It’s been over a year and a half now since the community activists’ and concerned citizens’ investigation of LAG Towing began, and it was not the towing charge that has now made the “Cash for Cars” and “LAG Towing” household terms in Luzerne County, but the verbally abusive response which one Mark Robbins received at the time from local Wilkes-Barre police officers upon retrieving his vehicle.
When Robbins’ 2005 Chrysler 300 was safely in his possession after being transported by LAG, he realized something was terribly wrong with its front end as he went to drive away. He promptly notified the WBPD, who did respond to his complaints, but it was their odd reaction that set into motion the next eighteen months’ inquiry into LAG’s towing and business practices.
So, here was an individual, and a Forty Fort resident, no less, who is well-educated and of some means, who felt demeaned, ridiculed, and disrespected for simply requesting assistance from local law enforcement. It was their surprising response that got him thinking about what might have served to spur such acrimony. “Wow,” Robbins must have thought to himself, “if they treat me like this, how must they deal with others with little education or financial means.”
One cannot be a ‘thug with a badge’ and expect the cooperation and respect police officers need
I grew up in a police household. My father was both a detective and police officer in New York City, and my godfather was a captain in the NYPD. My uncle served as a Captain in the NYC Transit Authority. Family picnics and gatherings often included my father’s work partners. If my father was working the day shift for the week, I would catch a ride in the carpool back to school from our home on Long Island. I recall sitting in the back and listening to the stories before being dropped off at Shea stadium to catch the subway to Fordham University where I was attending school.
In those days it was tough to be a “cop” in the city—during the late 60s and early 70s. The Serpico investigation, the Vietnam War, school protests, and riots came to define the era. My dad could not wait to get out of the force and the moment he reached that twenty-year retirement mark he did just that. In my travels with my dad, listening to the stories, one thing became crystal clear to me: if you gave someone the respect they deserved, you could, for the most part expect respect in return. It was and still is a lesson well-learned: if you want respect, you must first offer it.
Wilkes-Barre, in my opinion has become a dangerous and scary place to be a police officer these days. More and more often one hears of shootings, drug dealings, and domestic violence. Not an easy place to work, but unfortunately for some of these officers, they have yet to learn those lessons I did as a youth. Perhaps times have changed. One cannot be a “thug with a badge” and expect the cooperation and respect police officers need, and should be shown, if only to make their jobs easier and interaction with them safer for all involved.
I recently attended a crime watch meeting featuring presentations by District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis and Luzerne County Detective Charles Balogh. It was informative and relaxed, and I came away with the feeling of “this is how things should be,” with law enforcement and the citizens working together to make our communities a better place.
The saying has been around since the beginning of time and known as the Golden Rule: treat one another as you wish to be treated. Good advice! And if you want respect you had best learn to give it. This works for all sides involved.