when the long arm of the law becomes the strong arm
Two Fridays ago my high school-aged son got fined for jaywalking in the late afternoon in Chinatown. I know this may not attract much sympathy when this past Friday a young boy was struck by a car and killed while walking to school. But it raises some issues the Pedestrian Council of Australia’s Harold Scruby has been talking about for years when it comes to road safety: the need for a more consistent approach to policing jaywalking across the city and suburbs.
My son had just crossed Sussex Street at Hay Street on his way to Thai Kee IGA Supermarket in Market City to buy his favourite brand of Asian iced tea. He crossed, against the lights admittedly, but there were no cars, and he looked before he crossed. A policeman waiting on the footpath with an “on-body camera” stopped him and asked for his ID. There were a number of police in the vicinity – which contains some of Sydney’s busiest intersections where cars, cyclists, pedestrians and light rail tram cars meet.
My year 11 son pulled out his freshly minted learner driver permit, and the policeman took down all his details on his iPad. The officer told him he had broken the law, that it was all captured on the video camera on his shoulder, and warned him very gruffly that the “lights were there for his safety”. My son conceded his error, then told the officer he was a 17-year-old high school student, although not in uniform. He’s tall for his age and is often mistaken for being older than he is. Undeterred, the policeman took a mug shot of him – before telling him a $76 fine would be sent in the mail in coming days.
We haven’t received it as yet but what I have received is reports of many such stories in the Sydney CBD. A friend’s daughter, also 17, found she had a police record with this transgression when she applied for a public service job. A photographer was fined for chasing a criminal she was trying to photograph as he left court.