02/24/2006

Judge to student: Don't honk at cops

The Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee- A Tennessee judge gave a college student a driving lesson in court this week: don't correct the police.

Clay Palmer, a student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, honked his car horn when he saw a policeman turn on blue flashers to pass through a red traffic light. The officer then turned the flashers off after moving through the intersection.

Palmer said officer Matthew Puglise then stopped his patrol car and issued him a ticket for honking his horn for no reason -- a violation of the city noise ordinance.

The charge was reduced to a warning Wednesday when he went before a judge who told him he acted wrongly.

"The horn blowing is not the real problem here, it's that you were trying to correct the police and they didn't need correcting," Judge Russell Bean said.

Palmer left traffic court saying he still believed officers were abusing their authority.

"I see this cop with his blue lights come screeching up beside me and I didn't know what was going on," Palmer said. "Before they got to the next light, I could see they turned their blue lights off."

Officer Puglise said he was helping fellow police track down a speeder when Palmer saw him pass through the red light.

Judge Bean said Puglise was right and Palmer was wrong.

"I expect officers to follow the rules like everyone else," Bean said.

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