Paperwork snafu lands woman in jail
A midvalley artist who spent six hours in jail for minor traffic infractions last month has filed a complaint with the Colorado State Patrol for what she considers “Third World” police behavior.Charmaine Locke of Missouri Heights is demanding an explanation about the alleged actions of Trooper Eduardo Gomez when he pulled her over Feb. 7 on Highway 82 near Ranch at Roaring Fork.The Colorado State Patrol acknowledges it has received a formal complaint from Locke, but it cannot discuss the issue because it is a personnel matter. A message left for Gomez at the patrol’s headquarters in Glenwood Springs wasn’t returned as of deadline time Thursday.Locke, 55, said she inadvertently irritated Gomez as soon as he approached her car by saying “Yeeeeeesssssss” in the tone typically used to say what can I do for you? It was an attempt to be “lighthearted,” she said, but it obviously didn’t come off that way.Locke said Gomez noted during the traffic stop that the sticker on her license plate signifying the month had expired. The proof of insurance she was carrying was for a different vehicle, although she said she had valid insurance for the car she was driving.Locke said she tried to show the officer the odometer verification form and the purchase/lease agreement papers she had showing she acquired the car from Berthod Motors. She transferred her old license plates from her old car to the new one.He allegedly wouldn’t look at her records and contended the license plates were “fictitious.” Locke contended that Gomez became agitated as they discussed the plates and he said that was exactly what car thieves did.The trooper went to his own vehicle to check Locke’s license. When he returned he informed her she was under arrest. Locke, who said she has a “clean record” and has never been arrested before, was caught off guard and demanded to know why.Gomez said there was a warrant for her arrest for failure to appear in Eagle County Court. Locke said she didn’t know of any outstanding issue so she kept asking him why the warrant was issued. Gomez became “increasingly agitated” by her questions and became “demeaning” about her inability to remember any outstanding issue. “He said, ‘How stupid could you be?'” Locke claimed.Locke later learned that the arrest warrant for failing to appear resulted from a ticket she thought had been dismissed. She was in an accident with a rental car in April 2004 and didn’t have her proof of insurance with her. She was ticketed but told to send the insurance confirmation via fax to the Eagle County clerk of court’s office and the ticket would be dismissed. She faxed the proof and assumed the issue was resolved.After Gomez allegedly suggested she was stupid, she said she realized she should remain quiet because anything she said made the trooper mad. “He lost his professional reserve and became emotional, insulting and intimidating,” she said. “I’m a 55-year-old, white female, 5-foot-4-inches, 125 pounds and no threat to a 6-foot-3-inch, large male.”She tried to take her purse from her car but was told to leave it. Gomez allegedly was reluctant to take her coat and he emptied the pockets explaining that he didn’t want to take the time to log items in at the jail.When delivered to Garfield County Jail, Locke and Gomez had another confrontation over her diamond earrings. She said they were a special gift from her husband so she wanted them put in a plastic bag before they were placed in a box with her other items and potentially lost.She said Gomez asked her if she thought he was going to steal them.Gomez later came into her cell to deliver her tickets. She said when she asked him why he was acting hostile toward her, he replied she was “snippy.”Before departing, Gomez allegedly noted the court date on the ticket and said, “If you don’t show up, I’ll come get you,” Locke wrote in her formal complaint.Locke was released at 10 p.m. on the same day she was stopped, Monday, Feb. 7. That was seven hours after Gomez stopped her and six hours after she was taken to jail.Locke said she was assigned a new court date of Feb. 24 for the lack of proof of insurance in Eagle County. She met with the assistant district attorney before court, as is standard practice, and was told within seconds the case was dismissed because she had faxed in the proof.She said she doesn’t understand why the arrest warrant was ever issued for her failure to appear for the first court date in 2004. If that had been properly logged, she said, she wouldn’t have been taken to Garfield County Jail.”It seems like excessive action in relation to what my violation would have been,” Locke said. “I’m not a criminal out there on the loose … I’m just a citizen with a couple of oversights.”Locke’s written complaint to the Colorado State Patrol seeks an explanation and assurance that some action will be taken against Gomez “to change his attitude to improve the nature of his interactions with the public.”A spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol said the agency has a specific procedure for handling complaints (see below).Complaints must go through processThe Colorado State Patrol received 21 formal complaints from citizens about its operations out of the Glenwood Springs office, according to the state agency’s records.Those complaints are about a wide range of issues, from trooper conduct to procedures, according to Sgt. Rob Marone of the patrol’s public affairs office. Those complaints are separate from challenges of tickets, which are handled by courts.Complaints are accepted in writing and by telephone calls as well as the State Patrol’s Web site. Anonymous complaints are considered, Marone said.The supervisor for a specific troop records all complaints, then forwards them to a troop commander. That commander decides who is assigned the investigation. It could be an official within a troop or it could be assigned to the patrol’s internal affairs office in Denver.Once the complaint is recorded and the investigation is assigned, the person who complained is notified. When the investigation is complete, the complainant is notified again with general results.If any disciplinary action is taken, it is handled according to state personnel laws, Marone said.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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