Not above the law

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, April 27, 2017

It may not rise to the level of other police controversies around the nation in recent years, but a photo on Facebook recently showing a Suffolk police cruiser parked in a handicap spot is nonetheless indicative of the kinds of little things that can hinder a police department’s efforts to build goodwill in its community. And for any handicapped driver trying to find a spot at Lakeland High School on the day the photo was snapped, the officer’s action was probably a big deal, indeed.

Facebook user Jennifer Peace Walker posted the photo on Monday. She said she often drives her mother around, as she can’t drive anymore, and has trouble finding handicap parking.

Walker observed in her post that a similar choice of parking by a civilian without handicap plates easily could have resulted in the car being ticketed or even towed.


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To his credit, Suffolk Police Chief Thomas Bennett was quick to recognize the problem and respond to it. He posted a response to Walker’s Facebook post.

“I am in receipt of your photos showing one of my officers parking in a handicap spot,” he wrote. “This behavior is totally unacceptable and there is no excuse for it. We are currently investigating this violation and you can be assured the appropriate discipline will be issued.”

“This is the exact type of behavior that gives us a bad name and I will not tolerate it,” Bennett continued. “Thank you for bringing this to our attention.”

Indeed, even if no handicapped drivers were put out by the officer’s poor choice of parking, the optics of the situation were not good for the police department, and much of life — especially these days — is about how things look.

City officials have confirmed that an internal investigation was being conducted. It’s unlikely they will ever share the results of that investigation — at least not with any specificity — but we’d like to recommend that the officer be subject to the same penalty the average citizen would face in the same situation. State law allows fines of $100 to $500 for such an offense.

Docking this officer’s pay by $100 would seem a reasonable response that would send a message to the force that it’s not above even the little laws.