Son: My dad was wrong, but video unsettling

Published 10:12 pm Friday, May 22, 2015

I have watched the recent events unfold and thought I would let it just play out. However, with these latest events, I felt a clear, honest statement was needed from my family’s side/my side.

First, I personally am very thankful and amazed at the support most people in our community have shown my dad. I would have never expected it even though I consider this area my hometown. So thank you all for that. I am very humbled, as is the rest of my family.

Yes, this issue has garnered a lot of support for my dad. But it was never his intention to get publicity or hurt the Opp Police Department, so I do not understand some of the personal attacks towards him. We agree he broke the law and he should be penalized. But we did not feel losing his (driver’s) license was the right course of action. He just wants to continue to work and do what he loves.

A point made by many people and OPD is that his driving being reckless and endangering lives. Yes, he was speeding and is at fault. I don’t think my dad has ever denied that. Though my dad believes he was driving safely and the police officers feel he wasn’t. I think arguments can always be made about what could have been vs. reality vs. the justification of driving fast. I think one has to put themselves in the shoes of family involved, my dad and the police officer. I know my dad felt like he was not endangering anyone and was doing the right thing. I think this is an area where multiple valid arguments can be made. It is not black and white. Just like life isn’t black and white.

However, I can state with certainty, this incidence was not for his “need for speed” or some joy-seeking behavior. There may be families that can afford to do that but we aren’t one. We can’t afford to/enjoy paying ridiculous amounts for car insurance. And in my view he has actually has become a much, much more cautious driver. So, I don’t think my dad drives through the city of Opp like it’s a game of Grand Theft Auto, thinking he can get away with it.

This brings me to an interesting argument some people have brought up. They believe our hospitals have physicians or EMTs/nurses available 24/7 that can handle these issues and he did not need to rush.

Yes, ERs are there for emergencies. And yes, they are there to stabilize patients. However, here we are talking about a baby that had just been born. It’s a completely different ballgame. And unfortunately in our area, there are no pediatric ER physicians on call or neonatologists, so your only shot is a pediatrician.

Anyway getting back to the incident, I do think it was handled poorly by police officers. I agree that my father has a history with them. But, that is exactly why this time, he was on the phone with the 911 operator. Maybe, he was going too fast. I personally am OK with them pulling him over and saying slow down. And then let him go to hospital. Give him a ticket after the emergency is over. And if they felt he was lying, like they CLAIM he has in the past, then follow him or as some have suggested, escort him. (I do not know the law or policy behind this. I do wonder what they are doing when they take our football team to an away game or at funerals. Again that might be different. Maybe liability issues in that case might be different. ) Anyway, they could have just followed him and arrested him if he was lying. However, in this instance, they knew this was not the case. They had ample evidence and knew that an infant’s life may have been at stake.

Initially, I honestly understood the police department’s perspective. They told him to slow down. My dad, who felt that the emergency was too great to stop, kept going. I felt in the heat of the moment and with all this happening so fast they were OK to stop him. Just like, in the heat of moment, he thought the officers were escorting him. So I felt bad for all the negative press they were getting, in what I thought could have been just a misunderstanding.

However, after watching that video last night, I honestly am fairly upset. To me it seems very obvious this was more than just them doing their job. I feel there is no denying that there was a personal grudge. Their behavior, use of a cell phone off the view of camera and statements made and their tone, I find quite unsettling.

Being brought up in Andalusia and moving around afterwards, people often asked me how I was treated and what I thought of being brought up in small town in south Alabama that calls/used to call itself the heart of Dixie? I always tell them I loved it. I made the best friends of my life in this town. I feel like it’s a great place to raise a family. But that video and certain comments I have read make me question that at times.

I also do not understand the need for the police to release his driving record? What were they trying to prove, he has a speeding history over past 10 years so that’s why he needed to be stopped, at this moment while there was a critical baby at the hospital? Didn’t you have past half a decade to make your point if you felt it was so necessary? Maybe during those countless times you tried to “reform” him.

Also haven’t most of us gotten a speeding ticket in past 10 years? My family tends to drive a lot more than your average family since there aren’t exactly any Indian grocery stores or many members of our community in this area. I am in no way excusing his record or speeding. I am just putting things in perspective, since I guess Opp Police Department felt they needed to disclose his record and make comments on them. Whatever the case, we do feel the media has been undeservingly a harsh on SOME members of the police department and the Opp community, but not all. I will say I do not know them personally and I can’t completely judge them unbiasedly.

Anyway, I just felt all this needed to be said on behalf of my family, my dad and me. I know this will all be forgotten in a few days, but the support majority of the community has shown my dad is unbelievable and that we will never forget that. Y’all have made it even harder for me to convince him to retire when the time comes down the road. Thank y’all again.


Pavan Bang