Other Voices: Flexibility and the Nevada City Police Department
OK, correct me if I’m wrong … I believe a couple of things to be self-evident.
Thing one: Nevada City benefits greatly from live music, which attracts tourists and locals who spend money downtown.
Thing two: A police force is most effective if upstanding citizens see the police as allies, not adversaries. This had always been my feeling, until last weekend.
On Friday, my five-piece band (all professionals who do this for the love of music) played at Amigos on Broad Street.
At 10 p.m., we lugged our considerable equipment up the stairs and set it at the doorway. We brought our pickup truck to the curb (red) and hurried to load it.
The alternative would have been to carry the equipment another half block around the corner. In many restaurants there is no alternative, other than finding one of the famously rare parking spaces in Nevada City and carrying the bulky, heavy equipment.
A police car stopped on what I later discovered was his sixth of seven passes. He’d earlier told our bandmates to move, and driven by repeatedly to make sure no other criminal activity was taking place in front of the restaurant.
I can only hope no crimes that were even more serious were taking place elsewhere, as we had his and his partner’s undivided attention.
He told my husband, in what onlookers described as a rather arrogant, hostile tone, that he couldn’t park there. My husband said, “We’ll be done in two seconds.” The officer returned in a few minutes and began writing a ticket, silent and grim-faced.
“You know, this gives you a bad name,” I said.
“What? Enforcing the law gives police a bad name?” he said.
“I think you could be more flexible and more kind,” I said.
“How much more flexible could I be? I warned him, and I came back and he was still here,” he replied.
I pointed out that the truck was never unattended, and we were not creating a safety hazard or encroaching on the road.
“Why is the curb painted red?” he replied.
Which begs the question, why is the curb painted red? Why isn’t there a yellow loading zone in front of restaurants to allow for musicians to unload equipment? It’s not easy to be legal here.
After writing the ticket, the officer pulled out abruptly from the red zone he had parked in and partly into the opposite lane forcing an oncoming car to stop for him.
I am not including the name of the officer in this letter, as my intent is not to cause a vendetta but to bring about change within the city and the police department. I’ll include it in the copy I send to the police department.
This kind of police attitude does give them a bad name. And this lack of support for musicians threatens the very charm that draws people to Nevada City.
Later discussions with other musicians and bands has revealed that this is a recurrent problem, with bands hurrying to load in untenable situations and feeling harassed by one policeman in particular.
One was given a ticket the minute he pulled his car to the curb.
We will be requesting a slot on City Council to explore solutions to this problem; there is no legal, reasonable way to load music equipment. We encourage local musicians and anyone who loves Nevada City’s friendly, creative charm to attend.
More importantly, we will be asking that the officer in question treat his constituents with the respect all of us deserve. This is what makes policemen the good guys.
UPDATE: I went to the police station and spoke with Lt. Gage, who was very open to hearing about and resolving this problem and planned to bring it up for discussion at a meeting this week.
He pointed out that musicians have a responsibility as well – to leave vehicles for only the time necessary to unload – something that hasn’t always been done.
I later received a call from Sgt. Badour, who had spoken with the chief of police and was committed to improving relations with musicians and citizens, in general.
I’d like to offer my kudos to the Nevada City Police Department for being so available and responsive to citizens.
Diane Miessler lives in Nevada City.
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