A couple of friends of mine who are motorcycle cops refer to a third motorcycle cop they know as the “Tin Man.”
Certainly you remember the character from “The Wizard of Oz,” because he had no heart. Kathleen Rangel, 46, of Beaumont believes she and her family encountered a tin man of sorts enforcing traffic laws in Alhambra.
Several months ago, Rangel lost her job. Without the income, it’s been difficult to come up with the $400 the bloodsuckers at the DMV want for the registration on her 2004 Chrysler Sebring.
Knowing the car was not registered, Rangel decided to make the trek to Alhambra on Monday to pray with friends for a sick pastor at the New Harvest Christian Fellowship Church.
She packed her husband and 9-year-old son in the car and headed to Alhambra.
“I was going to turn right on Main Street to turn right on to Garfield,” Rangel recalled. “The officer was turning left. My son saw a comic book shop and said, ‘Mommy, when we get out of church can we go there?’
“As soon as I made the turn, the officer was right behind me and turned his lights on.” The officer wrote a ticket.
“When he came back he asked me why we haven’t paid the registration,” Rangel said. “I told him, ‘I lost my job and my house, it’s been a difficult year for us. Right now things are tight, but we’re expecting a check any day and hope to get the registration cleared up.'”
The officer spoke into his radio, and came back to the Sebring.
“He said, ‘I need you to remove all your contents because I’m impounding the vehicle,'” Rangel recalled. “I started to cry and he just looked at me like I was nothing and said, ‘You should have thought this was going to happen when you got in the car.'”
“We are going to church,” I told him. “Please, how are we going to get home?”
“He goes, ‘take a cab.'”
Ultimately a friend from Los Angeles came out to Alhambra, picked up Rangel, her husband and son and drove them back to Beaumont — “just 28 miles west of Palm Springs,” as she likes to point out. The impound will cost her $36 per day, plus $159 for the tow and a $45 fee to the Alhambra Police Department.
Perhaps Rangel got caught in the vortex of the times.
Or perhaps government agencies like Alhambra are turning to tickets and impounds to make up for lost revenue thanks to the economic crisis.
“This only works if you can target people from outside the community,” said Max Neiman, associate director and senior fellow of the Public Policy Institute of California. “There are places in the U.S. and California where tourists become a target for a fair amount of revenue enhancement.” As for the Alhambra Police Department, the ticket was a matter of officer discretion, and the brass stands behind the black-and-white decision of its tin man.
“It’s very straightforward based on the vehicle code,” he said. “We have the authority to store the vehicle.”