Hail to the Chief

On a dark, back road of Nantucket, we had a nighttime encounter with a flatbed truck driver who was pretty obviously drunk. The details are unimportant, but the guy got out of his truck, shouting obscenities, and ran after us because I used my high beams to see if I had enough clearance to get by. (Chasing a Bentley on foot is one indication of possessing a high blood/alcohol rating.)

When we got back to the inn, I called the police to report him, because I figured he would give other people the same grief, and maybe come back after me. The officer on the phone was dismissive, and wouldn’t even take my name. That ticked me off more than the truck driver.

After I returned home, I found the Nantucket Police Department on Google, and was impressed that Chief William Pittman had a direct email address. I wrote to tell him about his indifferent officer, because if I were he, I’d want to know.

He called me personally today, apologized, and told me what corrective actions were being taken. He even figured out who the trucker driver was, and told me the issue should have been handled far differently. He was totally professional, and service-oriented. I know if I had been wrong, he would have told me that in the same manner.

I’m impressed. No one is perfect, no department is perfect. But when leaders are determined to be responsive and constantly seek improvement—and not be defensive—good things happen. And maybe a future assault is prevented.

Compare this to another experience in Nantucket: I’m waiting for my wife at a convenience store, where all the parking spaces are filled, so I’m in a loading zone, with the motor idling, at 9 at night, when no one on earth is going to load or unload on Nantucket. I notice a heavy guy walking down the street looking at me, and it looks like he has a holster, though I figure it’s a cell phone.

Next thing I know, he’s next to me in an SUV bellowing at me, like a small town, redneck, tough guy. He screams at me not to stay in the loading zone, and I notice the light array on the SUV and look down to see “Sheriff” on the door. Politely asking me to move would have had the same ultimate outcome, right?

I recounted this at the Wauwinet bar the next night and a local guy asked me, “What kind of car do you drive?” Curious, I told him, and asked why that mattered.

“Because you ran into our sheriff,” he said, “and he just hates anyone here with money.”

“Aren’t we the ones who help the economy, and don’t most people on this island have mney?” I asked.

“Go figure!” he says.

So, hail to the Chief, at least he sets a shining example on Nantucket.

(Do you have a good or bad police authority example? Make a comment below!)

© Alan Weiss 2009. All rights reserved.


7 thoughts on “Hail to the Chief

  1. People often treat people with indifference because they think they can get away with it. More people need to call people on this and so people can be held accountable. I recently called the San Jose Police over an incident that I felt had been handled badly by a dispatcher. The SJPD watch commander called me to understand what I had observed “so they can improve their process.” Nice. I learned some things and so did they. Leaders appreciate knowing what’s going right and what’s going wrong. They can’t fix what they don’t know about.

  2. A great many police forces use as their motto, “Serve and Protect.” I’ve been fortunate to live in two communities, Summit, NJ, and East Greenwich, RI, where they really believe that.

  3. Your line about chasing a Bentley barefoot made me laugh Alan. I’ve always wanted to visit Nantucket – so I am living vicariously through your posts.

    As for cops, I have been lucky. All the cops I have encountered have been sweet and kind folks. One time, as a new comer to The University of Texas at Austin, I got lost. So lost, that I ended up going the wrong way on a one-way. I quickly exited into an alley, followed by a cop car. I thought he was going to give me a ticket (and it would have made sense). Instead, he asked me if I was okay, and if I needed directions. I am guessing lots of students get lost their first few days. Hail to the Chief indeed. = )

  4. In some professions, bad folks have a bigger impact than others. Recently, I’ve been hearing stories of medical patients who were treated by incompetent or insensitive doctors. Some ended catastrophically, some were near misses, and some just left a lingering negative impression.

    Dealing with bad people in an expert or authority position is much worse than when dealing with someone with little authority. I think that this “soft skills” part should be taken into account upon hiring.

    My one encounter with a police officer because of a traffic violation was in your neck of the woods: Providence RI. I had to reach a hotel downtown and I got lost. I made a U-turn and 5 seconds later, siren and everything.

    I couldn’t believe it! Five minutes into this town and I was getting a ticket! The officer asked me if I knew why he stopped me, and I replied (truthfully) “Probably because I made an illegal turn.” Although I wasn’t sure why. He explained, took my driver’s license and came back a few minutes later with this comment: “You’re lost aren’t you?”

    He scratched the ticket, gave me directions and I was on my way. So that makes three reasons to like RI!

    L

  5. I just came across your interesting story.
    Even a new driver has learned never to use high-beams when approaching an oncoming vehicle.
    Blinding the oncoming vehicle’s driver usually makes things worse.
    Most modern cars have low beams that provide more than enough light for any night-time condition, when driving at a reasonable speed.
    Luckily, you didn’t get a ticket for illegal use of your hi-beams.

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