Recently, a former member of Lima City Council decided to bring a complaint about being “disrespected” by an LPD officer to council floor, a most unlikely place for such a problem to be resolved. It makes one question his motive for publicizing the complaint in this manner.
I have no idea whether or not he was actually treated disrespectfully by the officer. Obviously, it could very well have happened. However, I personally have a problem with this particular person’s idea of disrespect, due to an incident that occurred during the period when he was a member of council, and I was volunteering to work the front desk at LPD to free up a street officer.
One evening the front desk phone rang, and I answered in the normal manner. An unidentified male voice said, “I want to know if you have a warrant for ….”
The LPD does not give out warrant information over the phone for several reasons, not the least of which is that it might provide a wanted person with just the information that he or she needs in order to make a decision to skip town in order to avoid the warrant. My reply was the standard response, “We don’t give out that information over the phone.”
The caller then identified himself, using his title of councilman.
Now in 58 years of being a sworn police officer, I have learned several things about dealing with members of Lima City Council. One of those things is that they sometimes have egos that far exceed their position, and more importantly, that they have a great deal of control over the purse strings for the LPD operating budget. Consequently, I have always bent over backward to accommodate council members, even in situations like this one where they really have no more right to the information than any other citizen.
With all of this in mind, my reply was, “Oh, if you had told me who you were in the beginning, I would have gotten the information for you; hold on a moment.”
I then checked the warrant file and determined that we did not have a warrant for that person, and I gave that information to the caller.
Some weeks later, I ran into Chief Kevin Martin in the hallway, and he informed me that the councilman had called him to complain that I was “rude” to him on the phone.
I was dumbfounded, to say the least, and expressed my amazement that such a complaint would even be possible. The only thing that I could think of that could be construed as rude was that I failed to call him “Your Excellency” or “Your Eminence”.
The Chief then went on to explain that he had checked the tape recording of the telephone conversation. After listening to the conversation, he made a copy of it, and then called the councilman to inform him that he heard nothing to indicate any rudeness on my part. When the councilman couldn’t understand that opinion, Chief Martin invited him to come in and listen to the tape recording for himself. The councilman replied that he didn’t have time to do that, and to forget it.
Apparently, it was important enough to complain about, but that importance diminished when he was proven wrong.
Another thing that I learned many years ago is that demanding respect usually backfires, and has a negative effect on personal interactions, and that the best way to get respect is to give it. Even when I wore the oak leaf insignia of an Inspector’s rank at the LPD, I expected respect for the rank, but respect for me personally was optional, and unnecessary, especially if I hadn’t earned it.
I believe that this former councilman, and maybe some current members of council, may have an inflated view of their importance, and a distorted view of exactly what constitutes respect, either for their person or their position.
Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. He writes a guest column for The Lima News, often focusing on police matters.