Sunday, February 8, 2009

Writing tickets on doctors and nurses

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.


RoaVaPD said...

Nothing is automatic in this world and courtesy is a two way street. I've never written a moving violation to any nurse or doctor who was polite and contrite when I stopped them. It all starts with their attitude when I get to the door.

In the situations you just wrote about I agree 100% with your decisions. In fact you were far more patient with the first doctor than I would have been...

Joey said...

Coming from someone who's gotten a few speeding tickets in his day (although not in the last ten years or so because I've "reformed"), I think you did the right thing with all three of these people. Had there been a true medical emergency, things would be different. These were just people who thought they were special, and that sort of attitude is what causes accidents. I finally slowed down when I realized tickets were a PITA.

On a semi-related note, I don't believe podiatrists are true "doctors." They are not MDs but, instead, DPMs. They would have no more emergency medical skills than a dentist.

10-8 said...

Circumstances are one thing. Status is another animal completely. I can't tell you how many times "close personal friends of the Sheriff" have threatened to have my job.It's always the "satus elite" with jobs in local government, medicine, and even law enforcement. I exercise discretion when it appropriate, based on individual circumstances, but noone has automatic immunity.

Keep up the good work and be safe out there.

STLOUISX50 said...

I am no law enforcement officer, doctor, nurse ect. But I do have to say I think you did the right thing by giving the listed tickets. They seemed to be cocky. If they had a nice attitude and actually understood when you explained to them the real hazard that you were trying to prevent then yes a warning would be nice. In the event you would have just gave a warning, they would just go back to their work, brag they got a warning and others would start doing the same thing and more of a hazard would exist.

Point being, the hazard may be their last, and they may never get to work again. Why ? Because someone may end up dead. Either they might go to jail for killing someone else or because they killed their self.

I would seriously have to ask someone that gave me the sob story of I am a professional, that is my job to keep you safe so you can get to work and get to work and besides that if you would not have pulled your illegal stunt , this would not have cost this time that we have on the side of the road right now. "Id be like see that car up there, the one you were in back of? Its going through the intersection now. Where are you? Right here! Did you get anywhere any quicker? What are you going to do next time at this intersection?" If they reply nicely then a warning, if not I'd give a ticket.

Now as far as not giving other officers tickets. I think this is true BS myself. They are breaking the law just as anyone else. It says in any states statues that even police vehicles have to follow the laws as others unless responding to an emergency. Sorry this is the law, it too should be enforced as so. Breaks should be allowed too don't get me wrong, but just as they would be for anyone else. NO more, no less tolerance!

The Happy Medic said...

Great stuff! Motorcop sent me and I'm glad he did.

Officer "Smith" said...

"Well thank you Officer XXXX! You'd just better hope and pray that you never wind up on my table in the E/R!"

Wow. So because you're doing your job she is threatening not to do hers? Wouldn't that be against the Hippocratic oath, you know, first do no harm?

Not to mention malpractice...

Well Seasoned Fool said...

Good job!

Berserk said...

I'm all about professional courtesy, and that usually includes ER docs & ER nurses, but it's never a guarantee. Courtesy has to go both ways. Even another cop could theoretically talk his way into a ticket if he was being a dick.

Sounds like you were a lot nice than I would have been to these three (especially #1).

Anonymous said...

Interesting how non of them were 'ER' doctors or nurses. Could it be that ER doc's actually follow the rules of the road (unless heading to an emergency!) for the mere fact that they are tired of sewing back together the people that have shredded themselves and others for speeding?

You did a wonderful job! They all deserved it! They better hope you never arrive on scene to the accident they have caused! Hmmmm

Divine Chaos said...

Well, shame on you for giving that podiatrist a ticket!!! There could have been a horrid hang-nail emergency! ;)

Moe said...

I had a doctor tell me that I'd better hope I or any member of my family don't show up with an emergency when he's on duty in the ER.

Unfortunately for him, he said it in front of two other witnesses. The hospital fired him and filed a complaint with the medical board and last I heard they were talking about revoking his license to practice medicine.

All this over a $50 ticket.

randompawses said...

"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.)"

