Just Do Your Job


My wife and I enjoyed a good meal at Garibaldi’s Pizza, on Walker Ave., just west of the University of Memphis campus. As we exited the door, we noticed a sedan with Missouri plates parking in the handicap spot with neither a H/C tag nor plate. We approached the University of Memphis police officer who was also in the parking lot and asked if he could write a ticket for the driver who was violating the law. He said he could. His name was Officer Jermaine Wilson.

police badge

We had been dining beside Officer Wilson and some other campus police before we got up to leave. Officer Wilson said he wanted to check to see if the car belonged to someone who worked at Garibaldi’s. Rightfully so. He wouldn’t want to give a ticket to an employee of the restaurant where he gets his meals at 1/2 price. Don’t want to upset the apple cart.  So he goes inside and not even 60 seconds later, some student walks out to get into the sedan.

“What’s the deal?” I asked from my wheelchair.

“I didn’t see the stencil,” was his lame excuse.

“It’s funny, the way that everybody who gets caught parking illegally in a H/C spot can’t see. Amazing, really. How do you drive when you can’t see?”

He ignored my comments and my questions. I rolled out of the parking lot to go home. My wife stayed as she had driven to the restaurant and we met there. She confronted Officer Wilson about the incident. “You said you could write the guy a ticket, didn’t you?”

“Well,” Officer Wilson said, “I asked him to move his car.”

My wife lit into him. “You made him move his car? YOU MADE HIM MOVE HIS CAR? You, Sir, are the problem here. By asking him to move, he learns nothing. Were you to write him a $100 ticket, he would think twice before he parked there again. My husband and I are confronted with this situation all the time. People park in these spots with no regard for the consequences. Why do they do that? Because people like you let them get away with it. He was parked illegally. You said you could write him a ticket but you did not. You did a dis-service to my husband, and to handicapped people everywhere.”

Go Vicki! Go Wife! Go Off! On the Policeman!

Officer Wilson would have had to fill out paperwork and didn’t want to lose his ticket to the Willy Wonka Pizza Factory. PROTECT AND SERVE! Protect your 50% off policeman perk and serve yourself to discount pizza. What a joke. You had a belt with a pistol, mace, handcuffs and a plethora of other cop toys and tools around your waist, but you can’t help solve what is a real problem here.  YOU compounded the problem.

Your actions said to me last night You’re just handicapped and you don’t matter. Are you lazy? Do you not understand the problem? Do you not care about individuals in wheelchairs? Is this what is taught in your training? Is this the prevailing wisdom of all University of Memphis police officers?

I hope not. Oh, and I hope you enjoy your 1/2 price pizza.

UPDATE: May 5, 2015

Response from the University of Memphis Chief of Police –

Mr. Collins,
I wanted to get back with you as promised.  The following message contains the findings of our internal review, as well as research into TN law and consultation with the MPD’s traffic division.
Prior to the time I received information from you, the officer reported to his sergeant, lieutenant, and to the Assistant Chief that he would probably be complained on based on his conversation with your wife. The officer indicated to his supervisor and others that his primary objective was to get the vehicle so the space could be properly used. He went inside in an attempt to locate the owner, and when came back out, the vehicle had been moved.
As a result of our review, there are three training points we have identified.  The police command staff will address these points with all UofM police officers to clear up any confusion they might have with respect to off-campus enforcement of “unauthorized use of disabled parking.” The aforementioned training points are as follows.
1-      Under the terms of our 2003 mutual assistance agreement with the City of Memphis Police Department, we are not allowed to issue MPD tickets in front of private, off campus residences. While the officer may have been unclear at the time about the agreement, he has been informed that UofM officers can issue citations for handicap parking violations on public or private property.
2-      A question arose about the designation of the space. On campus, we are required by the state to have a sign posted (e.g., on a pole) and a marking on the pavement inside the space.  Because there was no sign in front of the space, the officer was unsure if it met the requirements for enforcement.  The officer now understands that off-campus, disabled parking spaces can be marked with either a sign or marking on the pavement, or both.
3-      With issues #1 and #2 addressed, TN state law 55-21-108 (Unauthorized use of disabled parking or placard) states in part that violations “shall be enforced…” Use of the word “shall” in the statute removes officers’ discretion. It does not matter to whom a vehicle belongs; if a vehicle is parked in a disabled, exclusive space, it should be ticketed. In the incident you brought to my attention, a citation should have been issued.
I hope this adequately addresses your concerns. Thank you for bringing this matter to my attention.
Bruce Harber
Bruce Harber
Assistant Vice President for Administration
Chief of Police

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