“Seriously? It’s Come to This?” Part 2: NMA E-Newsletter #357

In August we recounted some driving stories that were just too absurd to be true (“Seriously? It’s Come to This?” NMA Newsletter #345). Alas, they were true, and the sad part is we’ve compiled enough stories for Part 2. So here goes.

New Haven, Connecticut, has been experiencing an uptick in vehicle break-ins lately. The thieves target unlocked cars and then swoop in to steal the valuables contained within. The only problem is that the thieves are actually New Haven police officers trying to teach vehicle owners a lesson about leaving valuables in their cars. The perps leave notes for the victims telling them what happened and where they can retrieve their property.

Police justify the break-ins under a caretaker provision in state law, but apparently nobody told them that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution trumps state law. Indeed, following that logic, police could enter unlocked homes and steal personal property, just to teach homeowners a lesson. Shhhhh! Let’s not give them any ideas.

A Pinellas County, Florida, deputy was disciplined last month for drunken misbehavior while attending a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) conference in Fort Lauderdale. Michael Szeliga packed a bottle of whiskey along with his luggage into his patrol car before driving to the conference with two other deputies.

The three were set to attend DUI enforcement training, and Szeliga was scheduled to receive a MADD award for making more than 100 DUI arrests. Szeliga reportedly skipped training and drank throughout the day. Upon observing his drunken condition at the awards banquet, Szeliga’s supervisor ordered him to forego the ceremony and go back to his room.

Montgomery County, Maryland, police officer Patrick Robinson put on his jeans, a hoodie and sunglasses and headed out to his street corner. His panhandler disguise was intended to catch distracted drivers. His cardboard sign read “I am a Montgomery County police officer looking for cell phone texting violations.” After spotting a likely target, Robinson would duck behind his sign and radio squad cars parked up ahead.

According to Robinson, police are sending a message: “Pay attention to what we’re doing, that way we can reduce accidents and save lives.” We wonder if Robinson has ever considered that by waving around a sign and generally making a nuisance of himself he may actually be the distraction. 

Michigan driver John Felton was driving to a family function in Dayton, Ohio, recently when he was pulled over by police. Felton caught the whole exchange on video and was cited for turn signal violation. But when he asked why he was pulled over, the officer replied, “Because you made direct eye contact with me and held onto it when I was passing you.”

Could the fact that it was late at night and Felton, who is black, was driving a nice car have had something to do with it? Dayton police had little to say about the incident. 

Larcenous cops in Connecticut, a drunken DUI enforcer in Florida, a hazardous homeless impersonator in Maryland and a questionable traffic stop in Ohio.

Instead of saying, “Seriously? It’s come to this?” maybe we should be saying, “Let’s be careful out here.”

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