You absolutely did the right thing with those three jerks, but I have to disagree with your final comment. Sometimes fellow cops DO need to be ticketed, if only to remind them they they are not above the law! I remember how pissed my father was when he found himself trying to talk a highway patrolman out of issuing him a speeding ticket! Then when he got back into our car, the rant began: "He'd better not let me catch him in MY jurisdiction-" yadda yadda yadda with the threats. Couldn't do anything about your anger with the patrolman, oh no, THAT you saved for us, because if you'd said ANY of those things to the officer, your ass would have been hauled off to the nearest jail, and deservedly so!

Guess what, Dad? You were speeding. And not just by a few MPH over the limit either, it was significantly over the posted speed limit! You were neither in your own jurisdiction, nor in your home state. You were two states away, on vacation, and feeling a fucking sense of entitlement.

You were in the wrong. And you were setting a piss-poor example for your family. Fortunately, I still managed to grow up with a respect for the law, if not for you.

Braden said...

I'm an ER nurse, and I often find myself running a little late for work and pushing the limit a smidge (never anything crazy though), and I find myself hoping that if I get pulled over, the cop will do me the professional courtesy of ticketing me quickly. I don't see how I deserve to not get a ticket just because I work in the ER.

Of course, I wouldn't argue with the cop if I was just let off with a warning.

And on a side-note, dipatcher said, "Could it be that ER doc's actually follow the rules of the road..." I can attest to the fact that this is very far from the truth. One doc I work with brags about the number of tickets he has and in how many states. If he is going less than 85 on the freeway, he isn't happy. Then again, every group has it's bad apples, right?

STLOUISX50 said...

I seem to think, many people think speed kills. Well it only does if the idiots around you screw up your driving or if you drive in a careless fashion for the road itself or weather conditions.

There was a study by the NTSB that said speeding is not a major factor in crashes. So tickets for speeding are done , not just for safety people.

Anonymous said...

Heck, I`d have ticketed those jerks too. Sorry you had to deal with some of our bad apples. We don`t all believe we are entitled.

Berserk said...

STLOUISX50, if we're thinking of the same study then it said that while speeding doesn't directly cause accidents it DOES significantly effect the level of injury in accidents. I wouldn't be so quick to suggest that speeding tickets are not about safety.

STLOUISX50 said...

If this is your point about safety, then tell me why you can drive faster than 35 MPH. I pick 35 MPH because at that speed it's enough on a 2 lane road to skid out of a 2 lane road into the oncoming lane.

So if you think driving faster than 35 is so called still safe because some old study said it was safe really isn't.

All it takes is a skid into another lane and a oncoming vehicle going the "Safe speed limit" ended up hitting you head on.

Or off the side of the road flipping the car.

If your theory is well slower is safer, then and 35 is not all that bad then, why I ask is a park speed limit 15 and subdivision streets are 25? Is it for the drivers safety or others? There are many reasons the speed limit exists, not just for safety!

. said...

You won't get an "atta Boy" from me!
It sounds like you love power playing.

Why don't you go after REAL CRIMINALS???
Issuing tickets is cowards work.

I have a huge problem with cops expecting to have their balls licked when they stop you, even if you haven't broken the law.

Ok, you made your case that these people weren't nice. However, I have a strange suspicion that there is more to the story than you're telling us. You know why? I have NEVER met a cop that didn't have an attitude. Whenever cops pull someone over, they HUMILIATE that person, with that person begging for their mercy...yes sir, no sir, thank you, sir... DISGUSTING LAZY COPS, with Napoleonic complex!

Here goes my story (I am still seething, because of how unkind and STUPID the cop was):

I am an ER doctor's wife... We are the most law abiding citzens, you've met. I(we) never had a car accident, never any kind of moving or stationary violation/ticket. We drive the speed limit. I am so responsible that I pay my bills 30 days in advance...We are in medicine because WE LOVE TO HELP, not the money (actually we're not rich). We are polite, wear sweats, blend in with the poorest. We have gone to homes and given medical treatments FOR FREE, and on OUR DIME! We never throw our status around. We don't believe in "status".

