Protect and Serve

I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

People wonder – I’ve wondered myself – how some small children of our community come to be harmed, and sometimes even die, while under the supposed care of their parents or guardians. Today I know at least a part of the answer.

The police let them.

Yesterday I was the target of a road rage incident on Highway 36 leading into Boulder. But I wasn’t the victim. The victim was riding in the car whose driver tried to run me off the road, and then twice more to crash my car.

It happens countless times. Sixty-five to seventy miles per hour on the highway is way too leisurely for the many drivers who think eighty or more is a more satisfying pace. We even have a law that says unless you’re passing someone you’d damn well better not be going a mere sixty-five to seventy in the left lane. The law was made to protect us from the law-breakers, because in their wisdom our legislators knew the police weren’t doing it. I know one state trooper, who claims the second-highest rate of drunk driving arrests in Colorado, who says if a driver isn’t more than twenty miles over the speed limit, he won’t even bother.

No trooper was bothering the driver coming up at eighty behind me when I dared to pass another driver really poking along in the slow lane at sixty. That’s when I discovered for the umpteenth time I was better off an outlaw, because the guy came right up to my tail, bright lights furiously aflash, and stayed there till I was far enough ahead of Mr. Pokey to pull back over.

It wasn’t enough for the guy whose Indianapolis time trial I’d ruined. As he drew even with me (didn’t take long) he suddenly and violently swerved his minivan into my lane, into my car, and had I not equally suddenly and violently swerved onto the shoulder there would have been torn metal and bodies on that highway. I nearly flipped my car, and it appeared to me that the fool on the road nearly flipped his.

But I still wasn’t the victim of that man’s ill-considered rage. As I struggled to maintain control of my car, an image from inside his van flashed in my sight: a hand holding a baby bottle. There was a baby inside that van, and the driver didn’t care, or hadn’t the brain function to remember.

And then I made a mistake. I picked up my cell phone and called the police. I was furious that someone would endanger his baby that way. The police were, shall we say, less than furious. I told them where I was, to send a car to stop him, that I was following the guy. I had just been nearly killed. I thought there was a baby in that car who had also just been nearly killed. As I followed him off the highway, he again tried to crash my car by coming to a screeching halt in the middle of the road. He did it again at another intersection. I described all this to the police, as it was happening. I did not use nice language. I used words that featured the letter “F.”

The police were appalled – not that the guy was trying to kill me, or was risking killing his baby – but by my language. They told me not to follow him. How will you catch him, I said, if I don’t follow him? They didn’t have a good answer for that.

The bottom line is, that when they did finally find us, they were far more interested in why I followed him, and in my less-than Shakespearean language – they’ve obviously never read Shakespeare – than in what he had done. They said it was a shame there was a baby inside his car, but the reason he was driving 60 miles an hour up a mid-town Boulder lane was that he was afraid I might eventually catch up to him and turn him over to the police. (I only caught him, since I wouldn’t go 60 myself, because he caught a red light.) It was my fault.

They didn’t ticket him. Not for felony menacing, not for reckless driving, not for endangering his child. Children don’t do very well, by the way, with whiplash from violent maneuvers to use your car to crash somebody else. Something about their tiny little necks.

It can only be called excellent police work, if your goal is job security, to encourage this guy, or the many like him, to go out and do it again, and if there’s a child on board, hey, it’s a fun ride.

The Boulder police have some sort of motto stamped on the sides of their cars, something about “Protect and Serve.” But now that I think about it, that can’t be right.

They didn’t protect that child. I’m not sure anymore who exactly it is they serve.

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