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I park on the street in front of my house, because it is very convenient - I can for instance, get to and from my car without rousing my dogs or waking up family.

I had the police come one evening and tell me I had to move my car. When I asked what ordinance I violated (this was info I wanted to pass on to my attorney if the need arose), the policeman had to think a minute and then said I was impeding traffic. (This was strange in and of itself - in my experience with this department, the officers always name the ordinance violation that they're investigating. He did not, I had to ask near the end of our conversation.) I told him that there were a number of cars parked the same way on the same street, in the direction he was heading once he left. I made it clear I was NOT complaining about those people, I just wanted to know why I was being singled out. He assured me they'd do a sweep of the street. (I have footage from the next 5 days of the street, and it was never cleared by the police of vehicles - I have it for day and night times.)

When I went down the road to turn around and park the way he ordered me to, I saw the same officer going down the road, swerve around a much larger vehicle and keep going.

I called the police department, and reported all this. His sergeant called me back and asked me three questions: if I was within 20 feet of a stop sign (nope), if I was in front of hydrant (none on that corner) and if I was as far off the road as possible (i.e., on the curb and yes, I was). He said he'd review the body cam footage and get back to me (he hasn't). I am willing to drop the issue, as long as I don't feel I'm being singled out. But the weird lack of sync between the policeman, who never raised any of the points his sergeant did, and his sergeant, along with the fact that the officer seemed to have trouble naming the ordinance of which I was supposedly in violation got me thinking: what happens when an officer can't name an ordinance or law that is supposedly broken, but either orders you to do something based on the supposed violation or tries to arrest you for the same? (This is in Louisiana.)

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    Was the car facing the wrong direction?
    – mkennedy
    Feb 10, 2023 at 16:29
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    Did the police officer tell you "You can't park here, please move your car and don't park here again" or just "For exceptional reasons today, please move your car"? Those would be two different things. You mention another, much larger vehicle which they had to swerve around - perhaps the combination of your car plus that other vehicle was making circulation difficult, and they couldn't locate the owner of that other vehicle, so they asked you instead.
    – Stef
    Feb 11, 2023 at 21:48
  • @Polygorial I know that, that's why I was careful to say 'got me thinking'.
    – user
    Feb 12, 2023 at 14:01
  • @Stef The officer's words were along the lines of 'please move and don't park here again'. Also, the larger car is almost a mile down the road. That's what bothered me about it. If he'd explained that I'm an exceptional case, I wouldn't have given it another thought to be honest.
    – user
    Feb 12, 2023 at 14:02
  • @mkennedy To be honest it was, but the funny thing is that wasn't even mentioned. When I saw the officer and looked at my car, I thought that was why he was there.
    – user
    Feb 12, 2023 at 14:04

4 Answers 4

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It seems you found out what happened. The police are wrong all the time and usually absolutely nothing happens from it.

The police are not required to tell you why you are being arrested. See supreme court case Devenpeck v. Alford. The court merely considers that to be good police practice. They do have to justify probable cause for the arrest to the court.

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  • Thank you for the answer. Followup question: 'usually absolutely nothing happens from it' - is it the consensus that this happens in spite of people legally challenging them or because they don't?
    – user
    Feb 10, 2023 at 14:18
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    @user It is a good question but not a legal question. Police behavior is an ongoing political debate in a free society. For the individual, it is probably much to expensive and time consuming in most instances, compared to the damage suffered. Feb 10, 2023 at 14:54
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    "usually absolutely nothing happens from it" → Well, we have no idea what happened later. The officer may have been sternly told off by the sergeant. The fact that the sergeant didn't call back telling you «I'm sorry, this officer is an idiot» doesn't mean nothing has been done, we really don't know.
    – Ángel
    Feb 11, 2023 at 2:08
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You follow the direction

s197 of the Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 No 103 gives police the power to give a direction to a person in a public place if they believe, on reasonable grounds, that the person is, among other things, obstructing traffic. There is no need for the person to be committing an offence. Failure to comply can land you a modest fine of 2 penalty units (currently $110).

The use of this power is subject to the Code of Practice and failure to do so may lead to the disciplining of the officer concerned.

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Police officers are not required or expected to understand the laws as a whole, they only need to believe a crime has been committed to issue a ticket or arrest someone. From there they are expected to faithfully report the incident and detain the allegedly guilty party for review in front of a judge, who is very much expected to understand the laws and how they are applied. This is why its a good idea to fight tickets in many cases, because the police officer is not the end all be all center of the application of law, that's the courts.

There are places that do not allow parking 'against traffic' regardless of the type of road or area its in, there is also ordinances that state how close one can be to a curb (typically for drainage reasons – e.g., don't block the gutter fully but stay within 18" or so of the curb), and of course there is the possibility you, or a car that looks like yours, inadvertently or otherwise, cut someone off at some point and they griped to their cop brother-in-law who's now throwing you some shade. Without knowing specifics from all sides its hard to say.

The good news is the sergeant should have records of you calling, which means if this continues you can suggest that it is harassment, and then go so far to go down to the station and file what's called an internal complaint. The internal complaint should get their attention, and get them to knock any singling out off.

But for the question of can they ask you to do something, especially once, even if seemingly contradictory? Yes, a police officer absolutely could. Of course there are caveats to that but generally speaking yes they can. Does this instance constitute harassment? It depends, but it would be an uphill battle to prove it. Do you have to put up with harassment from police officers? No, absolutely you do not. There are many avenues available to you as a citizen to curtail any harassment from law enforcement branches. That being said, I don't know your area, it's entirely possible that doesn't end well. Strictly legally speaking you do have avenues of recourse if this turns into something that definitely looks like harassment, realistically speaking you're the person that has to live there so it's up to you how much you're willing to put up with until you make a stink, and if it's worth making a stink at all.

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    I see that the preface was just removed, but for Tank, this isn’t a comment, or a “reply”, it’s an answer. And a pretty decent answer at that. Welcome, the preface was unneeded! Feb 12, 2023 at 16:17
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Based on comments that OP's car was parked opposite the direction of traffic, my hunch is that was the problem. See this reference to Louisiana law:

A. Except as otherwise provided in this section, every vehicle standing or parked on a highway where there are adjacent curbs shall be so standing or parked with the right-hand wheels of such vehicle parallel to and within eighteen inches of the right-hand curb.

If you are parked (in the US) opposite traffic then unless you are on a motorcycle (all wheels within 18" of the curb) you won't have your right-hand wheels (of your vehicle) within 18" of the right-hand curb (defined by traffic pattern - because they would be next to the left-hand curb, or defined by your vehicle because then you would either be in the direction of traffic or blocking the entire street!)

I see it as quite possible that the police officer knew "you can't do that" but couldn't think of the specific statute. As to why the police officer picked on you, I can see a few different possibilities, excluding anything "personal":

  • Someone called in a complaint and specifically listed your address. (That person may have a personal grudge against you, even if the police officer did not.)
  • The police officer really intended to ask others to move and/or ticket them but got a more important call and left (that definitely happens).
  • The police officer decided not to go after others after getting pushback from you.
  • The police officer checked after getting pushback from you and determined that parking opposite traffic was not actually prohibited in your area. In a quick search I found that the rules either changed or were under consideration for change in some areas in recent years.

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