Yesterday,next town over, I got pulled over for driving an unregistered car.
We moved a few months ago. We changed our address at the DMV twice! Evidently, MY address change didn't go through either time. For proof, we both have new address stickers on the back of our DLs. We both got our cars inspected. We carry insurance. When I got the emmissions notice (at the new address. God knows how that happened, because the DMV still has us listed at the old address as of today!),DH took the car and got it inspected. It passsed and the notice was sent to the DMV by the Emmissions people. DH wanted to renew the registration that day, but was told he couldn't, because we had to wait for the renewal form from the DMV in the mail, and that it would be coming after they get the inspection report. Sigh of temporary relief...and we forgot to look for the notice in the mail...It never came. Remember, I never looked at my registration, because I never needed to. DMV never changed our address and didn't send me the registration renewal. I had been driving the car unregistered, thinking that I needed to renew it around my birthday (next month) just like all of our licenses, including the medical ones.We also didn't get our driver's license renewals, yet but I thought with the changes in technology, they may not send notices. Wrong. DMV never put the changes into the computer!!!
Ok, so the cop pulls me over, while 2 people in front of me (didn't see him) are going 50 in a 35 zone. They get to go. At the stop sign, I take a right. The cop puts his lights on.
He tells me that my registration is expired. I deny it. That it's not possible because husband had the car inspected...I'm sure the sticker is at home or something...Remember, we're busy so we don't keep tabs on bills and notices UNLESS we get them in the mail.

We never told him what we do for a living. I don't think it would have mattered.
He pulls me over on the townline, half a mile from my home, tickets me and has my SUV towed. All that was NOT necessary: TOWED? Half a mile from home? Ridiculous. Power play. That's all it was.I promised to go physically to DMV and register it first thing. I was polite. I asked him if he could give me a warning and follow me home(1/2 mile), I had GROCERIES in the car. He said no and no. Told me he had to give me a ticket and all, because he ticketed a 74 year old woman yesterday for the same thing. I'll bet his momma was real proud of him ;)

He told me that if I rolled the stop sign he would have had more leeway. What? I'm thinking, am I more dangerous driving this vehicle, which is a DMV oversight than the speeding people in front of me , or IF I ran a stop sign? Where's the logic? Sick, I tell you.

Now I heard bad stories about cops. Yesterday I had my first experience. Yup, I hate them. I am their employer, and expect respect, and understanding like we give to people. I was humiliated on my street with the tow truck. My neighbors watched in horror.

BTW- my husband told me today that the hospital where he works (3 towns over)there is a courtesy between the police and the ER docs and their families- No tickies ;)

We are too proud for that. He's not even going to mention it at work. I will plead not guilty and explain the DMV SNAFU...I will tell you this, there definitely is a big difference which town the cops are from. Where we live they are educated, smart and helpful. The town I was passing through is staffed with good ol' boys, White trash and not too bright. I should have known that they were doing cowards work that day, when I saw 3 cruisers pull out of three different driveways onto the same street,within ONE MILE, at 2 pm on a Saturday. I guess they had nothing better to do. The budget is tight. Nothing happens in town. Too many of them on payroll so they ticket easy prey. Shame on them!

Bottom line: I hope he or his family never need ER help. It was a hard lesson, but I cannot turn the other cheek. I was subjected to his power issue. It's his turn to get the same treatment from us. People teach you how to treat them.

TJ said...

"courtesy is a two way street." Well said! Honesty helps sometimes, too.

I've only been pulled over for speeding once in my life but the Highway Patrolman was awesome and let me off. I'll preface this with saying that I honestly wasn't trying to get out of the ticket.

I was doing 10 miles over the limit on the highway about 10PM at night. I knew how fast I was going, too.

I'm one of those people who believe in taking responsibility for my actions. I KNEW I was speeding. I knew the risk I was I was taking.

So when the officer pulled me over and asked, "Ma'am do you know how fast you were gong?" I immediately blurted, "Yes Sir, I had cruise control doing 75mph and you caught me fair 'n square!" He asked me a couple other general questions like where I was headed, etc.

He took my license and registration and then went back to his car for a few minutes.

When he returned, I was prepared to sign the ticket, but instead he handed me back my papers and said, "Well ma'am, I actually found your honesty quite refreshing tonight, so I'm going to let you off with a warning. I want you to get to your destination alive tonight so just slow down be careful out there." I told him I was incredibly grateful for the break and that I would indeed slow down and be careful.


I highly doubt that total honesty would ever work again (umm.. would it!?), but I guess I caught this CHP at just the right moment. Have any of you ever let someone off just for being honest (and courteous?)

Thanks CHP guy - because of you I still have a spotless record.

TJ said...

