Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Judgement calls in the traffic-enforcement biz

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OK, let's try something completely different today.

I will deputize you.

You're a cop for a day, and here's the scenario. It's 8:20 a.m. on a Wednesday in early May. Rush hour for most of us, but downtime for most of the Winnipeg Police Service; with the exception of traffic enforcement.

That's your assignment.

Not exactly life-and-death duty, but it pays the city's bills, or at least some of them if you write your share of tags. Anyway, you and a police partner are set up in a strip-mall parking lot on Goulet Street, just before Tache Avenue, where vehicles turn right to St. Boniface Hospital. It's the perfect position to pull over drivers who are travelling illegally in the lane reserved at this hour for Transit buses. And just up ahead, you see one, moving over into the bus lane just a block away. So you wave the driver over and begin the ticketing process. Being trained to be observant, you notice the driver is elderly, that he has at least one passenger in the silver van and judging by the printing on the blacked-out side windows, this is a Canadian Cancer Society transportation vehicle. But even if you didn't notice any of that, the driver tells you all of that and a little more. He says he's retired, that he's a volunteer driver and he knows he was in the wrong, but he only turned into the bus lane a block earlier because there was so much backed-up, slow-moving traffic and he had a couple of cancer patients with him who had to be on time for their early-morning treatments. Basically, what the driver who's doing a good deed is asking -- without asking -- is if, under the circumstances, could you exercise some discretion and let him get on his way with a warning this time?

So, what would you do?

Ticket him $203? Or wave him on with a thanks for what he's doing and a reminder not to do it in a bus lane.

While you ponder that, I should introduce the driver who called the Free Press to share the rest of the story.

Ed Macyk is 76, and for the last three years -- basically since he retired and his wife, Betty, turned their Southdale floral shop over to their daughter to operate -- he's been driving cancer patients to their appointments. Interestingly, both his son and son-in-law are police officers. As far as Ed knows, he's the only one of about 80 volunteer drivers who does it five days a week.

"The first year I was doing this," Ed told me, "I used to come home and cry.

"It's a very rewarding job as far as I'm concerned, because I'm trying to help society. That's the bottom line. I do the best I can. Just wish I were healthier than I am and able to do more."

Ed has a heart condition.

He also has prostate cancer. His wife has a form of leukemia. Her mother died of breast cancer and his mother died of colon cancer.

"I can understand what they're going through," he said of the people he helps year-round to get to their cancer treatments.

And that's why he volunteers.

"This is what drives me to get up in the morning. To do some good, and I'll keep on doing it as long as I can."

So, what happened Wednesday after the real police officer pulled Ed over and he tried to explain why he took the illegal shortcut?

"He really wasn't interested in what I was saying. And just totally walked away from me."

This was after Ed handed the young officer his driver's licence and initially gave him an outdated registration from the glove compartment.

It was the officer's partner, seated in the nearby cruiser, who wrote the $203.80 tag.

"He said, 'It's a good thing you have the right registration, because I was going to give you another ticket.'

"How did I feel? I just felt mad and frustrated because I asked him to let us off in a roundabout way and he would have no part of that. I was in the wrong. And I realized I was in the wrong, but that was the only lane that was open that I could make some time in. And that was the only reason. There was nobody in that lane. When it's wide open and you're sitting behind two lanes of traffic that's not moving and you've got this open lane and you've got the pressure of trying to get these people there on their appointment times, that's the only reason I did that."

As it turned out, Ed thinks his first passenger, the one going to St. Boniface Hospital, was about 10 minutes late, and he was able to get the second patient to CancerCare on time.

Nevertheless, the officers could have used some discretion.

"That's the point I really want to make," Ed said. "Consider who you're pulling over, and the conditions and the circumstances. Be a little flexible."

That prompted me to wonder if Ed thought what his police-officer son or son-in-law might have done in similar circumstances.

"My son, being in the police force as long as he has been, I'm sure he understands. But it depends on the individual, I guess," Ed concluded. "They're human. And everybody reacts, or acts, differently under the conditions."

I know what I would have done under the circumstances; but then I'm a grateful old cancer survivor, not a traffic cop.

How about you? What would you have done?

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 10, 2014 B1

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