Most lawmakers like their personalized license plates identifying them as representatives or senators.
But a Summit County lawmaker has removed his personalized "REP 54" license plates, claiming his family was subjected to improper harassment from a Salt Lake police officer who impounded the vehicle for expired license plates."It was an inappropriate action on the part of the officer to strand two women and a baby on a city street 50 miles from their home," said Rep. Glen Brown, R-Coalville. "He saw those crazy representative license plates and for some reason he lashed out."
But Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Chabries insists the lawmaker was not picked on or singled out. "He was treated the same way any other citizen would have been treated for the same violation," he said.
The incident occurred Tuesday afternoon in front of the Lion House at 50 E. South Temple as Brown's wife, daughter and grandchild were about to attend a function for legislators' families.
According to Brown, the officer's first comments to his wife was, "Your husband must be one of those lawmakers." The officer issued a ticket for expired plates and then impounded the car.
When Brown's wife asked how she was supposed to get home, the officer offered to drive her anywhere she wanted to go within the city limits - still about 40 miles from Coalville.
"I understand it is up to the discretion of the officer whether he impounds the vehicle or not," Brown said. "But the fact of the matter is it (impoundment) is not done routinely, and it's not right to strand women and children 50 miles from home. He saw the plates and he singled her out. I am angry I was singled out, and my wife was grossly mistreated."
But Chabries said an officer's actions largely depend on how long the registration has been expired.
"In this case, it was nine months. It was way out of line."
The police chief said Brown's secretary called his office and "directed me to have that car up there for him in one hour. I just advised him that I would not comply with that," he said.
But Chabries said he did tell Brown's secretary what he could do to get his car back. "I couldn't have done anthing, regardless of what he thought I could do," the chief said, explaining that the vehicle was impounded on a state tax hold.
Chabries said the police officer did not treat Brown's family harshly when he impounded the car. The officer "even asked if he had treated them discourteously and the daughter indicated, `No, you had not been rude,' " he said.
Brown admits he forgot to register the Chevrolet S-10 Blazer when the plates came due last April. "You think about it at the time they are due, then you forget about it."
Brown said he and his wife have driven the vehicle on numerous occasions and have never been stopped.
Brown, co-chairman of the powerful Executive Appropriations Committee, said the officers' actions will not affect Brown's support for several crime bills supported by the Salt Lake City Police Department.
And Chabries said he never felt Brown was trying to threaten him or his department. "He never represented to me personally any kind of threats," he said.
Brown has since paid the fine and removed his vehicle from the impound lot.
"People say those plates buy you favors. But not for me," Brown said. "I guess this is what happens when you live in a fish bowl."