Talk about adding insult to injury. The only problem is that, for Niagara Falls last week, the most grievous injury may have been self-inflicted.
The city that can’t get out of its own way while squandering a natural wonder was at it again.
No one blames Falls police for stopping what turned out to be two innocent kids driving a car with Massachusetts plates while the nation was still looking for the Boston Marathon bombers.
No one blames police for calling in backup after spotting backpacks in the car, resulting in a phalanx of cops from every conceivable agency descending on the frightened young tourists.
No one even blames police for using a bomb detection robot and a trooper in bomb-protection gear to examine the car and the backpacks.
But then giving the kids traffic tickets? You’ve got to be kidding.
But that seems to be par for the course for a city that goes out of its way to make itself look like a joke.
The brothers – a 20-year-old college student and his 17-year-old high school sibling – had come to check out Rochester Institute of Technology and made a side trip to see the famous falls. That’s where they aroused the suspicions of an Air National Guardsman dressed for work. He followed them while calling police, who said the tourists stoked further suspicion by doing the perfectly normal thing – not making eye contact with their stalker and trying to get away.
That’s how their five-hour ordeal began. It ended not with a bang – or an escort to the waterfalls and a free souvenir – but with the tickets.
Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto played it by the book, defending his officers and seeing nothing wrong with the galling lack of judgment.
“The traffic infractions occurred,” DalPorto said when asked why the tickets for allegedly failing to stop at a sign or use a turn signal were issued after what the brothers already had been through. Pressed, DalPorto stuck to the script.
“The officers observed it,” he said.
Rolling stops? Failure to use a blinker?
They occur at every intersection in every city all day long – and that’s by drivers not scared and trying to escape someone following them. Police could spend their entire shifts giving tickers for that.
Obviously, they don’t. They use discretion – except in this case.
Maybe it’s something in the water in Niagara Falls. This, after all, is the broke city where a Council majority turned down financial help last month because it came from a Buffalo foundation. One of the sane Council members said it best in calling that episode “embarrassing.”
Now the city that watches its rival across the river attract more tourists has embarrassed itself again, this time with the world watching.
It’s doubtful the brothers will return to contest the charges. In fact, it’s doubtful they’d ever come to Niagara Falls again for any reason. And neither will their friends or anybody else who can understand the initial police response, but not why they city had to pile on by ticketing young men already put through a nightmare.
In the interest of justice – and the city’s tattered reputation – a judge should toss the tickets. Then city officers should get remedial training – not in police tactics, but in common sense.