My column last week on the disgraceful practice of Parkin police handing out expensive "inattentive driving" citations like Halloween candy to victimized motorists along U.S. 64 rang alarm bells statewide, including one from a Memphis dentist raised in nearby Wynne.
Dr. Kelli Dumas' story reminds me of my double root canal. Here, in edited part, is what she told me.
"Friends contacted me after your article ran, including one state trooper. I'm adding my voice to the chorus of Parkin and Earle Police Department haters. They are completely out of control, answering to no one, including my friend, Cross County Sheriff J.R. Smith. A Parkin cop told me, 'we don't answer to J.R.' "
Her Parkin problems began about Christmas last year when she was stopped by an officer who asked if she knew how fast she was going. She replied 53. He said she was doing 64. "I said no way, You don't speed in Parkin. I graduated from Wynne High School [14 miles from Parkin] and driven this road my whole life," most recently with Tennessee tags. "He said radar don't lie. My kids, both licensed drivers, were with me."
He handed her a ticket. "I said I'm not going to sign that without seeing the radar gun." He said, 'you ain't got to sign the ticket, we can go straight to jail.' I was furious. I said did you really threaten to take me to jail in front of my children? He said, 'It ain't no threat. Sign the ticket or you go to jail.'"
She asked for his name and badge number. It was Officer Holmes, badge 316. "I insisted on seeing the radar gun. He said I didn't have the right to see it, but would show it anyway. It read 63 mph. I said was doing 53, or two miles below the speed limit, when you say I was doing 64. Yet the gun says 63. I'll see you in court." And before she had her seat belt buckled, he had turned around to stop another motorist traveling 64 West.
Dr. Dumas went to court. "It was ridiculous. People were lined up and down the hallways. The courtroom was filled to the brim. I was there four hours. Topping it off, there was no toilet paper in the restrooms. A deputy said there was none in the building!"
One man had driven from Clinton to answer his ticket for a "dim license plate bulb," Dumas said. "The replacement bulb was $1.93. His ticket was $235. Another drove from Mississippi. He'd been stopped at noon for a daytime running light not working. He'd removed his seatbelt to get his registration and was fined because the officer said he didn't see him wearing it, so the man might be lying. A $550 fine.
"I met a boy from Parkin who played football with my nephew. He'd come to visit his grandma and also got a dim-license-plate-bulb ticket. Others were there for inattentive driving, what even is that? It's a city ordinance where the money goes straight to the city coffers."
In front of Judge Mike Smith, the court could not find Dumas' ticket and Officer Holmes failed to appear, so the lady's ticket was dismissed after she'd missed a half-day of seeing patients.
"I contacted the area state representative, who said he was working with the representative from Damascus on legislation to prevent this type of behavior," said Dumas. "I contacted the interim mayor of Parkin. She said she had a real job and was a part-time mayor. I emailed the governor and contacted State Police Divisions D and A. I called the state's attorney's office five times. No one ever called back. I raised heck, which did absolutely no good."
Six months later, Dr. Dumas said, she again was stopped in Parkin while driving 10 miles below the posted limit. The cop ticketed her for supposedly having a dim license plate bulb.
"I said, oh, not the totally-subjective dim-license-plate-bulb $235-city-ordinance-B.S. fine! My Memphis mechanic afterwards found nothing wrong with my bulbs, which is what he documented.
"So back to Parkin court, wasting another half-day. Same song, second verse. (This time I thankfully brought Kleenex). Again I pled not guilty. Two officers said the bulb was dim. I told Judge Smith about the mechanic's check which found nothing amiss and showed him his note and my receipt. The judge said, since two officers of the court said the bulb was dim, he had no choice but to side with them. Fine: $235.
"I've been practicing dentistry for 30 years in Memphis, and when people know I'm from Wynne, they always have a story about the cops in Earle or Parkin who routinely tell their victims they are doing them a favor and their citations won't go on their record. That's because it goes straight into the city coffers," said Dumas. "They need to be audited and find out where all that money goes."
Well, Dr. Dumas, in the interest of justice and citizens' rights, I say far more investigation than an audit.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorial on 04/22/2018
Print Headline: A dentist speaks