Upright in Garland

Pizza man sent packing for lounging in city park

Garland police spokesman J.D. Bettes says he doesn't know if Martin's description of the events are accurate, but he confirms that Martin's behavior was in violation of Garland City Ordinance Code, Section 25.16, which states that "protracted sleeping or lounging" in a city park is unlawful.

"You can do almost anything you want except lay down and sleep," says Bettes, who adds that he'd have to get out his dictionary to figure out what exactly "protracted" means.

According to the American Heritage College dictionary, third edition, protracted means to either "draw out or lengthen in time" or to "extend or protrude" a body part.

So was Martin breaking the law because of the amount of time he spent in the park or because he had "protracted" his body by lying down on his lawn chair?

Apparently the question doesn't interest the city's lawyers, who refused to respond to multiple requests for a legal interpretation of the ordinance.

After determining that Martin was not wanted for any crime, the officers asked him to leave the park, which he did, hastily packing his lawn chair into his Toyota and hightailing it to the pay phone behind the Pizza Hut where he works. Martin telephoned the Garland police to complain about the encounter and then returned to his car, too upset to sleep.

Sometime after midnight, Martin's tranquility was again disturbed by the intrusive glare of a Garland police officer's spotlight and the demand for his driver's license. Martin, convinced that he was now a police target, explained that he was a cancer patient who was living in his car. The officer suggested that he get some sleep and left.

Although Martin concedes that the second officer was polite, he later filed an excruciatingly detailed complaint about the evening with the Garland police department, the mayor's office, and each of the city's council members.

In Martin's mind, this bizarre incident has all sorts of ramifications concerning the policing of public parks.

"What person in his right mind could imagine that we have furniture police, posture police, and wakefulness police?" Martin wrote. "In addition to patrolling the parks for illegal furniture and suspicious posture, I presume there are officers patrolling Bradfield Swimming Pool to arrest swimmers who lie down at pool side to take the sun.

"And as for illegal furniture," Martin continued, "this raises all kinds of product liability issues for manufacturers who fail to warn their customers that possession of certain kinds of lawn chairs may make them subject to arrest."

At the end of the seven-page complaint, Martin attached a copy of Ray Bradbury's 1952 short story "The Pedestrian," which describes one loner's bizarre arrest for simply walking down an isolated street in a futuristic city where there is no crime.

"I wanted to show the police how absurd their behavior was," says Martin, who adds that he can certainly identify with the story's unfortunate main character.

Martin's complaint has been referred to the officers' supervisor, who will decide whether the officers' behavior warrants a verbal or written warning. The action, known as a supervisory referral, is not as serious as an internal affairs complaint, says Bettes, who adds that in his 20 years on the job he can't recall anyone ever including a short story with a police complaint.

"There's no allegation of a violation of department policy or anything like that," Bettes says. "He just didn't like the way officer Collins spoke to him."

Martin says he expects that nothing will come of his complaint, but the frightening experience now makes him feel extremely creeped out whenever he sees a police officer.

"I try not to even look at those guys, lest they think I'm trying to give them a dirty look," Martin says. "I don't know that I'll ever visit a public park in Garland.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help