I had a little run-in with the police the other day.
Well, it wasn't me, precisely. Two friends had just picked me up and we were headed for a day of fun at Six Flags, when we got pulled over in the local speed trap (a very wide, flat, and straight road that for some mind-boggling reason has a 30 MPH speed limit). When the officer ran the driver's license, my friend was promptly removed from the car and frisked. It turned out that unbeknownst to him, his license had been suspended for unpaid tickets.
The officer let us know that he was being nice, and while this technically counted as an arrest, my friend was being "released at the scene". Then he asked us if we had someone to pick us up, because he was having the car towed.
"Wait," said my other friend, "this is my car!" She pulled out the registration to show him her name on it. "Can't I just take the car?"
No such luck. It was "policy" that he had to tow the car. So the tow truck arrived, all three of us piled in, and rode less than a mile to the towing company. We went inside, where my friend had to pay $125 for the tow, and a $35 "storage fee" to get her car back (even though the car hadn't even been taken off the truck yet). Then we went back outside, where the driver unhooked the car and sent us on our way.
That was a bunch of bullshit, right there.
I'm about 95% certain the officer could have decided not to have the car towed, just as he had the authority to release my friend at the scene instead of hauling him in. The tow and subsequent fees were almost certainly intended as a punishment--you've done something wrong, so I'm going to inconvenience you as much as I possibly can without inconveniencing myself (as arresting him would have done). I can't see any other reason why the owner of the car, a licensed driver sitting in the passenger seat when it was pulled over, couldn't take it instead.
(The real kicker is that my friend suspects this is all due to a clerical error--he paid off a number of tickets at once a few weeks ago. But what can you do? Even if he can prove that's the case, the tow company isn't going to refund the money, since they performed the service they were called to perform. And good luck getting the police department to make it right--customer service isn't exactly their area of expertise.)
What I find myself wondering is how much of that decision to punish us by towing the car was due to the driver (who was nothing but polite, meek, and courteous during the whole stop) having a mohawk and a bunch of metal in his face. Similar to "driving while black," his real offense may have been "driving while counterculture."
Oh well. At least we had a great time at Six Flags anyway.