I also was ticketed on Belle Isle (“Patrolling the River,” Back Page, June 3). On a cool gray Sunday evening, I was walking my dog, a 14-month-old lab mix, around the island; I saw no one but the cop car parked under the bridge. It was quiet and peaceful. We did the loop then sat on the rocks watching the rapids.
I noticed the cop car cruising by very slowly, pausing to check us out. I thought, well that's odd, and turned back to the rapids. Shortly, I got up and continued down the trail, my dog off the leash, maybe 8 feet from me, when I saw the cop car again, coming toward us. Now I know that there is no one else on this island, and that these policemen have already circled once, checking me out. I'm female, by myself. … hmmm, I'm not feeling too comfortable with this. I called the dog to my side, he came. The cops pulled up and informed me of the leash law. I put the dog on his leash and was getting ready to continue walking (assuming that was all that was necessary) when the driver yelled at me to “Get back!” His partner, meanwhile, was rounding the front of the car. I was shocked and scared, and backed up to the middle of the trail. (Note: I am 5-foot-2. These cops outnumbered and outweighed me; besides that I am old enough to be their mother.)
The driver demanded identification. I said that I had none as I was just out for a dog walk. He then asked for my name, date of birth. I answered. He then requested my Social Security number. I was confused and asked him, “What is this about?” He said that they are cracking down on alcohol and unleashed dogs. I still did not understand what the problem was and mentioned that Ralph White has always been rather lenient with unleashed dogs in the park (as long as they are under control).
He snapped back, “Well, you get Mr. White to defend you in court then.” He turned abruptly and got in the car. I asked the other officer, what is this about? His answer was that zero tolerance means zero tolerance. I wonder how many times he had to write that on the blackboard?
These officers were rude, overly intimidating and were seriously frightening me. So much for peace and quiet on Belle Isle. So much for cops as protectors.
I called the number on the ticket to talk with Sgt. Clifton Jackson about their unprofessional behavior. Jackson admitted that the officers may have used poor judgment and would talk to their supervisor. I have yet to hear from the supervisor. I ask, if these officers deem it necessary to respond this aggressively toward a lone 48-year-old female dog walker, what in the world are they going to do with a group of hyped-up, partying kids?
Concerning “Patrolling the River,” I own a small 15-pound Cairn terrier and I am thankful for Richmond's leash laws — especially in city parks. On several occasions “well-behaved” larger dogs have approached us as we walked and it is very unsettling. My dog has been attacked once and the owner was helpless without a leash! It has been my experience that unleashed, usually well-behaved dogs do have minds of their own and leashes protect others and the dogs themselves. It means everyone can have an enjoyable time in the park.