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I have proudly served as a Gainesville police officer for more than 27 years and I'm disgusted and offended by some of the ignorant comments I've read about the "proposed speed trap" on Interstate 985.
The men and women in this department and public safety professionals all over this county, state and nation put our lives on the line every minute of every day to protect and serve others. Traffic stops are one of our most dangerous tasks. It's never been and never will be about money.
Our city manager, City Council and Chief Frank Hooper are honorable people who are loyal and dedicated public servants. Remember, these are the same folks you call and count on when disaster strikes and we're always there for you. These accusations about attempts to generate revenue are ludicrous and totally without merit.
I would challenge anyone who has publicly opposed our attempts to make Gainesville safer by annexing the I-985 corridor, both sides of which already are in the city, to provide legitimate data to support these claims. Our only objectives are to save lives and to respond to calls in the most efficient and effective manner possible.
If you look at our budget, you'll see that fines are a miniscule resource used by Gainesville to protect and serve. The speed limit on I-985 is 70 mph. Citations will only be issued to violators who travel in excess of the speed limit. I don't see how anybody could argue that operating a vehicle in excess of 70 mph is not dangerous for both the operator and others sharing the road.
Data shows that the greater the speed at the time of a crash, the greater the likelihood of injury. So you're driving on I-985 with your kids or grandkids in the backseat and you're going the speed limit; a motorist passes you going 80. Just 10 mph over, right?
But in the middle of the pass, he loses control for just a second. Suddenly, you're involved in a crash and, because of the excess speed, you or someone you love is seriously injured.
Many people's first question is, where are the police? Why is this inconsiderate jerk being allowed to drive like a madman and jeopardize lives?
We respond to the wreck, but what we'd rather do is enforce the law and protect folks so wrecks are minimized. I can tell you firsthand that officers would like nothing better than to never have to write another ticket, and we derive no joy from investigating serious injury and fatality traffic crashes. But some folks will not voluntarily comply with laws written to protect us from ourselves and each other.
Let's work together to reasonably and rationally address and resolve this issue. In these tough times, I have to ask why this is even an issue at all. Let's look at the big picture and show some appreciation to and respect for our those sworn to run in when everybody else is running out. Our elected officials, chief and Gainesville police officers are good people doing a tough job. Why make it tougher with silly banter and ridiculous, unfounded accusations?
We should all work together to make our community as safe as possible through whatever means available. Regardless, know that when you call, we'll be there, whether you understand and appreciate us or not, and we'll help you in any way possible. That's what we're here for.
Times lawsuit is a frivolous one
I cannot help but wonder who will benefit by the decision of The Times to bring a lawsuit against the city of Gainesville to obtain the names of the individuals contained in the anonymous letter accusing former city manager Brian Shuler of inappropriate behavior?
Certainly not the two individuals whose names were deleted from the text of the letter before it was made available to The Times, since they were identified by an unknown author so there's no way to verify that they were, in fact, actual victims.
Certainly not the public, since we have absolutely no need to know, nor interest, other than being nosy, in knowing their identities.
Certainly not the principle of the public's right to know what their public officials are doing, since their actions surrounding this issue, (to use a phrase from Thomas Jefferson), "don't pick my pocket or break my leg."
Certainly not city taxpayers, since the city is going to be forced to spend funds from an already diminished budget to defend this challenge.
Certainly not the owners of The Times, since, if it is like most other newspapers, they are looking at a lot of red ink in their ledgers.
Certainly not the reporter with visions of a Pulitzer, since the management of The Times has admitted that, "even if we have the names, we may never find cause to print them."
This appears to be one of those times when the only ones benefiting from this lawsuit will be the attorneys.
While it certainly can be argued that city officials made some errors in judgment in the way they handled the issue when it first came up, it appears that they made those decisions in a sincere attempt to protect the privacy of the individuals concerned,
Rather than in an attempt, as The Times' lawsuit implies, to keep relevant information from the public. And since any citizen who has followed the story is already aware of this, no purpose is served in continuing to argue about it.
I am a staunch defender of the right and responsibility of the media to aggressively investigate and report governmental actions that are detrimental to the lives and welfare of those they represent. We are all beneficiaries of the noble history of the media's scrutiny of elected officials. However, just because a right exists doesn't give permission for the abuse of that right. In this case it looks like The Times is doing just that.
Sollace M. "Mike" Freeman