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Archive for Sunday, April 17, 1994

EFFORT

April 17, 1994

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Visitors downtown on weekend nights had better follow the law, to a T, or face citation by the Lawrence Police Department.

At 11:05 p.m., Ted Bordman sees his next congregation crossing 10th Street on Massachusetts, ignoring a traffic signal that reads "DONT WALK."

He brings the group together quickly at the northwest corner of the intersection. Standing before them, he delivers his message in a confident, strong voice.

"From here on out you need to wait for the traffic signal before you cross the street," he says. "When it says don't walk, that means do not walk. I'm serious about that, OK?"

The listeners nod and walk off, talking in hushed tones. And Bordman, a Lawrence police officer, joins his partner, officer Tony Buckner, as they continue their mission on this Friday night.

The two are the latest disciples ordained by a higher authority -- the city manager's office and police department supervisors -- that have been assigned to walk downtown on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights to deliver a message: Don't break the law.

And not just the obvious ones, such as aggravated battery and drunken driving. No, Bordman says, all of them, as spelled out in the scripture of state and federal law books and page after page of city codes.

"We're pretty much practicing zero tolerance," Bordman explains shortly after he and Buckner greet two visitors who will follow them on their rounds into the early morning hours on Saturday.

Over the next two hours, he'll prove he's not kidding. Bordman and Buckner will cite four people for jaywalking. They'll slap a parking ticket on a Jeep Cherokee parked too close to a stop sign. They'll even cite a man riding a bicycle with no headlight, no taillight and no registration.

What they won't do is win many hearts and minds. Behind their backs, the officers are the subject of snickers, rolled eyes and name-calling. "Barney Fife" gets kicked around a lot, along with a slew of names that you never heard Barney say around Aunt Bea.

"Are you serious?" says a young man who the officers are citing for jaywalking in the 1000 block of Massachusetts. "It just cost me $55 to be out in the street?"

Yes, the man is told, there's a $35 fine plus $20.50 court costs for jaywalking. So it is written, so it shall be done.

"Jaywalking," he says, shaking his head and offering an incredulous smile to the officers. "Jaywalking."

The next person targeted for enlightenment is a little more vocal.

"This is absolutely ridiculous," she tells Bordman. "Ted, have you ever heard of a warning?"

Yes, Bordman has heard of a warning. No, he doesn't give her one. In a mocking voice, she banters with him.

"Oh, so you're just following orders, aren't you, Ted?" she says. "Ted, did you go to college? Yeah, Ted? Where, Ted?"

He answers her questions and hands her a ticket. After signing it, the woman is fuming.

"This is just so ridiculous," she says. "I believe there should be warnings. I think there should have been a warning in the newspaper or something."

City Manager Mike Wildgen and Police Chief Ron Olin say they organized the foot patrols two weeks ago based on concerns about public order and public safety downtown.

Their arguments don't convert the woman into a true believer.

"I understand it's dangerous," she says. "But has anyone ever actually been hurt? There are more accidents at 23rd and Iowa than between Seventh and Eighth street on Mass., but they're down here, writing jaywalking tickets."

Bordman and Buckner press on, undeterred. Both say they have some sympathy for the people they've cited.

"Everybody is used to doing it," Buckner says as Bordman writes a jaywalking ticket shortly after midnight. "I've even done it myself."

But it's dangerous, he says, and people need to understand that.

Bordman's attitude is similar. He says he hopes that once people get the message -- spelled out crystal-clear and backed with a trail of citations -- they'll quit violating the laws and codes. And he'll get to quit writing citations.

But for now, Bordman there are more unenlightened congregations to deal with.

"Folks, don't cross the street there," he tells a group of people starting to walk across Massachusetts in the 800 block. "Go down to the crosswalk. And you might tell everybody it's a $50 fine for walking across the street like that."

@reefer: * Are Lawrence police correct in enforcing a ``zero tolerance'' policy for violations they observe during weekend night foot patrols downtown? Answer today's J-W Access question on page 4A.

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