Parma, OH - In the land of the free, police can and will steal your property for failing to pay the state for the privilege of owning it. Even if you have paid the state their tariff to own property, if you lose your "proof" of payment, police will steal your property.
Matthew Osborne stopped at a local convenience store and then realized his license plate was missing. He then called a friend who had a trailer to come pick up his bike because he didn't want to ride his motorcycle through town without a license plate. While waiting, he was approached by Parma police who told Osborne they would be towing his bike for not having a license plate.
The temporary tag (paper in some states) had fallen off the bike but instead of issuing Osborne a citation and allowing the man to tow his bike home, they impounded it. Understandably, this infuriated Osborne who then began recording the incident. Numerous times he asked Sergeant John Porec what probable cause he had to make contact with him on private property.
The BP fuel station had no problem with Osborne leaving his bike in their parking lot while he arranged for it to be towed but that didn't matter to Porec who refused to answer the motorist's numerous questions.
In a TFTP exclusive, Osborne describes how the officer originally made contact with the motorist:
He asked me where my tag was and I informed him that it must have fallen off and I not only had permission from BP to be there but also had a trailer on its way to legally get the bike home safe.
In order for police to make contact with a motorist, they must believe the person to have committed a crime, or is in the act of committing a crime. Since BP is private property, a retail establishment open to the public, police generally wait until someone is on a public road before making contact. But as TFTP has reported on numerous occasions, citizens are not safe from police scrutiny, even when they are not operating a motor vehicle and are on private property. Osborne pleaded with the officer to allow him to tow the bike but remarked:
He WASN'T interested in hearing this and gave me 3 tickets, towed the bike, and put me in jail.
Yes. That's right. What started off as a ticket escalated to the point where Osborne was arrested and charged with obstructing justice. But that is not where the story ends.
As luck would have it, after Osborne bonded out of jail, he and his friend went to a local Subway restaurant where they encountered Porec again. He followed the pair after they left the restaurant and, predictably, pulled the two men over. This time, Porec issued a citation to Osborne's friend who forgot his license at home.
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That traffic stop is also being called into question by Osborne who said the two broke no traffic laws as they were driving, knowing all along the officer was behind them. Osborne recorded that encounter as well.
Even though it might be tempting to assume the officers were just doing their jobs and citing a motorist for failing to have a license plate and not having a drivers license, comments to Osborne's ordeal tell a different story. Osborne works for Vendetta Towing. Michelle St. John Belhouane, the company's owner is incensed police were allegedly harassing her employees while they were on official business attempting to locate a vehicle for which they had a contract to repossess.
Belhoane refuses to allow her company's business to be interrupted by Parma Police Department's apparent policing for profit schemes. She equates their activities to gang-like stalking of unsuspecting motorists and posted the following message to Facebook along with several of Osborne's videos.
In a story published on Scumbagged, several of Parma's residents and citizens passing through the town reported numerous instances of questionable policing practices. Several people noted they had been stopped because Parma officers claimed the motorists were driving around on bald tires even though there was tread on them.
Several of those traffic stops turned into opportunities for Parma police to search vehicles, searches the citizens claim were unlawful. Other motorists said they were ticketed for having illegal tint but when motorists demanded police officers produce the required tint meter their demands were ignored. Everyone commenting expressed their fears of having to drive through the town. Several people were pulled over for looking "suspicious."
The town is no stranger to controversy and has paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawsuits brought by citizens who believed their constitutional rights were violated by the very officers of the peace who are sworn to uphold them.
In 2014, the city settled out of court for $40,000 with a family who said Parma police permanently injured their teenage son. The teenager questioned a Parma police officer's contention their father was driving his van around town looking "suspicious." The cop pulled the kid, not the dad, out of the van because he was being a "smart ass." He then hit the kid over the head with what the family believed was a flashlight while placing him in the back of the police cruiser for smarting off.
In 2016, Parma police officers were sued for slamming a 62-year-old man on his face following a domestic dispute between the man and his son. Mark Bartkiewicz, had never been arrested in his life but his son had a long criminal record. Bartkiewicz was angry about being hit by his son Scott. When police arrived they allegedly slammed the man on his face injuring him.
Osborne has set up a Gofundme page to help cover his legal expenses as he seeks to clear his name after a police contact which should have ended with a verbal warning or a citation but instead ended in an innocent man being jailed and his property legally stolen.
Anthony Novak attempted to mock Parma PD's numerous violations of citizens' civil rights by creating a fake Parma PD Facebook page and make fun of its department. The police, whose pride had apparently been offended, arrested Novak for expressing his 1st Amendment right to free speech.
He took his case all the way to trial and was acquitted. He's now suing and, like Osborne and Bartkiewicz, will likely win yet another settlement. Such cases drive up property taxes as citizens, not police officers, are left holding the bag.