Well dang, I just asked a question that was covered in the previous blog posting. (re: letting someone off who is courteous and/or honest.) I follow along in the RSS feed so this one came up before the Geico CEO entry. I guess it DOES happen!

Mr. 618 said...

Found your blog thru a link on one of the other LE blogs (maybe MotorCop?). As a former cop myself, I can certainly agree with most of your points.

Ticketing doctors? Go right ahead. I used to work in CT, near Yale University, Yale School of Medicine, and Yale-New Haven Hospital. Most of the doctors I dealt with from YNHH were dicks of the first magnitude, coupling the standard Yale "I'm better than anybody else" attitude with the belief that MD stands for Major Diety.

As Meyer said in one of the Travis McGee novels, "scroom all"

Gray said...

I'm so sorry that you have to deal with jerks idiots in my profession who lack common courtesy. I'm a nurse and have a few friends who are police officers.

Is it so hard to do the right thing? I obey the speed limit and follow the rules, and I'm no one special.

I respect what you and other officers do and would not be able to do it myself. I hate the fact that people try to use this as a power play with you guys and gals.

However, I have on occasion muttered under my breath some of the horrible things that people have said aloud to you, but I am usually provoked by the "wonderful driving habits" of other Louisiana natives, never to a fellow emergency personnel.

I hate that you will probably encounter this time and time again, I would like to offer you a suggestion on how to handle it. I mean no offense, I promise.

When a nurse/doctor wants a free pass, and shows you his/her badge from hospital XXX...tilt your head to the side, look upward and to the right and say, "Oh I remember you" in a disgusted manner. They will be pooping in their pants, and trying to figure out what the heck they did to you. (This tactic has worked for a few of my officer friends).

Just please know that not all of us are as disrespectful as the people you have written about.

Thanks for sharing.

Feisty said...

I had no idea that so many medical professionals think that they deserve special treatment. Obviously if someone were responding to a real emergency and could clearly (and politely) articulate it, they might deserve some slack, but these cases don't rise to that level.

But what of off duty cops? Do they deserve a break when they're not responding to an emergency?

I once worked with a guy who's brother was a deputy in a mid-sized sheriff's office in upstate NY. Deputies all got special stickers for their vehicles so that they were easily identifiable, as there are some cases in which an off duty deputy will have to respond to an emergency situation.

But in this case my coworker (not a LEO) was driving his brother's SUV doing "at least 90 in a 55" (his description of events). He was stopped, but when the officer approached and saw the sticker he didn't even ask for a license or registration. He just told the guy to try to slow down and be safe.

I'm not saying that this is a representative case -- it's actually the only time I've heard of such a thing (though I've never heard of an off duty officer getting a ticket, either.)

What standards do you apply when you catch an off duty officer speeding?

Officer Krupke said...

Straight up--I don't ticket cops, on or off duty. I just don't.

Now if they're drunk driving or something more serious, that's going to be another matter. But I don't cite my brothers and sisters for traffic offenses. I never have and don't plan to.

If the offense is egregious, or if they have a bad attitude, or if I see them too many times, I will call their department and talk to their supervisor (I've done this a few times) and that is oftentimes worse than a quiet ticket, but I don't put my peers on paper.

Oh--and I don't care about any of those little stickers. I need to see department ID. Too many people who aren't cops get those stickers figuring that they're going to get a pass. In that case, I actually hammer them harder--no breaks and extra tickets for other, minor offenses--just because I don't care for players.

marc said...

If you are the cop, this one is easy.

Simply ask the doctor or nurse when was the last time they gave free medical procedures/surgery / child care to cops and their families?

Capt. Schmoe said...

Docs, nurses - fair game. Council members and mayors - desirable targets. Old grumpy fire captains - exempt of course!!!!

Jordan said...

I'm glad you choose to ticket those "professionals". I have been caught running a red light, but that was after working 16 hour night shift, and the officer was very nice about it, as was I. I'm especially glad you ticketed the Podiatrist, and although I hate to generalize most people in emergency department do not behave like that as in there's a reason these people are in what department there are in...

Radonda said...

Well as for not writing ofther cops tickets, I disagree. Who made them above the law? So, okay we can a nurse I say we shouldn't charge any other medical professional for healthcare it should be free and paid for by our hard working other like? ;0) Think about it!