The Seeker

A Meta-Cognitive Journal About Writing… Plus Other Stuff

My Encounter With The Lake Geneva Police, pt.1

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Last July Fourth could have gone better.  I was in Lake Geneva along the lake shore enjoying the day with some friends.  I had fired up the grill and was preparing to do some chicken and shrimp when Officers McNutt and Buchburger stopped by to tell me that grilling in the park was a violation of the city public burning ordinance.  I countered that the City of Lake Geneva website said something different.  The officers contended that grilling is only allowed in one park  somewhere away from the lake shore.  I showed them on my phone what I had read on the City of Lake Geneva website that led me to believe that what I was doing was fine:

Grilling & Other Fires: Fires for cooking are permitted in picnic areas, but only in grills provided or in a suitable device that contains the fire up off the ground. A permit must be obtained from the Fire Chief for any other fires within a public park.

I found nothing that indicated what a picnic area was, precisely, and thus believed what I was doing was fine.  For that matter, I assumed that the dozen or so other groups in the immediate area who also had grills going read the same thing and interpreted it as I had.

It turned out that officers McNutt and Buchburger weren’t in the mood for deliberation, and especially weren’t in the mood for me to be asserting myself.  Officer Buchburger seemed to be the most peeved (or at least quickest to rile when I didn’t acquiesce to her authority), and began demanding  that I show her my ID so she could know who she was talking to.

I refused to produce an ID and told her she could call me “Sir” if she needed to address me.  I suspected her real plan was to hold my ID to inconvenience me or check for warrants, probably both, to see if she could escalate things and have an excuse to be more aggressive in her enforcement of the law.  After her second demand, I got out my phone and began recording what was happening.  She refused several times to identify herself, and wasn’t wearing a badge that would identify her.

I realized I was in deeper than I wanted to be, and capitulated regarding the grill.  We packed up our things and prepared to leave the park.  Officers McNutt and Buchburger demanded that I stay.  I asked if I was being detained.  They said I was.  I asked why, and they said because I had violated the public burning ordinance and they would have to cite me.  I had extinguished my grill, though, so I told them I wasn’t violating the ordinance.  They planned to cite me anyhow, not because of the grill at this point but, as far as I could tell, because I didn’t respect their authority and the citation was all they had to grasp at.  They couldn’t cite me of their own accord, however, since in addition to not having badges, they also didn’t have ticket books with them.

I didn’t make it out of the park before Officer Ward showed up in his patrol car.  In short time, Officer Ward threatened to break my phone, ran a background check on me, cited me for public burning, and made an all-around solid effort to antagonize me since he, too, seemed unhappy that I was asserting my rights and asking questions at every turn about why he was doing what he was doing.  My guess was that, much like Officer Buchburger, he was hoping to goad me into reacting so he could be more aggressive in how he was enforcing the law.

I left the park about thirty minutes later with my grill and a $90 fine.  What happened was only the start of an experience that has left me thinking that the Lake Geneva police do a lot more to reinforce negative police stereotypes than they do to effectively police the public and themselves.


Written by seeker70

March 17, 2015 at 6:00 am

One Response

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  1. You have to give me a sneak peak at Part 2!!!!

    Happy Connecting. Sent from my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S® 5

    Cory Fosco

    March 17, 2015 at 7:01 am

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