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Police officers have extraordinarily difficult jobs, and go to work each day knowing there is a chance they might not return home to their families and loved ones.
Any cop will tell you there is no such thing as a “routine” traffic stop. When an officer pulls a car over and walks up to the driver’s side window, he or she never quite knows what may happen next.
That said, the officer who pulled ex-UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones over in Albuquerque, N.M., last week for allegedly drag racing allowed a situation to escalate far beyond what it should have.
Jones was needlessly belligerent, and under no circumstances should he have called the cop “a [expletive] liar.” Having escaped a potentially disastrous situation a little less than a year ago, when a car he was driving ran a red light and hit another vehicle that happened to be driven by a pregnant woman, Jones should be wise enough to try not to draw needless attention to himself.
Jones has a rematch with his arch-rival, Daniel Cormier, scheduled for April 23 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas that is set to be the main event of UFC 197. It will be his opportunity to regain the title that was stripped from him after his hit-and-run last year.
Incredibly, Jones was also pulled over in February for driving without a license, proof of registration or insurance.
All of this was entirely preventable by Jones.
That said, the situation turned ugly, and the video of an angry Jones sneering and cursing at the officer who made the stop turned up on TMZ largely because of the officer’s attitude.
The police officer involved could easily have de-escalated the situation, but chose to banter back and forth with Jones.
Put yourself in Jones’ shoes for a second: You’ve already lost a lot after the 2015 traffic accident. You were ticketed for the driving without a license charge, you have a major event in your personal life coming up and now you’re being given five tickets you don’t believe you deserve.
It’s probably not fair to say most, but many drivers would be irritated and snap at the officer.
And the odds of that happening would increase if the officer acted smug and continued to make smart remarks.
Jones was ticketed for drag racing; revving his engine and making unnecessary engine noise; a loud exhaust; driving outside of his traffic lane; and having his license plate holder obscure the registration sticker on his plate.
Curiously, he wasn’t ticketed for speeding even though the officer tells Jones he saw him speed away from a stop light with another card.
The video doesn’t show the incident, so it’s impossible to know whose account of what happened is correct.
When the officer ran Jones’ plate, he knew who he was dealing with. Jones is a major celebrity in Albuquerque and be sure that the city’s police officers know him very well.
The officer also would have seen Jones’ record. Jones had a DUI conviction in New York in 2012 and the accident in Albuquerque last year.
Jones, 28, has made a point of talking publicly about his sobriety. He said prior to becoming sober in the last few months, he hadn’t been sober since he was 17.
In the video, he did not appear to be under the influence of either alcohol or drugs, and the officer let him drive away after issuing the tickets. Given the way the officer was acting toward him, had he smelled as much as a drop of alcohol on Jones’ breath, he wouldn’t have let Jones drive away.
Jones, who was driving a Corvette, claimed he simply revved his engine to acknowledge some fans. It would behoove him to learn to smile and wave to acknowledge his fans, but to ticket him for an engine rev seems quite petty.
If the officer had been quiet during the stop and had spoken only when necessary, it probably wouldn’t have been as heated. An angry Jones at one point rhetorically asked the officer, “How do you sleep with yourself?”
Clearly, it was a statement the officer should have ignored. But he said like a smart aleck, “Mostly on my left side. Sometimes on my back.”
That kind of response is almost guaranteed to raise the tension level, which, of course, it did.
The officer also said to Jones, “You’re lucky you’re not going to jail tonight for reckless driving.” Given we don't have all the facts, maybe that is true.
It doesn’t, however, help to defuse the tension. The cop would have been far better off to simply remain silent and not have engaged with Jones. The officer is the one with the training and the one in control.
He’s also in charge and doesn’t need to get into petty exchanges with Jones.
When Jones said, “You’re despicable,” the officer replied, “I feel the same way about you, sir.” Jones then followed up by saying, “Pig. You disgust me.” And the officer said, “Once again, the feeling is mutual.”
Jones has to be responsible for his own driving, and it’s beyond time that he found a solution to the issue. The most obvious solution is to hire a driver, or take an Uber or a cab wherever he goes.
As it stands, he’s only asking for trouble getting behind the wheel, particularly in Albuquerque.
Still, had the officer just remained mostly quiet and spoken only when he needed to explain something to Jones, it might not have been an incident that would have made much, if any, news.
Now, of course, it’s everywhere.
Jon Jones is not only an adult, but a very lucky man. He’s lucky he didn’t kill anyone in his DUI in New York in 2012. He’s luckier that the pregnant woman suffered mostly minor injuries in his accident in 2015. And he’s lucky he’s got his job back with the UFC, an opportunity to win the championship and make many millions of dollars.
He’s risking all of that each time he sits in the driver’s seat of a car, and it’s high time he realizes it.
But the traffic officer certainly made matters worse in this case. He seemed to bait Jones, and Jones took the bait.
The officer clearly wanted to let him know who was the boss. And it led to a lot of unnecessary trouble and expense.
This was something that could have, and should have been avoided.
By Mr. Jones.
And yes, by the police officer, as well.