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2.04.2009UPDATE: 03.20.2009 Carrie Rindal has been reprimanded!
The KARE-11 story disabled comments after at least 62 came in (according to the homepage), so let's see if we can get a conversation going here. Longtime readers of my blog know that I have a passion for pointing out police incompetence, arrogance and abuse of power -- not because I hate police, but because I have so much respect for them and their jobs (having both friends and relatives on the force) and I can't stand it when a few bad apples freak out and do something stupid that gives their uniform a bad name.
Carrie Rindal is one such "peace" officer.
When driving his kids home on New Year's Eve (as I was doing with Ruth and our girls a month ago), Sam Salter made one mistake: He followed the same instructions I've read dozens of places. If you're hit with lights and sirens from a squad car, you to find a safe place to pull off the road and should get off on the nearest exit if you can. (And, as I'll advise my daughters when the time comes: If there's any question about the squad car or it seems "unmarked," you drive to the nearest gas station or other store that has personnel and security cameras present so you're not attacked by an impostor.)
Whatever you do, you don't stop in the middle of traffic and put your life (and, more importantly, the life of the officer who needs to leave the minimal protection of his/her vehicle) in danger. "Don't worry," we're told; "No officer is going to punish you for maintaining safety."
Sargent Carrie Rindal, hyped up on a bit too much testosterone thanks to the rock music she was blaring in her car, decided to bash this guy's minivan van (to the tune of $1,500) because his pulling over wasn't fast enough for her.
There's more out there on this story, including the completely nonsensical argument that Carrie makes to the driver. Read the Star Tribune's transcript of the in-car recording:"We control the horizontal. We control the vertical..."
Rindal: Well, that's why we are in this spot that we're in, Samuel. When you see red lights and sirens, you don't keep on driving and driving and driving [so] you decide here you are going to stop. We decide that.
Salter: I understand that, but I feel that I [didn't] have a safe place to stop between
where I saw your lights and here.
Rindal: OK, well that's why we're at where we're at, OK? Next time, maybe you'll realize that we decide where the safe spot is.
So what Sgt. Rindal is saying is that the moment you see lights and sirens, you should immediately pull over. Immediately. But not to the left -- only to the right, according to Carrie on the recording. (This isn't true; it's actually much safer to pull over to the left if there's a clear line of sight behind you, because then you and the officer get to exit on the median side rather than into traffic...)
Why not just lock up our brakes if there's an officer behind you, hope he or she doesn't rear-end you, and then use the "Carrie Rindal defense" that you were afraid you were going to be dragged off to jail with your kids left in the car? Bad move, but isn't that what she's teaching our kids?
According to WCCO's story, Sam was told not to bother trying to fight this because, to be blunt, you can't fight city hall. Very true. But common sense and the court of public opinion might prevail here, if we can raise enough visibility to the fact that Carrie Rindal is a threat to safety-minded dads driving their kids home.
Anyway, let's go back to the full Star Tribune story, which includes more detailed video. Sam gets out and, over the noise of a siren still blaring at him, yells to the cop, "What are you doing?" (because she just rammed into his car as he turned onto a side street at five miles an hour). From off camera, she yells "Get your hands up!" He immediately puts his hands up, turns, and puts them on top of the van up above his head. Carrie's reply? Again, "Get your hands up!"
I thought Sam showed remarkable patience when he yelled back over the sound of the still-blaring siren, "They are up!" Any reasonable person would realize that he's dealing with a cop who's not playing with a full deck here. Up is up, right?
In the recording she insists that Sam, while driving on the freeway, should have pulled over to the right, not the left. But as anyone who has driven that area knows, there isn't anywhere to pull over to the right; as you move right on I-94, Highway 61 merges in with extra lanes from the right, and as you move further right there's no shoulder because the exit ramp is there. When you come down the exit ramp, Burns Ave. is at the bottom, which is where he turned and pulled over when she rammed him.
Various commenters on the Star Tribune site have said, "He drove for an entire mile! What took him so long?" At 55 miles an hour, that's one minute: not very long at all. As you watch the video, that "entire mile" mostly consists of him moving further and further to the right (as Carrie agreed was appropriate) as he worked to avoid being boxed in by the other cars in those lanes.
And one more thing: Though we don't like to stereotype, you don't see too many high-speed chases through residential neighborhoods by crooks in minivans. It's just not a very hip vehicle for the criminally-minded. Come on.
At the risk of being overly dramatic here... what do you do with this? All of the public statements from the State Patrol so far are very clearly saying, "We protect our own". Why do they say that? It's not like crooks are paying attention to news articles and are going to stage their next heist using a coasting minivan as their getaway car because it's the new secret to a successful crime spree. It's not like choir boys are going to turn into drunk drivers once they realize that there are cops who disagree with ramming minivans full of kids. "They said that this Carrie Rindal cop was wrong and that traffic stops should be done safely, so that means we're free to tank up and go looting!"
Why not be honest here? She screwed up, big time. Pay the guy his $1,500 for his bashed sheetmetal. Mail a formal letter of apology. Give Carrie a token suspension and put her through a documented aggression-management course. And send a high-ranking officer (make Carrie stay as far away as possible) to the kids -- maybe at their school with a really cool special assembly -- to tell the truth: Their dad loves them and was trying to keep them safe, and our officers of the law try hard to do the same thing but make mistakes sometimes. Real peace officers have the integrity to stand up for what's right, not for what can be excused and hidden and ignored because it's an embarrassing failure of a fundamental institution.
The only thing gained by the ongoing cover-up in the Carrie Rindal case is that good citizens and their kids start wondering if cops really are the bad guys. And that's the real tragedy here.
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