Open Letter to Constable James Woods
London Police Services
July 13, 2015
Honourable Officer Woods,
I wrote this letter and kept it saved in my computer for weeks. I thought about deleting it, but realized that it would serve a good purpose if I shared it with the world. Dear officer, keep in mind that I don't expect you to care a bit about my inescapable disgust or feelings. But in light of what you said, it scares me to death to deal with a police officer in Canada. You cannot blame me because you never know what they can do. Of course, it would be unfair to think that all police officers are dishonest; there are exemplary ones, who are worthy of much praise and admiration.
I remember vividly driving east on Oxford Street, London, Ontario, November 23, 2014. It was a bright Saturday morning. I remember holding my mobile in the right hand, as I had Google Maps on, with an address I had already programmed before I left my house. I was near the intersection of Oxford and Richmond Street when I noticed that a driver in a black car to my left, was trying to get my attention.
After rolling down my window, still holding the phone in my right hand, naively, the driver almost screamed his lungs out when he yelled, “PULL OVER AND PUT THE PHONE DOWN!” It was then I realized the man, like a bloodcurdling lion establishing his mighty power in the scary jungle, was you pulling me over for committing the offence of quickly glancing at my phone, as I drove. I placed the phone on the passenger's seat.
When you came to my window, I apologized to you, "Sorry officer, I wasn't talking or texting; I just looked at my Google Maps." Interestingly, you leaned and rested your right elbow on my door, trying to get a good look at my phone. You quickly put your head completely inside my car through the driver side. "Is that a Nexus?" You asked, in a calm and normal voice. "Yes, I replied."
I understood your intimidation tactics, when you originally screamed at me. You needed to establish your superiority, as a law enforcement officer, before you came to my window. Fortunately, we are not in the United States where due to the proliferation of weapons in the street, police officers often overreact. Sometimes, you cannot blame them. I further understood that it had nothing to do with my background and obvious color of my skin; it is the nature of the beast. You gave me a ticket for "HANDHELD COMMUNICATION DEVICE."
Those who have crafted existing laws are very astute. You could not say that I was texting because I was not texting - you could not say that I was talking on the phone because I was not talking, either, although it was something you implied on your inaccurate report. This I learned when I went to court for a resolution. Handheld communication device covers everything, including just having the phone in your hand, which is what really happened.
I always try not to disrespect a police officer, for not saying never. In fact, in light of all the shootings and untimely deaths of minorities, who are powerless in North America, it scares me to death to deal with police officers. They have the power to make up anything to justify their actions; sadly, you have a license to get away with it.
I called the Xcopper and also consulted with a Paralegal, regarding the ticket. Both coincided in saying, “Police officers issue those tickets for having the phone in your hand, as it happened to you; you won’t win in court.” Police officers take advantage of that, because 99.% of motorists opt for accepting whatever you allege.
As the Paralegal advised me to do, my only option was to check not guilty at the back of the ticket, send it in the mail, go to court, talk to the Crown and make a deal. In other words, go to court and plead guilty in front of a judge, after the Crown agreed to reduce the fine. May 27, 2015, I got up early and headed to court to do just that. I admitted it - I grabbed my phone and glanced at my Google Maps.
I talked to the Crown and informed her that I wanted to resolve the issue---not because I was guilty of talking on the phone, but guilty of quickly taking a peak at it---as I was using the GPS/Google Maps that day to find an address in the east end, where I was headed. It was the truth.
Why would I admit to that or say that? As a responsible man and a former police officer, I live by one motto and it is what I keep reminding my two sons: "If the police are looking for you to execute you after you have committed an offense, show up for the execution. Don’t run! Have the courage to take responsibility for your actions because if you run and hide, and I find you, I will be turning you over to the police.”
Much to my chagrin, what I heard from the Crown, after she informed the judge that I was there for a resolution and he asked her to read the particulars regarding the fine, caused me an indescribable feeling in my stomach---I am human. As a police officer, you have a license to do a lot more than to Serve & Protect.
“November 23, 2014, Officer James Wood did observe Mr. Sanchez holding a cellular phone to his left ear,” the Crown said. I jumped, “Whoa! What!” something the judge noticed. Do you remember, Officer Woods? You were there. “Sir, if you are not here to plead guilty, as agreed with the Crown, I have to set a trial date,” said the judge. “Your Worship, I came here to plead guilty because I am 100% guilty of having the phone in my right hand; I never held the phone to my left ear. But I came to plead guilty,” I said.
I just felt like screaming really loud, HOW CAN A POLICE OFFICER LIE LIKE THAT, WHAT'S THE NEED? It was convenient for you to say that I was holding the phone to my left ear. This implied I was talking on the phone and putting other road users in danger, which I won't do to the best of my ability.
Dear Officer Woods, when the facts show overwhelmingly that a person is guilty; you don't have to embellish your report. We all know that when a police officer issues such a ticket, whether the person was talking on the phone or just holding it on their hand, they are already guilty---guilty as sin. What would be the reason for an officer to misrepresent the facts and kick it up a couple of notches?
Although a person’s driving record could be significantly impacted by such alleged offence, a couple of hundred dollars might not be much. What really concerns me is in cases where such a lie may significantly affect a person’s freedom or life. My respect and continued success, Officer Woods.
Dalbert Sánchez is a graduate from the School of Broadcast Journalism at Fashawe College, in London, ON. He is an author and a freelance writer.
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