portland Mercury article. Bryant had initiated violation proceedings against Portland Police Officer Chadd Stensgaard who parked his patrol car illegally next to a “No Parking” sign to pick up his to-go food.

Droge added that unless it is unsafe or incredibly inefficient, RCPD tries to park where they can be seen; however, sometimes they just have to park wherever they can.

“Sometimes incidents dictate what we do,” Droge said. “Just by the nature of things we do, we don’t have a choice.”

Maria Betzold is a junior in journalism and mass communications. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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