Excuses shallow in police license plate scheme

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You know what stops dangerous drivers?

Blaring blue lights and screaming sirens, the traditional hallmarks of Maine State Police vehicles. Even the mere presence of a police cruiser – those cerulean Turnpike sentinels – can deter reckless driving, and all they must do is park by the highway’s side.

But a license plate?

A state trooper recently was caught with private license plates affixed to his unmarked police cruiser, under the reasoning it helped blend his car into Maine traffic. The state police must also see some truth in this fallacy, because it only levied a one-day suspension on the red-handed trooper, Anthony Zeim.

In February, a Freeport car dealer spotted a license plate belonging to his dealership affixed to Zeim’s unmarked police cruiser on the Turnpike. The plate had been missing since 1998, after police say it was confiscated. It’s owner, David Bolduc, remembered reporting it stolen, and paying for a replacement.

Bolduc knew the plate was his because it bore the three-digit number assigned to his dealership from the state. It’s worth noting, as well, Bolduc identified the vehicle displaying the plate as a police cruiser.

So much, it seems, for blending in.

An internal investigation ending in June resulted in the meager suspension, despite claims in February by top police officials that this matter was “fairly serious,” the Portland Press Herald reported. In commenting on the suspension, another police official told the newspaper Zeim had his “motivation in the right place,” but his “method was wrong.”

More like illegal, we’d say.

Improper attachment of license plates is a misdemeanor in this state, one usually punishable by a hefty fine. So is permitting improper attachment to occur, which it’s possible the state police did, given the duration between the dealer plate’s confiscation and subsequent discovery.

(Improper attachment is a “strict liability” statute as well, which means intent is irrelevant in the law’s eyes.)

It’s unlikely a Maine State Police trooper could use, or even have, this private license plate for nearly a decade without a supervisor or administrator becoming aware of it. Could it be the agency knew, did nothing, and handed down a “wrist-slap” as tacit admittance of that knowledge?

Saying this license plate allowed Zeim to become more effective in policing dangerous drivers is hard to swallow. This smacks of grasping to explain an embarrassing situation, one in which the trooper acted disingenuously, and essentially committed one crime under the pretext of preventing others.

And you know what’s worse than this excuse?

Given the easy identification of Zeim’s cruiser, this unneeded subterfuge didn’t even work.

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