Proper Use of Discretion?

Again, I say, Can you believe this??

Trooper gives ticket to woman in labor

BOSTON — All too often, the congested roads of Greater Boston conspire with the vagaries of childbirth to leave a mother-to-be in a car on the roadside at one of life’s most critical moments. A hard-bitten state trooper shows up and morphs into a highway midwife, clearing the newborn’s nose and mouth, cutting the cord, and sometimes even saving a life.

This is not one of those stories.

Jennifer Davis was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on Nov. 18, her contractions just 3 minutes apart. Her husband, John, was trying to appear calm for his wife’s sake, driving in the breakdown lane of Route 2. They pulled up behind a state trooper to ask whether they could continue using the lane to reach the next exit, near Alewife Station.

Not only did the trooper say no, he gave them a $100 citation for driving in the breakdown lane, made them wait for their citation while he finished writing someone else’s ticket, and even seemed to ask for proof of pregnancy, Jennifer Davis said.

“He said, ‘What’s under your jacket?’ I said, ‘My belly,’ ” Davis said. “He waited and gestured with his head like, ‘OK, let’s see it.’ He waited for me to unzip my jacket. I mean, it was so clear that I was pregnant.”

The Davises say the contretemps occurred after two other troopers they encountered had waved them along in the highway breakdown lane, allowing them to evade gridlock while advising them to be cautious and keep their hazard lights on.

While State Police spokesman David Procopio declined to comment on the merits of this stop, he noted that state law prohibits driving in breakdown lanes on Route 2.

“The trooper made a judgment call to enforce the law governing the use of the breakdown lane,” said Procopio. “If the couple does choose to submit a letter of complaint, we’ll review it in accordance with our procedure.”

The officer who gave the citation – Trooper Michael Galluccio of the Brighton barracks, according to his identification number – could not immediately be reached for comment.

Though the Davises live about 30 miles away in Dracut, Jennifer Davis, 38, wanted to have her baby at Mount Auburn, where she had also given birth to her 7-year-old son, Brendan.

“For 10 months we had been saying, ‘As long as I don’t go into labor during rush hour’ – which we did,” said Davis, a social worker for a visiting nurse group affiliated with the hospital.

They left for Cambridge after dropping Brendan off at school. Her contractions were about 5 minutes apart.

But the roads were so clogged that John Davis began using the breakdown lane. Davis – whose driving record has six speeding violations over the past 20 years, according to the state Registry of Motor Vehicles – said he tried to get troopers’ permission to use the emergency lanes when they encountered them along their journey.

On Route 3, he pulled over and told a trooper that his wife was in labor. The trooper said they could use the breakdown lane only when traffic was backed up and only while using their hazard lights. On Route 128, they got stopped by a second trooper who allowed them to continue in the breakdown lane after noticing the infant car seat in the back of their Honda Accord and the mother’s condition.

“I know people fabricate stories all the time,” Jennifer Davis said, “but it was pretty clear that I was in labor.”

Once on Route 2, they pulled up behind the trooper who ultimately cited them, who was attending to a car in the emergency lane.

He asked at least twice if they wanted an ambulance, but they declined, Jennifer Davis said. “I told him, ‘My contractions are about 3 minutes apart. We just want to get off this exit.’ We thought it would save us a little time.”

State Police policy discourages the use of police escorts for private vehicles, except in life-or-death situations, Procopio said. But for a misguided moment, when the trooper left their car to finish up with the other motorist, John Davis hoped that the officer would come back to help them through traffic.

“Ironically, I was relieved to see the police. I thought, ‘Oh cool, he’ll help us,’ ” said John Davis. “He made it worse. He held us up.”

The citation cost them 5 or 10 agonizing minutes before the trooper handed them an envelope and told them they’d be getting something in the mail. The citation came this week. In hindsight, the couple believe the trooper was trying to save them time by mailing the citation, rather than making them wait while he wrote it up.

Jennifer Davis was already deep into labor when they made it to the hospital, but it turns out they had time to spare. Charlotte Jane was born about five hours after their traffic stop, with a birth announcement that made the rounds of the maternity ward.

Said Jennifer Davis, “Our story spread like wildfire.”

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