December 20, 2013

Oakland police drop charge after 77-year-old Winslow woman arrested on traffic violation

Woman was not handcuffed or taken to the police station, but was arrested after she failed to yield to a police car.

By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
Staff Writer

OAKLAND — Police have dropped the charge against a 77-year-old woman who was recently arrested on a traffic violation.

Oakland police Officer Mike Sayers arrested Patricia Pelletier, 77, of Winslow, about 11 a.m. Saturday after she didn’t yield to his patrol car on Kennedy Memorial Drive, Oakland police Capt. Rick Stubbert said.

He said Sayers had his emergency lights and siren on.

“He was responding to an emergency call,” Stubbert said. “She was not pulling over, impeding traffic.”

Pelletier was not handcuffed or taken to the police station. Instead, Sayers noted her license plate number and continued on to the emergency, a 911 call. Afterwards, he called Pelletier and told her to go to the police station.

“He was very stern,” Pelletier said.

Pelletier’s son took her to the station later that day. She was charged with failure to yield to an emergency vehicle and her son paid bail for her.

On Monday, command staff reviewed the case and decided that the charge had been made in error.

“We just felt that she didn’t need to be arrested,” Stubbert said.

Oakland police Chief Michael Tracy said the department asked the district attorney’s office to withdraw the charge. The department also refunded the bail amount to the family.

“We regret what happened and withdrew the charge as quickly as possible,” Tracy said. “We talked with the officer, and he has a better understanding of our department’s mission and goals, and I don’t foresee that happening again.”

Stubbert said failure to yield typically results in a summons, not an arrest, but that officers have discretion in what to do in that situation. He said that, while the decision to bring a charge was overturned by command staff, Sayers was acting within the law and within department policy.

Stubbert said Sayers brought the charge in part because of the length of time it took Pelletier to yield.

Pelletier said she tried to yield, but heavy traffic prevented her from getting over.

Tracy said failing to yield to an emergency vehicle is a serious safety concern, for both police officers and for members of the public.

Pelletier said worrying about the criminal charge caused her to lose sleep over the weekend, but she was happy when police told her and her family that the charge was dropped Monday.

Now, she said, she harbors no ill will toward the department, and is happy that the ordeal is over so that she can fully enjoy the holidays.

“They were very nice,” Pelletier said. “The police chief apologized. I felt real good. You could tell, they really were sorry.”

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287 Twitter: @hh_matt

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