The odds are that between the time I’m writing this, Monday evening, and the time you’re reading it, there will be at least one more headline about a young child dying in a super-heated car after a parent left him or her alone there “for just a moment.”
Now the thing is, though I’ve never done this myself, I can understand the logic behind “for just a moment”: A quick errand, the time it takes to work a kid free from a safety seat, the kid is sleeping peacefully and he’s been so hot and cranky lately because of the weather it’s a blessing for both of you that he’s asleep…
So I propose a rule of thumb: Leave the child in the car, but also leave your wallet or pocketbook, and your cars keys, on the front seat. If you think “But it’s irresponsible to leave my wallet and keys in plain sight,” well, there you have your answer.
* The police “could scarcely believe his cheek” is how a police spokesperson described a 22-year-old man, arrested by German police for stealing hubcaps and released on his own recognizance, who stole and rode off with a police officer’s bicycle parked outside the station house.
* I seriously suspect that a great number of “post-911 security measures” are just gratuitous inconveniences designed to give the illusion of heightened vigilance, to help us feel the government has things under control. To wit:
My wife needs her birth certificate in order to renew her driver’s license. But the Department of Motor Vehicles won’t accept her original birth certificate, issued to her parents x years ago and which got her into kindergarten, her first job, and her marriage to me. Instead, they require a computer-generated copy from the state of her birth, which she was able to order online without any proof of her identity, FedEx’ed to her in a different state under a surname she wasn’t born with.
* Dozens of former Polish prisoners are under investigation for allegedly obtaining “compassionate” releases by bribing doctors to diagnose them with cancer. In some cases, the doctors obtained cancerous tissue and substituted it for the prisoners’ own for analysis.
* In Oregon, Lorna Jeanne Dudash should have been careful what she wished for. Specifically, the 45-year-old woman wanted to meet up with the “cutie pie” deputy who came to her building last month to investigate a noise complaint. So she dialed 9-1-1, told the dispatcher she didn’t know how to contact the deputy any other way, and asked her to give him her phone number so he could call her.
And the deputy was indeed sent to her home: to verify that there was no emergency and arrest her for misuse of the emergency dispatch system, punishable by a fine of several thousand dollars and a year in jail. “That’s taking up valuable time from dispatchers who could be taking true emergency calls,” Washington County Sheriff’s Sergeant David Thompson told the media.
Here’s the thing, though: Dudash told the dispatcher right up front that there was no emergency and that she only wanted to see the deputy. The dispatcher could have hung up on her. Instead, she stayed on the line for several minutes listening to her and questioning her some more, even though “I know this is absolutely not in any way, shape or form an emergency” seems fairly straightforward, at least to me. Then she sent Deputy Cutie Pie to her home to arrest her. So… Who exactly is guilty of wasting time and manpower?
* Probably more deserving of “misuse of emergency dispatch system” charges is Nevadan William McHaney, who this past Saturday, during a dispute at his Wells Fargo Bank branch over his checking account, dialed 9-1-1 because he felt the bank “was robbing him.” He hung up without talking to the dispatcher, but the call was traced back to the bank and police, suspecting a teller had placed it and that the bank was being robbed, sent officers to the scene.
© 2006 by Bill Bickel
Bill Bickel is Managing Editor of Crime, Justice & America Magazine, online at http://www.cja.us
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessary those of CJA’s publisher, Ray Hrdlicka, its staff, or its advertisers
Bill Bickel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org