Now I know that this is going to be a controversial subject, between those brothers and sisters of mine out there who don't believe in ticketing medical professionals and the civilians who think that any exercise of police discretion in issuing tickets (unless they're the one who got stopped) is wrong, I expect some flack back from both ends of the spectrum. But I think I can handle that, especially since I've heard more than enough about it from some of the so-called "professionals" in the medical field.
Here are a few of my stories, which go a long way to show why I now no longer subscribe to the idea that doctors and nurses all automatically have breaks coming.
Case #1. One nice morning, I was out standing alongside the road, minding my own business and shooting laser in an area designated for special attention due to problems with speeders. I happened to tag this Jaguar coming on at 27 mph over the limit. I stepped out into traffic and was just able to flag him over into the turn-out area that I was using for the stops. I walked up, introduced myself, and told him why I'd stopped him.
"Yeah, ok, that's fine. But I'm a doctor and I'm late", he says. His tone made it apparent that he was expecting me to just let him go without any further questions.
"Is there some sort of medical emergency that you're being called in for, sir?"
"No. It's just that I have to get there to make my rounds and check on my patients."
Ah, ok. No medical emergency. Just a guy late for work. but he said it with that sharp tone that indicated that I was annoying him by asking and detaining him, and that annoys me. So I figure that I'll give him a break, but only after he gets a bit of a lesson on basic roadside manner. We're not in your hospital now, doc. This is my road and now we're in my office, such as it is.
I ask him to produce his license and registration.
"I just told you that I'm late," he replied. "I need to get to the hospital." Again with that tone that suggested that he's the boss here.
"Sir, are there other doctors at that hospital?"
"Huh? why of course there are. It's "XXX Hospital! Just down the road.
"OK," I told him. "So then there are other doctors who can handle any emergency that might come up while we're taking care of this basic traffic matter. I just wanted to make sure."
He clenched his teeth but didn't say anything back, choosing to turn away from me and just stare out across his hood as if I was no longer even there. In other words, I was dismissed.
OK, we can play this game. I went back to my cruiser and sat down and began to write him out a warning violation. It wasn't going to be a ticket--I was still going to give him a warning, and hopefully he'd get the message from my simply detaining him a few minutes to write one out in lieu of a ticket.
However, about a minute or two into it, I heard a horn blow. I looked up and he was holding his arm with his watch on it out his window, and reaching out with his other hand to point at his watch. Oh, no...
So I reached out my window and held up my ticket book, and then I pointed to it the same way that he was pointing to his watch. Check, Jackass. Then I pulled my warning notice off the clip board and began to write him a moving violation.
When I went up and handed him back his license and the $275.00 ticket, he snatched it from me and said "You must be a rookie. When you get good at this you'll learn not to ticket people who might have to save your life!" So saying, he sped off.
I Googled him later. He's a podiatrist. A foot doctor who probably couldn't find the Emergency Department with a map and a Sherpa guide. Yeah, he just might save me...if I ever get a bad case of Athelete's Foot.
Case #2. Different location on another morning. I'm set up to catch people who like to use an inappropriate lane or run up on the shoulder to pass slow traffic at a particularly congested spot during morning rush hour. Previous road rage incidents here beginning with that sort of thing have caused the powers that be to assign me this particular plum assignment.
And here comes a little car racing right up on the shoulder, passing a half mile of barely moving cars which are all creeping along in the proper lane. Oh, it's my lucky day--it's a Porsche. Obviously the representative of the "Better-than-you" crowd has arrived.
I stop this one, and it's an older blonde woman. before I can even say word one, she cuts my introduction off: "Yeah, yeah, I know...I'm technically not supposed to do that, but I'm a doctor at XXX Hospital and I'm late for work."
"You're right, Ma'am," I reply. "You're not supposed to do that. And there's no 'technically' about it. May I see your license and registration please?"
She sighs and rolls her eyes and digs into her purse for her documents. "I just told you that I'm a doctor..." she says. Then she hands me her license and her hospital ID card. I hand her the hospital card back, and she says "I just wanted you to see that so you'll know that I'm a doctor."
"OK, I get that," I respond. "Just wait here." I began walking back to my cruiser.
Now normally I don't cut anyone breaks on this particular violation because I myself have sat in long lines only to watch people breeze past on the shoulder, but she cinched the ticket when she yelled back "Well you don't have to take that tone with me! You could show a little more respect!"
Respect for what? A prima-dona who thinks that her job entitles her to pass us all of these other people who are now inching past us in the proper traffic lanes? Screw thast. She can have the ticket just like any other driver would get from me for this.
And of course she wasn't done with her commentary. When I walked back up with her ticket, she snatched it from me, made it a point to read my name tag, and said nastily: "Well thank you Officer XXXX! You'd just better hope and pray that you never wind up on my table in the E/R!"
This caused me to ask her if she would prefer to discuss this matter--and her threat--further in her hospital administrator's office. Not surprisingly, that didn't seem to appeal to her and she drove off. I went out of my way to stop red Porsches for a while after that. I didn't catch her again, but I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't trying.
Case #3. Pulled over a serious speeder one night, and as I walk up to the car, the driver takes a stethoscope off of her mirror and holds it up to me, saying "It's ok...I'm a nurse!"
I explained the reason for my stopping her--a speed well in excess of the posted limit--and she just grinned and said "Yeah, I know. I get stopped here a lot when I'm running late. But you guys aren't supposed to ticket us."
So here she is, admitting that she speeds on purpose with the expectation that there will be no consequence just because she is a nurse at some hospital. (And as it turned out, she--like the doctor in case #1--worked in some specialty field and had nothing to do with the Emergency Department.) So she got her ticket, and a mandatory court date due to her high speed. When I explained that she would have to appear in court in two weeks, she threw the ticket on her floor and exclaimed: "God, you're an asshole, aren't you!"
These three cases are my reasons for not automatically giving people a pass just because they hold a certain job. (Fellow cops notwithstanding, of course.) In each case, the people who were obviously expecting and used to getting "professional courtesy" were totally unwilling to show any sort of courtesy to me. In their eyes, they were important enough to warrant treatment above and beyond that of ordinary people, and apparently too important to even show me any of the courtesy and respect that they felt entitles to. But courtesy is a two-way street, and because of those three, while I may extend a break to individual medical care providers based on the circumstances and merits of that particular encounter, it's by no means automatic or a given.
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