24 05 2008

Disabled man catches cruiser in wrong spot; Peel Police probe why officer took disabled space

by Joe Warmington

The Sault Star – Ontario, CA

http://www.saultstar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1041505

Is there any good reason a cop would have parked his cruiser in a clearly marked disabled parking spot outside of a Mississauga Tim Hortons lot earlier this week?

The double-leg amputee who wanted that designated space near the corner of Dixie and Eglinton was wondering that last night – as were Peel Regional Police whose brass searched around last night for an officer who did this on Victoria Day Monday.

“I was shocked,” said Gerard Taylor, 46, a native of Sault Ste. Marie, who was in town last weekend to visit family.

“I said, quick we have got to get a picture.”

A picture sometimes forces people into trying to find more than a thousand words to offer up an excuse!

This one shows the painted cruiser backed into the disabled spot, which, upon checking it out, is a location clearly marked by proper disability signage and with a blue wheelchair painted on the pavement.

“My friend took it with my camera,” he said. “We kind of caught them with their pants down and they don’t like it. I may have to stay in Toronto next time instead because the Peel police might be looking to pull me over.”

Ultimately the top-notch Peel cops, or any police in Canada for that matter, are not like that and ultimately they’ll handle what at first blush appears unprofessional and inappropriate, professionally and appropriately. “I can advise that we are looking into the circumstances surrounding this matter,” said Acting Staff Sgt. Taufic Saliba, of Peel Regional Police Corporate Communications.

It should be interesting to see if they do manage to come up with a reason. A disabled cop? Did the car run out of gas? Was there an emergency under way? Just a bad mistake?

Or was this a lazy cop, who figures the rules are just for those not in uniform?

Gerard Taylor is all ears. He is also scratching his head at what possible reason any able-bodied person could come up with. He’s heard them all.

“Usually people just say I will only be here for a second,” he said. “The problem is those spots are reserved for people who need them.”

People like Taylor. “I lost both legs 28 years ago when I tried to jump a train from Sault Ste. Marie to Sudbury for a rock concert,” he said. “It seemed like a good idea at the time. I didn’t get to the concert.”

Today he’s confined to a wheelchair and calls himself a member of the unofficial “accessibility police” who all hate seeing anybody taking advantage of the disabled.

“This is an on-going problem in Ontario and we need a Canadians With Disabilities Act to protect us from this kind of thing happening,” he said.

Still he’s not after nailing one individual cop. “He was only parked there for 90 seconds because I think someone told him about us snickering and talking about taking a picture,” he said. “Still that is 90 seconds of a handicapped person’s life that is already hard enough. It’s the principle.”

He said lots of spots were available and in fact another Peel cop car was parked legally. Meanwhile, police hoped he would provide the exact time, but Taylor is reluctant. “I don’t want to get a poor guy in trouble. I just don’t want it to happen again.”

Unless there is a reason we haven’t considered, it certainly should not happen again because it doesn’t get any worse than the people charged with the role of handing out the tickets for illegally parking in a disabled spot, doing it themselves. Bring on the hypocrisy police.

“The fine can be as much as $5,000,” said Taylor, who feels if a civilian able-bodied person has to pay it, so should an able-bodied person in uniform.

Time will tell if the Peel cops end up issuing one of their own an embarrassing infraction ticket and if a disabled man named Gerard Taylor, and all disabled Ontarians really, will be issued an apology.

joe.warmington@sunmedia.ca

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