Thursday’s column (The Tin Man)

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.

When the state gets its money, the city gets its cut and the tow yard is satisfied, Rangel can get her car, Alhambra police Lt. Elliot Kase said.

“It’s very straightforward based on the vehicle code,” he said. “We have the authority to store the vehicle.”

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  • Brenda

    Whereas I sympathize with Ms. Rangle, I don’t understand why her registration fee is so high. I too have a 2004 Chrysler Sebring LTD. and looking at my registration papers right now, my fee is $140.00 Perhaps she has unpaid fees of some other type?

  • Francis Neilson

    It is not clear from the article why the officer in Alhambra ticketed Ms. Rangel, the drver of the 2004 Chrysler Sebring who made a right turn on to Main to be in position for a later right on to Garfield. Her manuevering sounds prudent.Said “Tin Man” officer with no heart must have been in opposing southbound to make a left behind Ms. Rangel. It is not clear what moving violation occurred. As another correspondent with a similar car has pointed out,her registration fees are $140.00, not $400 that the “bloodsuckers of Alhambra” require for Ms. Rangel to be current with DMV laws. Ms. Rangel must have been in arrears for more than one year of registration.

    It will indeed be very expensive for her, who obviously is in financial distress, having lost her job & home, to get current with DMV plus pay for towing,& daily storage.

    But can the law allow “Tin Man” officer the latitude to act as judge in enforcement of motor vehicle laws?

    For comparison,please view also in Tribune of same day, Thursday, Jan. 15, in Your View section,the claim in “Too Many Costs”, by Mr. Bernard Parsons of Covina wherein he claims that illegal aliens who have streamed across our borders, when stopped by Covina officers for I assume a moving violation, or it may be an obvious lack on a foriegn plate of the current registration tag.

    The charge that said illegal aliens are sent on their way with out a ticket or other police action, despite that the vehicles are unregistered, unlicensed, & uninsured, and drivers with no evidence of current California drivers license. If it is established that the “illegal alien” motorists are visitors having no local residence address or local employment, then they must be classified as visitors, perhaps not subject to our local laws.

    The two stories seem out of balance and information incomplete regarding the Covina police incidents Mr. Parsons describes.

    Francis Neilson
    El Monte

  • Steve

    I have NO sympathy for Ms. Rangel. Everyone needs to pay their registration is they want to drive on CA roads. If her vehicle was empounded, then it is very likely that her tags were many months out of date. Also, if she can afford to drive a gas-sucking SUV from Beaumont to Alhambra for a non-essential trip, then she should be able to budget for registration.

  • Ron Rios

    Agree with Steve for the most part. “Bloodsuckers” not too nice for some one doing their job. Did she have auto-ins.?
    Cities are in trouble $$$$ read you paper.

  • linda burns

    seems as a lot of info missing for this reporter to make this judgement call.

  • Chung Tsu

    I know this Tin Man as do many other residents of the San Gabriel valley.

    He is your classical sociopath who prowls Alhambra under the authority of the city government. Alhambrans should use the power of their votes to remove elected city officials who support this ruthless leech.

    On a hot summer day, it was at least 110 degrees in my car without the air conditioning running as the Tin Man pulled me over for making a left turn on Valley Blvd.

    That’s fine by me, but I asked to have the air conditioning on for my 90 year old mother sitting in the passenger seat. Tin Man commanded that the engine be kept off while he leisurely wrote his little ticket.
    Was he trying to kill a senior citizen?
    We’ll never know because I rushed my mom home to get rehydrated and cooled off before she became seriously ill.

    Like I said, Alhambra city officials support this ill tin man on his shiny motorcycle and it is their ethics that should be questioned, not the cretin’s.

    By the way, Tin Man, I have sent the appropriate form to the IRS asking that they investigate impound businesses for illegal kickbacks to government employees.
    For those among you who chastise Mrs. Rangel, I do hope that you have your moments in the sun with the Tin Man someday.

  • Rachel Dominguez

    It is interesting how many judges there are willing to throw Ms Rangel to the curb. Not many people are willing to take time out of their day to pray for a less fortunate, let alone risk driving a non-registered car in a “gas-sucking suv” for the benefit of a sick priest. What was she getting out of it? You miss the whole point when you scold her for driving without a registered car. When I drove in my pajamas to drop off my daughter at school and she didn’t have her seat belt on, the compassionate motorcycle officer said it would be easier to cite me so we didn’t have to go to court. His issue was to warn us about the dangers of not wearing a seat belt,and the $93 ticket drove his point home, but he could have made us suffer more by going to court. The Tin Man could learn something from his peers and visit the land of Oz to get a heart.

  • 5th Estate

    What if the subject was on her way to an orgy rather than church? Would that make a difference? It is not the job of the cop on the street to judge the merits of the offender. Expired reg = ticket.

    If excuses mattered everyone would lie and say they were on their way to church to get out of a ticket.