Worse than getting out of a warm bed at 2:00 AM, one of the hardest parts about being in the towing business has to be dealing with the politics of law enforcement. You deal with these guys everyday, you need them and they need you; although they’re sometimes loathe to admit it. They’re a finicky bunch, if you just do your job and attempt to stay out of the politics of it; you’re labeled “stand-offish”. And if you get-in too tight with them, then familiarity breeds contempt, and you’re a suck-up. And once you’ve got your label there’s no going back. But, unless you live in an area like the “Wild Mid-West” (Missouri), where there are no statutes that allow for a fair rotation system, you don’t need to be concerned, too much, with the feelings of the individual officers and troopers on the roads.What you do need to worry about are policy changes handed down to these guys, because once in hand they’ll be strictly adhered to…most of the time.
Of course when things are running smooth there’s no need for change. Change usually only happens as a result of a competitor complaint. Whether it’s a known scoundrel or a naive, ethical newbie trying to make his way, doesn’t matter; they want their piece of the pie and they’ll do whatever is most expedient to get it. Usually it’s crying foul that someone or another is getting all the business, but it could also be hypocritical lies; where the claim is that others are gaming the system. Whatever claims are necessary to gain the ear of the decision makers, they’ll make. And whosoever gains the decision makers’ confidence first is the winner. Once in, they’ll be seen as the one in the right, no matter how many faux pas they’re caught up in down the road.
So the first step to staying on law enforcement’s good side is to keep in constant contact with the decision maker. Whether it be the Mayor, the Chief of Police, or a Captain assigned to handle all things towing, you’ll want to keep in touch. Make yourself available to provide answers and make suggestions when questions arise. The thing to understand is that most in this position know very little about the nuances surrounding the business of towing. They know everything about how it pertains to how they and their fellow officers do their jobs. But when it comes to the difficulties that towers face on a daily basis, they’re basically clueless. That’s why it’s good to be the one in their ear. When you’re helping them to understand how it all works they’ll be appreciative. And with appreciation comes reciprocation; so should there arise a question of impropriety about how you conduct your business, many times they’ll lean in your favor. Of course the worse thing you can do is to try to take advantage of this. Maintaining the confidence of those making the decisions is worth much more than a business owner’s selfish desires to get ahead. That’s not to say that some don’t do it, but don’t let that be you.
And should you get wind of a competitor operating illegally; outside the boundaries of their contract or some other shady, outside-the-law, deals and you think it’s something that warrants investigation, be sure you have more than one instance of occurrence before you present it. Whatever the infraction, if you only have proof of one incidence of it happening, it can be explained away, fairly easily. If you’re not the tower with decision maker’s ear the burden of proof will be extremely high, so be sure you have all your ducks in a row and proof that what you’re alleging is actually what happened. But be warned, even after you’ve done your homework and provided all the evidence needed to prove the other tower is operating outside the constricts of the law, it won’t necessarily be sufficient to cause the decision maker to take punitive actions. And sometimes your desire to shine the light on a wrong will backfire and unwanted attention will be pointed in your direction. And questions you didn’t want to answer will be asked. Hoops you weren’t required to jump through previously, will now be placed in your way. And you might end up in the hot seat for something totally “unrelated” to the charges you made.
The thing to remember about law enforcement is that those in power have huge egos and to them you’re just a tower. You drive a tow truck and drag wrecks out of the road, you’re a dime a dozen. When you point out problems and suggest that there are better and more expedient methods, or make suggestions about how the rotation system can be improved, they see it as an affront to their authority and an attempt, on your part, to dictate policy. But there are a couple of ways you can still get something done. An offhanded remark could put a bug in their ear, and cause them to believe that there is, indeed, a problem. And once it’s brought up again you could mention “their solution” (your solution) to the problem; and convince them that it was their idea in the first place. But again you’ll not want to do this to create any unfair advantages for yourself. Your goal is to operate in the greater interest of public safety first and to level the playing field second.