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Lawyer cites cop – I'm with the cop on this one (revised – Humble Pie eaten)

The news and blogs are simmering with the story of Eric Bryant, the Portland, Oregon attorney who saw a cop park his cruiser illegally, and cited the cop with a citizen complaint.

“[Officer] Stensgaard walked into the restaurant wearing his police uniform, but did not make any arrests or citations. Instead, he turned his attention to the basketball game on television, according to Bryant,” the publication recounts. “When Bryant asked Stensgaard about his vehicle, Stensgaard allegedly acknowledged being in a no-parking zone but asked Bryant, ‘If someone broke into your house, would you rather have the police be able to park in front of your house or have to park three blocks away and walk there?’ ” (source)

I’m never afraid to rail against police abuses or excesses, but I’m with Officer Stensgaard on this one. Stensgaard was in uniform, in a police cruiser. The man is entitled to get something to eat while on his shift. Lets say that an emergency call came in while Stensgaard was eating his lunch. Would Bryant have preferred that Stensgaard walk to his legally parked, but distant, police cruiser?

Cops should have the spotlight shined in their face when they are wrong. Stensgaard wasn’t wrong hereBryant was.

Revision : Mr. Bryant himself took the time to write to me (see comments below) and cited the Oregon Statutes regarding emergency vehicles.

820.300 (1) (a) allows the driver of an emergency vehicle to “Park or stand in disregard of a statute, regulation or ordinance prohibiting that parking or standing.” However, 820.300 is tempered by ORS 820.320:

820.320 Illegal operation of emergency vehicle or ambulance; penalty. (1) A person commits the offense of illegal operation of an emergency vehicle or ambulance if the person is the driver of an emergency vehicle or ambulance and the person violates any of the following:

(a) The driver of an emergency vehicle or ambulance may only exercise privileges granted under ORS 820.300 when responding to an emergency call or when responding to, but not upon returning from, an emergency. The driver of an emergency vehicle may exercise privileges granted under ORS 820.300 when in pursuit of an actual or suspected violator of the law.

(b) The driver of an emergency vehicle or ambulance must use a visual signal with appropriate warning lights when the driver is exercising privileges granted under ORS 820.300.

Accordingly, it looks like I must say that I was wrong and reverse myself. There is a specific statutory scheme in Oregon to handle this kind of thing, Officer Stensgaard clearly violated that statute, and Mr. Bryant called him on it.

Thank you, Mr. Bryant for clarifying this (and doing so with such grace).

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