Friday, October 06, 2006

Police state nonsense

Police issue $250 ticket for playing on Pearl Street Mall

By Vanessa Miller, Camera Staff Writer
October 5, 2006

A 17-year-old Boulder High senior faces a $250 fine — stiffer than a ticket for speeding through a school zone — for playing Hacky Sac.

His offense: "releasing projectiles" on the Pearl Street Mall.

"I had no idea Hacky Sac is a crime," Kallen Ford said.

He knows now.

A Boulder police officer clued him in just after 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Ford said he and a buddy were lobbing a Hacky Sac back and forth in the fountain area outside the Boulder County Courthouse when Officer Colin Stephens approached.

"I turned around and saw him, and I didn't think anything of it," Ford said. "I thought he was going to ask us to do it away from kids or something."

Instead, Stephens asked for the footbag and requested the pair come sit by him, Ford said. The teens did as they were told, but asked if the officer had the authority to take their sack, according to Ford.

"He said it's evidence in a crime," Ford said. "He said you can't Hacky Sac on the mall."

Stephens, who couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday, escorted Ford to the Pearl Street police annex and issued him a $250 ticket for "releasing projectiles on the mall," according to Ford. He explained that the footbag is a projectile because it flies through the air.

Signs posted along the mall warn, "Do not throw Frisbees or other projectiles."

Police spokeswoman Julie Brooks said Wednesday that she couldn't comment about Ford's ticket because she hasn't seen it. The citation and Stephens' notes on why he issued the summons have been sent to Boulder Municipal Court, where Ford is due to appear Tuesday.

"Our job is to enforce the law and protect the safety of the community. Even if it was a basic violation of playing Hacky Sac," Brooks said.

Brooks' department didn't release the minor's identity; Ford volunteered the information.

The teen said he has spent many days and nights on the mall lobbing the beanbag, and he never noticed signs that he thought restricted a game of Hacky Sac.

That was the argument Ford gave Stephens, before requesting a warning as a first-time offender.

"I guess you can't throw a football in a park in Boulder without getting a ticket," Ford said.

When the teen returned home and handed the yellow citation to his mother, Margaret Pilcher, she said she was upset and wanted to talk to the police.

"We've been told we've got to clean up the mall," is what Pilcher said she was told.

Stephen Barnes, 16, has been hacking along Denver's 16th Street Mall for years and said he's never been in trouble for it.

"It's an awesome spectator sport," he said. "And we've never gotten in trouble, not remotely."

Ford said he doesn't want to get fined again, and he would prefer to stay out of trouble.

"But I want to be able to do it still, because it's fun," he said. "I'll move off the mall if I have to. But I want to figure out a way so it's not against the law."

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