Friday, January 15, 2010



So the cardiac surgeon is rushing to the hospital to operate on a critically-ill man and the radar cop slowly gives him a $300 ticket.
When that news came out in Toronto recently, we had justifiable rage from the public and the usual defence from police brass when they are caught in a situation where they are right legally but wrong just about everywhere else, including in common sense and compassion.
I was a police reporter in the last century but I don't need to have that experience to remind you, since most of us already know, that cruisers, ambulances and fire engines all speed in an emergency where lost seconds could mean lost lives.
It doesn't matter what the law is, all the people that we need when pain and fire and crooks strike go as fast as safety allows, and the public is grateful when they do.
We also know that no one can be stupider and more pig-headed than a cop who thinks his authority is being challenged. The problem, you see, is too many cops, like too many writers, could be a bit brighter. Several police chiefs have confided to me that what they need is more 25-year-old cops with 45-year-old heads. Enthusiasm tempered by experience.
So what should have happened when the cop pulled over the doc? I join those who think he should have shut down the profit machine known as a radar trap and escorted the heart surgeon to the hospital with siren blaring and lights flashing.
After all, if the cop at the hospital finds out from several people that the operation excuse was just a scam, he has more than just a $300 fine at his disposal. You could start with public mischief charges.
It used to be that a MD on the licence plate cut a lot of ice with cops. I know since my father and uncle were east-end doctors. But they could be a mixed blessing. Cops would go out of their way to ticket you if they were mad at their own doctor. You were often over-charged on car repairs. And the car could be a magnet for drug addicts.
I remember we finally left my uncle's car unlocked at the big house on Gerrard near Greenwood and put a sign in the window saying there were no drugs inside. So they started stealing the radio.
My father was famous in the neighbourhood but that didn't stop him from getting tags because of the hydrant in front of the house. He even got them if he parked in our drive beside the hydrant. So he would know there was a rookie cop on the beat. The sergeants always tore the tickets up but Dad was bugged by the whole procedure. So we held a party for the local station once a year and everyone was diligent about Doctor John not getting a ticket.
He was called that to distinguish him from his brother, Doctor Lou, since they practised together from the office in our home.
Doctor Lou had an interesting take on traffic laws. One Sunday morning we were returning from Simpson Ave. United (which no longer exists) and Doctor Lou didn't even hesitate when he drove through a red light at Pape and Gerrard. When I remonstrated, he argued that no cars were coming, so what the heck.
A young motorcycle cop pulled him over on the QEW near Oakville and because of the MD licence, asked if he was going to an emergency. Doctor Lou was about 84 at the time and not fazed at anything. He said he was visiting his son, at about 75 mph in a 50 mph zone. So the OPP officer asked for his licence. My uncle said he didn't have one. In fact, he had never had one, since he learned to drive in Saskatchewan when he owned one of the few cars and no licences were issued. (When there were only two cars in the province, they collided ... but that's another story.)
The young policeman pondered this for a few minutes and finally decided to quit while he was behind. He let my uncle off with a warning but ordered him to get a driving licence ASAP. My uncle never did.
I'm sure that cop got promoted a few times because he had some smarts. He certainly wouldn't have delayed and fined a surgeon speeding to an emergency operation.

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