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By Martin Lamarque

About this blog: I have lived in Belle Haven since 1997, and work as an interpreter in the emergency department of a county hospital. My main interest is to help improve society by way of giving families the support and information they need to ra...  (More)

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If you distrust police, here is something useful you can do

Uploaded: Feb 27, 2014
After my last blog, where I expressed opinions about our local police, Officer Poirier asked me whether I would be willing to sit down with him to talk about my concerns, but also to learn about the limitations police face in trying to enforce laws, and at the same time respect individual rights.

He asked for 15 minutes of my time, but we ultimately spent one hour listening to each others' views of the same problems. Views that at times sounded diametrically opposed, but were able to be expressed because of the mutual respect exercised during our dialogue.

I wasn't just trying to sound nice last week when I said that I hold the police profession in high regard.

In spite of the times when as an immigrant I have been unjustly picked on by some of them, I realize that police officers risk their lives trying to uphold the rules we agree to live by. Ultimately, it is up to us citizens to participate in changing whatever rules we deem unjust. In the meantime, the least we can do is to be considerate of those around us, and remember that our rights extend only as far as where the rights of others begin. The better we understand and abide by this principle, the less need for harsh enforcement.

I tried to impress on Officer Poorer that I don't hold police or City government responsible for everything that is wrong with Belle Haven. But there is an important part that sensible enforcement plays, and that we citizens should be able to count on.

Officer Poirer had a little challenge for me: "Sign up for our Menlo Park Academy, and you will learn a lot about the other side of these issues."

I have for years considered taking the class. But because of one reason or another, I haven't made the time for it. And I am afraid I will have to miss the next session that starts on March 5th. I recently was given a new assignment at work, and my responsibilities literally doubled overnight.

But if you reader, have the time, I want to encourage you to participate. Just as getting to know your neighbors makes for safer surroundings , getting acquainted with your local police officers will make you feel it is possible to have a safer city. Little by little we need to start bridging the chasm of mutual distrust that often runs between citizens and police in working-class neighborhoods like ours.

Here is the link to the information on the Menlo Park Academy

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Feb 28, 2014 at 5:39 pm

What is "Menlo Park Academy"? I followed the link; it looks as if it's a simplified version of police training for the public, to show what the issues are. Interesting. It's many hours of commitment.

Posted by Notthereyet, a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows,
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:00 am

I don't have a lot of respect for a police department that tolerates and protects it's members over obeying the laws. Get caught, on duty no less, with a prostitute and no consequences?

Also I don't think the police in Menlo Park really care about the community members. There was a time when I knew many of the members of the Menlo Police and I would help them and they would help the community, I believe those days are long gone. Ever leave you car parked overnight in front of your own house? Well I did when my driveway was being worked on and I got a ticket. It was obvious by the warning tape and cones that the driveway was not usable and a quick check of the license plates told them the car was registered to the house they were in front of, but they still issued ticket for each one. Yes, I had a warning about 10 months earlier.

While we are at it, let's give out tickets to people doing shopping in Menlo Park because their car doesn't have a front license plate. Go to the police station to pay it off and do a quick check and you will see that several of the cars in their own parking lot do not have front plates. It is these little things that have led me to have a lot less respect of the Menlo Park Police than I used to have. I don't feel they really care about the members of the community.

Posted by Martin Lamarque, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Mar 6, 2014 at 9:31 pm

@ Notthereyet.

Thanks for your comment.

As someone who has been stopped by police solely on the basis of my looks, and for being in neighborhoods where in their eyes, "I don't belong", I also had my reservations.

The last time it happened I was riding my bike, and I was carrying a paper bag in one hand. A nice policewoman stopped me, and asked me whether I would let her see what my bag held. "Sure", you are even welcome to one," I said; as she looked at the cookies that my friend had just baked for me.

Was she violating my rights? Likely.
Was I going to get anywhere by reminding her of my rights, and clenching my fist around the bag? No.

To the contrary; she would've called for reinforcements right away.
I wasn't in the mood to be surrounded by 3-5 police cars in such a beautiful morning, and 2 dozen warm cookies in my bag.

I had been in that spot a couple of times before, and believe me, after being let go because I "proved my innocence", the incidents still managed to ruin the rest of my day.

Call me old. But I have learned that as long as their stepping over my rights doesn't go beyond the initial ignorance of not knowing I am not out to cause trouble, giving police a break and treating them with the respect they, and I deserve, works better for all involved.

Posted by Alan, a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven,
on Mar 10, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Notthereyet - I've gotten the warning note myself for parking in the street. But, I have to say - if you had previously gotten a warning before - you know what the rules are. You're supposed to get a waiver from City Hall to park on the streets overnight. As I understand it, part of the rationale behind the parking rule is to make your own neighborhood safer ... by simply banning all cars, there's less loitering in the middle of the night. Enforce it universally, and no one can claim bias.

Martin - having the police ask you about a bag of cookies - yeah, that's going overboard.

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