I read an article in 2002 about an experience a former editor had with a local traffic court hearing officer. I was astonished to read her words that mirrored mine to describe my experience with the same officer; e.g., "belittling manner, buddy-buddy with the officers, and a desire to punish those who dare challenge a ticket."
I was at an arraignment procedure and could not believe the hearing officer's reaction to those who wished to challenge. He tossed his hands in the air, said that the officer would have to be subpoenaed and it would "cause a lot trouble" as if defending yourself against a perceived injustice is an inconvenience.
One young woman was asked to pay $166 for a broken license plate light. I watched a "let's make a deal" type diatribe which was essentially plead guilty, pay money, or risk an increased fine if you challenged and lost.
At the actual traffic hearing for high beams (a dubious charge even the experienced hearing officer was unclear of), a deputy took two steps quickly, got in the defendant's face in a clear and overt attempt to intimidate him, and said "you think this is funny?" to which the hearing officer did absolutely nothing.
Never miss a local story.
He berated the defendant, disallowing contrary evidence, and when the not-so-surprising decision was announced that the defendant lost, the deputies high-fived one another in a sophomoric, clownish display that, again, went unchallenged in a courtroom.
Read it again! They high-fived each other! Like some locker-room boys and not someone who extracted $166 from a hard-working young man with no criminal or traffic history.
It is this utter contempt for citizens from both the court and the police, as exampled by this gross lack of decorum and professionalism, the reason why the respect for law enforcement is circling the drain in this country.
Dutch Van Alstin