By Jim Johnston
We recently received a letter from a member with a complaint we hear all too often. Our member went through a Level III inspection in the state of Arizona and the trooper flat out told him, “When you got your CDL, you gave up your constitutional rights.”
This brought back an old memory of a personal incident that happened to me when I was out there truckin’ up and down the road for fun and profit. Seems the shipper “accidentally” neglected to add in the weight of the packaging on the freight bills – listing only the product weight which was well under what I could legally scale. Of course, by the time I discovered this error, it was far too late to go back and adjust the load.
To make a long story short, I was discovered on my scenic drive through the countryside by a trooper who acted like he had just apprehended one of the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted. He promptly took me to the nearest scale. I knew I was busted and would have to pay the price. But what really struck me was how overjoyed this guy seemed to be with his accomplishment. Here I was about to give up around half of my income for the week (which I was really counting on to pay the bills and feed the family), and this guy was strutting around so happily he could barely contain himself.
I remember thinking to myself (and may have also mentioned it to him), “Is being an a-hole part of the job qualifications or do you receive special training for that?” In reality, he may have been a nice guy in his other life with his family and friends, but in his “cop life,” I was the bad guy and he was the good guy.
I heard somewhere that every good story needs the three Vs – villain, victim and vindicator. I’ve always been amazed that some enforcement officer could take a person that’s maybe generating $500 or $600 per week and hit him with a $500 fine and feel a sense of accomplishment – and maybe smile because justice has been served.
When you think about it, this scenario plays out in many areas besides law enforcement. We even come up with special names sometimes to help dehumanize the villains. We do it in wars, in race relations and even religious differences. The point is, the more you can dehumanize and villainize the bad guys, the more you can justify to your conscience whatever punishment seems appropriate at the time.
It’s obvious that truckers doing business on the nation’s highways should not be painted with the mark of villain. While there’s no clear fix-all solution, it’s important when and if you do encounter enforcement officers with this type of mind-set that you report their conduct to their superiors. This type of conduct should certainly not be tolerated in law enforcement or, for that matter, in any other aspect of our lives. LL