It was just another routine call to assist a stranded motorist, but the poetic justice that followed has given me numerous chuckles over the years. A truck pulling a flatbed trailer was stalled on an interstate exit ramp, and traffic had become snarled. I positioned my police car behind the trailer so my blue lights would notify motorists of the traffic hazard.
It was a steamy summer day and the trailer was carrying hundreds of honey bee hives. The extreme heat and lack of shade caused thousands of bees to swarm around the trailer.
Some motorist assumed I had made a traffic stop and had caused the gridlock. I guess I will never understand the wisdom of antagonizing a person who has the power of arrest. In this incident, however, a few people seemed to have no reluctance in blowing their horn, shouting foul language, and raising their fist.
The truck driver was not able to let his rig roll backwards onto the shoulder of the road. A mechanic with tow truck was 20 minutes away so I asked the driver to raise the truck’s hood to notify other motorists that his vehicle had stalled.
I noticed the windows were down on the car of a foul-mouthed driver as he passed, and seconds later I saw him fanning himself. My first giggle came when I realized he was actually swatting at bees that had filled his car.
This scenario repeated itself many times before the truck was removed from the roadway. I waited in my police car, windows rolled up, and enjoyed the air conditioner and FM radio. The amusement intensified when I noticed drivers swatting at bees in rhythm with my music looking like conductors for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.
I felt sorry for the calm and patient drivers, and I do hope no one got hurt. I also hope most people noticed the raised hood and recognized the incident for what it was. Benjamin Franklin said: “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.”
When we see two or more police cars with blue lights activated at the scene of a traffic stop, my wife will often comment the driver must have done something really bad. Perhaps, conversely, one officer is a supervisor observing a new recruit. Could the second or even third officer be on the scene because of a medical emergency? OK, I concede to the possibility that the first officer needed a backup because his pen ran out of ink.
Why would a police officer use blue lights and siren to get through an intersection then immediately turn them off? A cynic might say it must be close to shift change, but a more likely reason is the call was canceled. Another possible answer is because the officer is responding to a burglary call and doesn’t want to reveal his proximity to the criminal.
Most every situation involving law enforcement is going to be different from the next. When police do it exactly right it can look wrong. Is the officer arresting a person or keeping a person who is having a seizure from falling? Is the officer in the store on duty or off duty? Do you see the officer writing a traffic citation or writing driving directions? Perception is very often not reality.
We often see things not as they are, but as we want to see them. The members of McMinnville Police Department work very hard to provide the highest level of police service. If you have given an officer the benefit of the doubt, and still have a bee in your bonnet, please give us the opportunity to provide you with facts. The best defense against a wrongful exercise of authority is to be an informed citizen.
Charlie Sewell is chief of police for McMinnville Police Department.