'We Don't Need No Stinking Badges'
By Randall C. Resch
Ok ... it's nearly midnight. You meet a property manager who escorts you to a beat-up car and asks you to impound it. Determining the property is legally posted, the manager signs your impound slip while you load it. You take it away to your facility, satisfied you're in accordance to state laws.
Fast forward to early, 0-dark-30 hours, when an undercover detective arrives at your release window with his hair on fire, jumping in your release clerk's face and demanding his vehicle back. Out comes a badge along with his aggressive attitude that's flippant, demanding and unprofessional.
Do you have options?
If your company provides PPI services in your community, you've probably had this scenario happen to you. Because it's vital that towers know their state's impound laws, impounds had better be conducted 100-percent according to the law.
Because of the very nature of police work, cool cars are never marked for the general public to identify. When cops conduct clandestine activities, we towers aren't privy that something's going down; you know, it's that "need to know" stuff. The cars they use aren't visually identifiable as police vehicles and have no markings indicating they're part of police operations.
So how are we to know they're on official police business? If they're on private property and violate posted "No Parking" signs, shouldn't they be subject to impound too? What about the off-duty cop who's had their personal vehicle towed ... and it's not a police car and not on official business?
If the cool car or personal vehicle is towed according to law, releasing vehicles back to the agency or off-duty cop (without being paid) is generally a decision of the tow company itself. In the past when these incidents happened, I'd usually return their vehicles if it was a rare occurrence—and if their approach was friendly, low-keyed, polite and business-like. If they screwed up, they should admit it.
Other tow owners faced with similar situations stand firm on their decisions to not give the car back, demanding full payment. If the tow was lawful, it's OK to stand your ground to get paid. You don't have to give it back, but consider the potential aftermath. I thoroughly understand the proverbial charge/no-charge mentality, but maintaining good relationships with local cops is rational thinking.
When a belligerent cop gets towed (for whatever reasons) and they're in your face demanding immediate return for free, tell 'em to stand-by as you call the chief's office requesting a supervisor. After talking with the watch commander regarding their officer's rampage, you'll probably see an immediate change in their behavior especially when reminded that they're most likely violating department policy.
As a law enforcement tower and when involved in police operations, I know that cops make mistakes. I believe that responding without emotion, yet taking into consideration the "win the battle, lose the war" syndrome is something to consider. It's not a matter of backing down; just consider your options.
This narrative applies to anyone who thinks that flashing a badge is starting their transaction on the wrong note. If so moved, advise them that they might as well put their badge away; they're only making things worse. Hiding behind a badge brings bad press especially when they've messed up. A cop's bad actions justify the old saying "You get more with kind words and a smile than you'll ever get with a smokin' gun and a bad attitude."Randall Resch is American Towman's and Tow Industry Week's Operation's Editor, a former California police officer, tow business owner and retired civilian off-road instructor for Navy Special Warfare. Randall is an approved instructor for towers serving the California Highway Patrol's rotation contract. His course is approved by the California law enforcement community. He has written over 500 industry-related articles for print and on-line. Randall was inducted into the International Towing & Recovery Hall of Fame in 2014.