Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cops let Alderman Tom Tunney skip license hassle
NOT USUAL 'PROTOCOL' | Tunney got cell phone ticket, handed over driver's license -- but police gave it back after he made a call

October 16, 2007
BY FRAN SPIELMAN AND ANNIE SWEENEY Staff Reporters/fspielman@suntimes.com, asweeney@suntimes.com

Ald. Tom Tunney, like thousands of other motorists, got caught talking on his cell phone while he was driving last week.

What he also got -- which most drivers don't -- was a visit from a Chicago Police officer who returned Tunney's driver's license to him at the alderman's 44th Ward office. The license was returned Friday after Tunney called Town Hall District Cmdr. Gary Yamashiroya to tell him about the ticketing earlier in the day -- which Tunney said he didn't dispute. "I should have known better. And I'm gonna try to get my car equipped so it doesn't happen again," Tunney said. "It's fairly common to see people talking on their cell phones. So, I got caught. I'm treated like everybody else." Motorists generally get their licenses back after they go to court or after they pay their fine and the license is mailed to them. Tunney said he called the commander to inform him of the ticket. The alderman works closely with Yamashiroya on issues pertaining to Wrigley Field. "I called the commander and said, 'This is what happened.' And he suggested, 'The least I can do is return your driver's license to you.'" Tunney said an officer -- not the one who ticketed him -- brought the license to his ward office, and he had to sign an affidavit with conditions for getting the license back. Yamashiroya was on vacation and couldn't be reached Monday, department spokeswoman Monique Bond said. The returning of the license to Tunney's office will be reviewed, Bond said. But she said there have been "extenuating circumstances" where citizens -- average citizens -- were allowed to pay a ticket and get their license back at police stations. "It has to be very, very extenuating -- [such as] someone has to go out of the country," Bond said. When asked about accepting the favor, Tunney said: "Oh, I don't know. I don't know what the [normal] protocol is. I very seldom get stopped. It's still a violation. ... It makes it more convenient, I guess, for the time where it's in the court system. But, I signed off on that."
Tunney, who in 2005 voted for the ban on cell phone use while driving without a hands-free device, said he was conducting routine business while holding his cell phone and driving. "I was remiss," he said. "I should have an appliance in my car because I need to be on the phone all the time. I should have known better." As of August, Chicago Police had issued about 8,500 violations for using a hand-held cell phone while driving -- a $50 ticket. In 2006, police wrote 13,400 tickets.

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