How Not To Be A Stalker

According to the National Center for Victims of Crime Stalking Resource Center

While legal definitions of stalking vary from one jurisdiction to another, a good working definition of stalking is a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

As a “reasonable person” (feel free to differ in the comments) I was quite surprised to read about a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago:

Evangelina Paredes accuses Stickney cop Chris Collins of violating her privacy by searching motor-vehicle records for her address, then leaving a handwritten note on her car windshield outside her apartment two days after she was ticketed.

A copy of the alleged note was attached to the lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Chicago. It starts with an attempt at self-deprecating humor, saying, “It’s Chris … that ugly bald Stickney cop who gave you that ticket.”

“I know this may seem crazy and you’re probably right, but truth is I have not stopped thinking about you since,” it continues. “I don’t expect a girl as attractive as you to … even go for a guy like me, but I’m taking a shot anyways.”

The note goes on to say he would understand if Paredes did not get in touch.  “But hey,” it continues apologetically, “I did cost you $132 — least I can do is buy you dinner.”

I think we can all agree that it was inappropriate of the officer to allegedly use his access to look up her address in order to be able to put a note on her car, but other than that, I fail to see how this qualifies as stalking.  That single fact aside, for which he should be disciplined, what if he had seen her car by chance in a grocery store parking lot or at a local church and recognized the license plate?  He left her a single note asking her to contact him and expressing his understanding, in advance, if she chose not to follow up.  A “reasonable person” could take several courses of action if she were not interested in his offer:

  1. Ignore the note.
  2. Call the number on the note he left and tell him she isn’t interested.  There are several variations of this option, including asking never to be contacted again and stating that if she is contacted again she will be in touch with his supervisor.
  3. Contact his supervisor immediately.

Instead, she filed a lawsuit, seeking “unspecified damages” due to the “great fear and anxiety” caused by the letter:

“The letter caused plaintiff to suffer great fear and anxiety,” the lawsuit says. “Plaintiff could not believe that a police officer would use his access to her personal information to find her home and stalk her.”

The suit, which seeks unspecified payments in damages, also accuses Collins of using his “authority and position as a police officer not to protect the public, but to attempt to manipulate the plaintiff into going out on a date with him.”

I ask again:  What if he had seen her by chance, sitting in a coffee shop, and, too shy to approach her and strike up a conversation had scribbled the same note and set it next to her coffee cup?

This is not stalking, and frivolous lawsuits such as these diminish the weeks, months and sometimes years of fear and intimidation that actual stalking victims live with.  Just as with sexual harassment, if someone asks you out on a date one time, try saying no before filing a lawsuit.

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3 thoughts on “How Not To Be A Stalker

  1. I heard about this story the other day and something kind of stuck out at me. This woman assumes the officer misused his power to find her home but I don’t see how that’s a reasonable assumption. Her address would be on the traffic ticket he wrote. All he’d have to do is look at his copy of the ticket — no more. That ticket, when it goes to court, will become publicly-available information (at least in most states) so anyone could get it if they knew her name and when she got the ticket, which isn’t all that tough to do even if you’re not a police officer.

    I just don’t see the abuse of power here. Maybe I’m looking at it the wrong way.

    • This is just an assumption, but the department in question probably has a policy about this type of thing, for example not dating for a certain period of time after meeting someone in the line of duty. Obviously a police officer dating someone who got a traffic ticket wouldn’t be the same as a doctor dating a patient while they continued to share that “professional” relationship, but it would make sense that the officer would at least wait until either the fine was paid or until after the court date to avoid all appearances of impropriety.

  2. My aunt met my uncle when he pulled her over to give her a ticket, and got her phone number instead. Good thing for my cousins and their children that these event occurred before this law suit.

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