This is one hell of a story, and serves as the was it SHOULD go down.
I had to drive from NE PA to Indiana, to pick up my daughter from college. Because we had to haul all her stuff back for the summer, I needed a van, so I borrowed one from work. The night before we left, I grabbed a tag, and filled out temporary registration info, and picked out an '11 Grand Caravan (nice van, even being a Chrysler product).
It's basically a 500+ mile trip on I-80, through PA, OH, and IN; maybe 9-10 hours, stopping every 2-3 hours to stretch. Traveling out Thursday was uneventful, other than it was chilly and rainy. We loaded her up Friday morning after her last final, and after stopping to eat we were on our way around noon.
It was a beautiful day for driving, 70* with no wind, and not a cloud in the sky. We crossed into Ohio around 2PM, and around 2:30 we were looking for the next rest stop. Motoring along with the cruise set at 74 (speed limit in Oh is 70), Mrs said, "Cop ahead."
"It's OK, I'm not speeding, and anyhow that Jetta just passed me." And sure enough, I looked in the rear view and the cop pulled out. "Looks like he's getting pulled over," I said.
Except it didn't happen. The cruiser took up position right off my left flank, and tracked me. I slowed down, from 74 to 70; the cop slowed down. I slowed down to 65; the cop slowed down. "Ahhhh, hell." I said to the girls. "I can't believe it. I'm going to get ticketed for going 74. What a ticky-tack state!"
The cop tracked me for about 5 miles, and then I looked in the rear view, and flying up from waaaaaay back was one of those Hemi Charger pursuit cars, all black with the real skinny light bar, headlights flashing and light bar blinking. "Ahhh, backup," I thought. "They must be going after that guy, she was waiting." But as soon as he got up in place, they both pulled in behind me, the first car threw on the lights and siren, and I pulled over immediately. "Son of a bitch," I thought. "I really am going to get ticketed for 74!"
I turned off the ignition, and put my hands on the wheel like a good citizen; rule number one is to maximize your chance of talking your way out of it. But they were both out of the car, and yelling at me! Huh? What kind of stop was this? I put down my window, and they were yelling, "PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE WE CAN SEE THEM!" I looked in the rear view, and I couldn't hear them, but the officer from the first car, a woman, was motioning me to get out. I got out, and started walking back, thinking that this wasn't like any other traffic stop I'd ever been in, and I noticed that the guy from the Hemi had a riot shotgun pointed right at me.
And they were yelling, "TURN AROUND! TURN AROUND! PUT YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEAD AND WALK BACKWARD TO US, SLOWLY!"
OK, now I was really confused. But I figured out that my best course of action right then was to turn around, put my hands behind my head, and walk backward to them, slowly.
When I got there, the first officer, who did all the talking the entire time, said, "Okay. put your hands behind your back. Do you have anything sharp, and weapons, anything that could hurt me?" And she proceeded to pat me down, and of course I had nothing. "Okay, turn around, put your hands in the air where we can see them." Meanwhile, the other guy had the shotgun leveled at me.
"I need to tell you," I said, "I am confused, and scared as hell that you are going to mistake my confusion for noncompliance. Please, don't tase me. If you tase me you will kill me, I have a heart condition." They didn't say anything, they didn't change expression, nothing. The officer said, "Do you have ID on you?"
ID! "Yes," I said, and I reached for my wallet. IMMEDIATELY the shotgun came up to attention! "Slowly," she said. I got out my drivers license. She took it.
"Where are you coming from?" She asked. I told her, picking up my daughter from college.
"Is that your family in there?"
"Yes, my wife and my daughter. Can I ask, what is this about? I am really confused."
"Who does this van belong to?" I told her, Nationwide Car Sales. "Do you own the dealership?" "No." "Do you work there?" "Yes, I do the financing."
"You really don't have any idea why we stopped you, do you... The reason is, when you passed through the Westgate, they snapped a photo of your license plate, and it's been reported as stolen."
"WHAT? I grabbed a tag out of a stack of tags! We've been using these tags daily, there's nothing wrong with them!" And just then, over the speaker clipped to her lapel, the dispatcher said, "Plate number is registered to Nationwide Car Sales." Ahh. Finally, something is going right.
"Okay, now I understand," I said.
"It's a dealer tag. I've seen it happen before. If I really thought this car was stolen, you'd all be out here on the ground, face down and handcuffed. But sometimes a plate is reported stolen, and some states replace it with the same number. I need to ask some questions, I'm going to call Nationwide Car Sales."
