02 August 2010

Cars in the Park

Several types of cars regularly drive in Washington Park. The maintenance man drives his car into the park almost everyday and parks next to the bathrooms while he cuts the grass and sweeps up. The garbage truck drives through the park emptying all the garbage cans and making muddy ruts where the paths aren't wide enough. Weekly, church groups come and encircle the bandstand while they preach in the park. And of course the police drive into the park most everyday. And all of these vehicles must enter the park by driving over a sidewalk curb, and into walk paths that are not intended for cars.

Usually the police come through around 10pm and loudly announce that the park is closed. Mostly they stay on the walkways, but this is not always the case. I can recall many times seeing the police drive into the grass and shine their lights onto sleeping people, telling them that the park has closed and they must go to the perimeter sidewalk.

I hate cars driving in the park. The only real time it is neccessary is when doing construction or emptying the garbage cans. Even then, it seems that the smaller vehicles could be used.

Of course, I'm writing this in response to the tragic death of Joann Burton. A park police officer drove over her while she was lying in the grass of the park before noon last Tuesday. I have no animosity to the officer. He was operating in a system, a society in which the car is an extension of our body, is a replacement for our legs. Although on occasion I will see officers on foot in the park, it is pretty rare. And it seems to me this is less a result of police policy and more a result of our societal agreement that cars are integral to our mobility. And this accident has much less in common with a police shooting than it does the many car accidents that happen everyday.

After all, it is common to read news stories in which someone backs over a family member in their own driveway. By all accounts, he was driving on the walking path, and decided to drive across the grass, but first had to back up slightly. In this situation, he would not have been able to see her on the ground behind his right fender.

The difference between this and a family driveway accident is that the officer is a public servant with powers and authority given to him by the city, and Ms Burton was a poor citizen with no power. Thus, the lawyers will argue the penalties and punishment.

Today in the park, people sit on benches and talk, people walk very slowly to keep cool, and there is the sound of a solitary basketball. Squirrels are eating Ginko fruits. There is cursing and drinking, but also kids playing and people joking and laughing. Life continues here after death just like innumerable days before.


Radarman said...

I hope Chief Streicher reads this. And the Mayor. And the City Manager. And the Park Board. Cars should never be anywhere in park. Ever.

Dave said...

Rest in Peace Ms. Burton.

prolix21 said...

I haven't noticed any CPD vehicles in the park since the accident, however I did see the garbage truck driving through it this morning, although they stay on the paths.

I recognize there is a need for some service vehicles, however I think mounted or bike cops would be more effective in the area. I feel like we need more of that in general in OTR and downtown.