Don't know how to feel about this cop's question...

I was at Meijer last night and I had finished putting the last of the groceries away in my car and only pulled my wheelchair in and started it up maybe 20 seconds before I see a police car “light me up” directly behind me.

Now I am parked in the handicap spot but I have my placard clearly displayed (or so I thought). But I can think of absolutely no other reason why he would possibly be doing this, so I grabbed the placard and rolled my window down and waved it around it front of his car; hoping that he’d just wave it off and drive away. No such luck.

He gets out and walks up to my window and says, “Yeah, I saw you just sitting there and I’m like, ‘what’s up with this guy?’” I asked him if he saw my placard hanging from the rearview? "No, it’s those tinted windows, I can’t see anything through there. Do you have a script for that tint? “No.” I hand him my placard. “So come on, why exactly are you handicapped anyway?” He tone was so mocking, I don’t even know how to describe it. It was as if “he knew!” “he caught me!”

When I told him that I used a wheelchair, and I reached behind my seat and grabbed the titatium leg of my folded up chair and shook it, he looked like a fucking buffoon. “Um, yeah, I’d call that a handicap. You’re right.” :dubious: Now was it any of this cop’s goddamn business in the first place what my disability was? It’s not like he had any reasonable suspicion that prompted the question. It’s not like he saw me run and hop in my car, unfettered. His question was prompted by ignorace and prejudice. He should have been satisfied with being shown legal parking status.

*Don’t get me wrong, I’m very very thankful that he’s even enforcing the spots at all. But like I said, once he had confirmation that the parking was indeed legal, ADIOS!

I’m guessing it was a combination of the tinted windows, the sports car and the fact that from the waist up you really don’t look handicapped.

How would you have reacted (I’m asking, not accusing) if someone had illegally used a handicapped spot with a borrowed placard and did what you just did to a cop. Would you be mad if the cop just let them drive away since they had a valid placard/plate or would you feel that they should have to prove to the cop that they were handicapped?

IMHO, the cop should have asked for you ID and as long as it matched up with the placard, that should have been enough. My guess is the fact that you showed him wheel chair parts was enough for him and he probably figured that was easier all around then you digging out your wallet and him running everything through his computer.
This reminds me of when someone hands me a check and I ask for their ID. Some people get downright angry, even to the point of swearing at me because their DL# is right on the check. I always tell them that if someone had stolen their checkbook, they [the person who owned the checkbook to begin with] would be mad at me for accepting the check without asking for an ID (and that’s the reason I always tell people not to put their DL# on checks…too many cashiers won’t ask for it then).

You can’t have it both ways. If you want better control over handicapped spots, you’re going to have to prove you’re allowed to use them from time to time as well. It seems like a simple misunderstanding to me. When he asked you why you were handicapped, you probably could have just given him you’re ID and let him run it against the placard and been done with it. Like I said, between the car, the windows and the physique, he probably just didn’t think you were handicapped.

Another thing, when he asked you why you were handicapped, I’m guessing that he was expecting an answer along the lines of “It’s my mom’s/grandma’s handicapped sign” since that’s probably the answer he get’s 90% of the time and he’s probably a bit annoyed by now. On top of that he was probably ready to write an easy ticket and give some kid a mini lecture on why they aren’t allowed to use handicapped spot just because they have a sign and was a bit let down when he couldn’t.

First of all, no, I don’t think a person should ever have to “prove” to a cop that they are indeed disabled, beyond of course presenting a valid placard. He wasn’t asking for my ID, this wasn’t simple misunderstanding, he was convinced he had caught someone in the act of fraudulently using a valid placard. The tone of his voice communicated everything. And the suddenness with which it changed once he realized I was a paraplegic.

Still doesn’t make the question appropriate

I understand, what I’m saying is that if you had said something like “I twisted my ankle” or something a bit more minor (and less visible) he’d probably ask for your ID to prove that it was your placard and that it wasn’t expired. But seeing the wheelchair, he was satisfied. Sure, maybe he didn’t follow protocol to the letter and if it bothers you that much, file a complaint with the department. It’s not like he asked you to prove you couldn’t walk or asked to see your surgical scars.

Look at it this way, the entire encounter took, what, 60 seconds? If he had done it the appropriate way it probably would have taken several minutes just to run your DL against the placard.

But honestly, in the future, I don’t think any officer would have a problem if you showed them the placard and if they had any issue if you nicely said “Here’s my driver’s license, I’m sure you’ll find that everything is in order”. No, you don’t have to tell them about your injury/handicap* but as I said, I’m sure he expected to find that someone was just using the Grandma’s card and asking ‘why are you handicapped’ was a just a quick way to cut to the chase.

*If they ask you to step out of the car, of course then you’ll have to tell them about your handicap, but that’s a different story.

**Don’t know how to feel about this cop’s question… **

Sounds like you won this round. Maybe this jerk will change his attitude.

The expiration date is displayed on the placard itself. And trust me, I was as nice as can be.

I didn’t know that. I assume though that you would have been okay with him simply asking your your ID, correct, to verify that the placard belong to you?

Out of curiosity, would you have been okay with him asking to see the placard and your ID if the wheelchair was visible to him?