"Can I put my hands down now?" I'd been holding my hands up for about 15 minutes. As soon as I said that, the shotgun came right back up to attention.
"No, that's OK, keep them up where I can see them for now," she said. She went back to her car, and talked to someone for a couple minutes. Ringo kept the shotgun on me. He looked like he was itching to make the newspapers.
She came back and said, "OK, you can go back and sit in your car, I have to make some more calls."
"Can I have my license back?"
"No, I'll hold onto it for now."
I went back to my car and told the girls. "I knew it!" Said my daughter. "I thought you were just being an ******* when you put your hands in the air," said my wife (always the sense of humor about things, her).
Just then my cell phone rang. It was John, the GM, the guy I run Nationwide with, and the guy who is in charge of a lot of the admin stuff. I told him what happened.
"Yeah, I just got the call. I'm on my way over to the police station now to sort it out. We renewed all the plates, and reported the lost tags. I had Dawn check the numbers with the state... the guy at the Wilkes-Barre Township Police Department switched the lists, and reported all the good tags lost or stolen, and renewed all the lost ones!"
Just then, the trooper came up to my window. "I have John on the phone now, would you like to talk to him? I asked.
"No, I'll call him myself," she said. And then she asked me questions: Address of the business? Phone number? Dealer number? Who owns it, and how can I reach him? (I didn't tell her that, that would be death. I told her that I worked there for 5 years and I've seen him 3 times, which is a little bit of a stretch but mostly true.) Then she took the girls' IDs, and went back to her car.
Meanwhile, the whole time Ringo has that shotgun pointed at the van.
We sat there. Remember when we got pulled over, we we looking for the next rest stop? Yeah. It was coming up on an hour now. I looked in the rear view, and saw her talking on the radio to someone, then waiting, then talking, then throwing her clipboard on the dash, then waiting, then talking...
Finally Ringo lowered the gun, got in his black Hemi Charger, turned off his lights and floored it out of there. I took a deep breath and let it out. Finally.
But we were still sitting there, waiting. It was now coming up on 4PM. There were only a few things that could happen now. From best outcome to worst: She could let us go on our way. That would be cool. She could let us go on our way, but give me a ticket for an improper registration. That would sort of suck, but I could understand. She could be waiting for a tow truck. She might be a real stickler for the rules, and figure that she couldn't let us continue without a valid registration. That would REALLY suck, because then we'd be in god-knows-where-Ohio, with no idea what to do next, and no idea when we'd get home.
And that last one, that would really suck because our daughter was leaving for a service trip to Peru in a week, and needed to have a lot of doctor's appointments and such filled in the next week, and all her stuff was in the car.
Finally, she got out of her car, and walked over to the passenger window.
"I figured something like this," she said. Talking to my wife, "If I really thought this was stolen, you'd have all been out on the ground handcuffed, face down."
"Mrs laughed. "Well thank goodness for that! We'd have been crying and crying!" And finally the officer smiled.
"Here's what I did. I couldn't get anyone from the station to tell me anything. So I took the 'hit' off your plate. DON'T GET STOPPED. If you get stopped, they'll run the tag, and it will come up stolen again. I didn't file a report, so this incident won't show up, and you'll have to go through this all again. But at least no one will be looking for you now. You can go on your way now. Drive safely."
"I appreciate your professionalism," I said (yes, I really said exactly that). "I thought I was going to get ticketed for 74, and then I was confused as hell, but once I could see that it was going to get sorted out I felt a lot better. Thank you for being so professional. I have no problem with how it went down... I'm just not happy that it happened to be ME." She smiled, but didn't answer other than to say, "Have a good drive, sir." "And you stay safe, officer!" said Mrs Mosca. And we parted.
And that was it. The next rest stop was 28 miles. We drove at 70/71mph. We made it to the rest stop, then made it home by 11PM, two hours past our target time of 9PM, but safe.
All in all, I have no complaints about how this was handled. I want the police to catch the bad guys. I have no problem with plates getting photoed and checked; if I have the right to photograph the police, they have the right to photograph a license plate displayed publicly. And a stolen car, that is the type of thing that could result in a bigger bust: drugs, kidnapping, other robberies, anything. Stuff happens.
<message edited by Mosca on Sun, 05/27/12 8:29 PM>