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Campus Parking Ticket Roundup-Episode 1-arrested women

Campus_Parking_Ticket_Roundup_01

©Felix Dartmouth, 1998

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Campus Parking Ticket Roundup

Characters:

Jim Cranston – Assistant Chief of Police
Donna Cranston – his wife
Ron Johnson – Chief of Police
Regina Strong – Police Sergeant
Billy Marks – Rookie Officer

The Board of Regents Meeting

I had just joined the State Teacher’s College police force as the Assistant Chief of Police four months before. I was at a Board of Regents meeting, where I was standing in for my boss when the topic of campus parking came up. At State Teacher’s we had a lot of the problems that any college town has, bounced checks, drugs, a few firearms violations, burglaries, but parking violations were the problem that took up most of the time of the campus police.

Many of the students lived in small nearby towns, and lived off-campus and drove to class, and the parking lots for students were several blocks away from the class buildings. We had 7 officers whose job it was to write parking tickets, and they were issuing approximately 30 tickets each per day. There were over $2,000,000 in outstanding parking tickets for current and former students.

I was on the hot seat. Even though I had only been there four months, it was clear that the Board wanted this problem addressed in an aggressive manner. I was at a conference table with 9 board members and several support persons and we had come to my place on the agenda. One of the board members addressed me.

Drill team member Gwen harnessed in leather
Drill team member Gwen harnessed in leather

“Officer Jim Cranston,” he said, “you know that this parking situation has gotten completely out of hand. Our campus is getting a bad reputation because there is no place to park, and many of the students seem to be violating the parking regulations with impunity.”

I knew that I had to appear concerned, but I didn’t want to seem like a “cowboy” on my first appearance before the Board of Regents. “I have been reviewing the problem, and there sure is a lot of money tied up in those tickets. I understand that we are holding student’s transcripts if they have outstanding traffic tickets.”

“That’s the reason that you are here, Officer,” a gray-haired woman in a smart dark suit said. “We need some fresh ideas on this matter. Until a student graduates, or requests a transcript, there is just not a whole lot of leverage to get them to pay. I think that we need to implement stronger measures.”

I was a bit uneasy with this. Here we were at a teacher’s college in Louisiana. 80% of the students were young women from small towns who were either going into teaching, arts or business professions. Since I had come here from New Orleans, I had worked with a
pretty rough crowd, and I knew there was a big difference between the criminals in NOLA and a parking ticket violator here! I wondered what kind of “stronger measures” the Board had in mind.

I spoke carefully. “Of course, the department is here to follow the guidelines of the Board with respect to the priority that should be given this matter. What immediately comes to mind to me is that we could implement a range of sanctions, from barring scofflaws from class all the way to actually issuing warrants for their arrest.”

“Now I think you’re getting our drift, Officer,” said the man who had
spoken first. “What we are considering here is proposing to the city council that any person, student or not, including faculty members, who have greater than three unpaid traffic tickets to be guilty of a misdemeanor, and therefore subject to arrest. This will give our campus police the authority to arrest and force payment of this horrendous number of outstanding tickets. Now, you need to tell us what you need to make it happen if we give you the law you need to make the arrests.”

“I think I am beginning to understand your priorities here,” I said. “I
will go back and discuss this with the Chief of Police and we will be back without recommendations. We will need to upgrade several aspects of our department, including the holding facilities, the women police officers, a paddy wagon, and additional restraints
required for the increased volume of prisoners.”

The Board seemed to all relax at once. I think that this is what they wanted to hear! I went a step further.