It is very common for valid non-expired placards to be used by family members, friends, etc, who are not authorized to use it. For example, my mother is currently in hospice, and we have a placard for her car. Needless to say, she is not driving. I use the car every day, and even though I have a valid placard, it is illegal for me to use disabled parking. It is entirely appropriate for a police officer to ask for proof. Typically this would be a drivers license, as has been pointed out. In this case his lack of formality actually saved you time (as was also pointed out already).

Sure. Maybe he just doesn’t see it.

Entirely inappropriate for him to ask me how I was handicapped, however. I would have had no issue with him asking for my id.

“It’s not like he had any reasonable suspicion that prompted the question”

You’re right he is just supposed to take one look at you and assume your legs no longer function in a proper manner while driving a vehicle. What a jerk!

But even if it’s inappropriate, it’s probably not illegal and if it’s not illegal it’s nothing more then a question that annoys you (and I doubt it’s harassment of any kind). While I’m sure you’re going to have to prove you’re allowed to park in a HC spot again, I doubt you’ll be asked that question again since I’ll agree it was a bit odd. However, I’d suggest simply handing over your ID and simply saying “I’m sure you’ll find that everything is in order”.

And I do understand what Jaime is saying, I just think he’s over reacting a bit about it. As for the cop, it’s probably the fastest way to get the person to say “It’s my mom’s” “Oh…you can’t do that, here’s your ticket (or don’t do it again).” Rather then the correct way of running the placard against the DL just to find out it’s not issued to the driver and wasting everyone’s time. The problem is that he said “What’s wrong with you?” when he should have said “Is it your’s?” And you’re [Jaime] right, he probably just assumed it wasn’t yours since the majority of the time he assumes a placard doesn’t belong to a driver he’s probably right and just coming out and asking them is probably fastest. Also, a lot of people probably don’t realize they can’t actually use a handicapped placard without being handicapped. Asking someone that doesn’t appear to be handicapped WHY they are handicapped seems like it might be a nice segue into a little lecture about the proper use of that placard. Also, another thing. Almost every person under 35 that the cops runs into with one of those placards, that’s using it legally, is going to be using it for something like a broken bone, sprained joint or recent surgery as opposed to being a paraplegic and probably isn’t going to be nearly as sensitive about being asked why they need the card.

Do you mind if I ask you why you are sensitive about it? If it were me I wouldn’t care. I would appreciate the lack of formality, especially if it saved me time. Sometimes I feel like it’s too bad everyone has to tip-toe around being so “appropriate” for fear of being sued or for complaints by a sensitive minority. There is a distinction between being legitimately rude or discriminatory verses simply doing your job competently without anxious hangups around peoples feelings and possible lawsuits (and the sterile forms of interactions that end up being mandated as a result).

It seems to me what you should be angrier about is that you never actually did prove that the placard belonged to you. Apparently all you need to park in an HC spot in your city is a wheelchair in the back of your car and a placard that may or may not belong to you.

I’m curious to as to why you are taking such offense as well. I think the officer actually gave you a compliment in disguise. I really wouldn’t want to be in a position where someone can just look at me and presume I’m handicapped.

Let me preface this by saying I have the utmost respect for law enforcement officers. They do a really really dangerous job wherein they don’t know if a routine traffic stop will result in their death via psycho.

That having been said, I’ve been pulled over exactly twice in my life, both when I was sixteen (about 25 years ago.) Both times legit. Once I made a rolling stop and a cop caught me, asking (the usual) “Do you know why I’m pulling you over?” and I said “Yeah, rolling stop, sorry.” He was kind of taken aback, expecting a fight or something. We were both very pleasant to each other and he wrote me a ticket (small town, 1990-whatever, maybe $35 - big whoop.) and I went off wherever I was going.

The other time I was pulled over is I was going down a completely empty country road at around 1:00AM going, say, 45 in a 35 area. Which is in fact speeding, and I completely acknowledge that. I was working two jobs at the time: movie theater (late nights) and as a janitor for an architectural firm (late nights.) I was leaving my janitorial job one night, dressed in the most grungetastic clothes you can imagine (I’m talking like a wifebeater and cutoff jeans or something) to meet my theatre friends at a restaurant that used to be a Bob’s Big Boy for burgers and coffee.

So this cop pulls me over and asks for my ID. He says: “Where are you coming from?” and I say: “Henkels and McCoy.” and he yells “IS THAT A BAR?!?!” I say, “NO, if you actually look at my license I’m only 19 and cannot be served in a bar.” He says: “And what is your DESTINATION?!?” I said (I forget the actual name of the place) : “Smiley’s in Goshen?” He said “IS THAT A BAR?!?!?” And I wanted to be all “Bitch, what did I just tell you?” but instead I said “If I was dressed like this would I be going to a BAR?” He sure as heck wrote me out a ticket but was clearly mad he didn’t get me on more than speeding.

Sometimes cops be crazy.

It sounds like he was indeed suspicious that you were using a valid handicap parking permit fraudulently. Once he confirmed you were in fact disabled, he walked away. Sounds reasonable to me. Of course I wasn’t there to see his attitude or anything.

I’ll take a wild stab in the dark and go with “outraged”.