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Former, current police chiefs spar over booting cars

September 05, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

A former Hancock police chief thinks using "the boot" on vehicles belonging to residents of this small town who don't pay parking tickets is unprofessional, sparking an argument Tuesday night with the current police chief who proposed the action.

"We're being judge and jury," said former chief Darwin Mills, who is a town councilman. "What I'm saying is we can do it the professional way."

Current Police Chief Donald Gossage has proposed that the town use the boot to immobilize cars belonging to residents who have at least three parking tickets that have gone unpaid for 30 days or more.

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The boot is a device that locks around the wheels of vehicles and prevents them from being moved.

The town would store the cars until the owners pay the tickets and other fees. If the owners don't pay, the town would have the authority to sell the vehicle at a public auction.

Mills said he thinks the town should issue tickets to parking violators and then immediately set court dates, which would force them to pay their tickets on time. That would be similar to the way parking violations were handled when he was a police chief, he said.

"They don't have that in place anymore," Gossage said. "That's been 25 years ago since you've been police chief. Things change. Things do not remain the same."

Mills was chief from January 1974 to November 1979.

Gossage said the police department usually only asks for court dates for criminal offenses. He said a parking violation is a civil offense.

Asking for court dates for all parking tickets would be a hassle because the town would need legal advice and employees would be tied up in court, he said.

"I don't see where it's any simpler," Gossage said.

Other council members got involved in the dispute, all supporting the boot.

Councilman David Smith said he likes the idea of using the device because it would get people to pay their tickets.

"That boot is something that you do not want to happen to your car," Smith said. "They are going to pay the money if they want to get their car."

"The boot will get you instant results," Councilman Randy Pittman said.

The arguments didn't convince Mills, who also said the town would be liable for any damage to cars caused by the boot.

"Look Randy, there's such a thing as doing things the professional way," Mills said.

Mills also questioned why the town could not tow the cars instead of using the boot.

Gossage said the device is less likely to cause damage to cars than a tow truck.

The boot would become part of the town's traffic ordinance if its use is approved by the Town Council.

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