Monday, April 05, 2010


The chief warned drivers that officers would ‘smash the cell phone’ of someone caught driving and texting

El Paso Times
April 4, 2010

EL PASO, Texas — Strait-laced Police Chief Greg Allen has a mean streak or a humorous side, depending on your perspective.

Allen's menacing voice could be heard on the radio Thursday, promising that his officers would smash the cell phone of anyone caught talking and driving.

If you believed him, you were caught by Allen in one of El Paso's biggest April Fools' Day pranks.

In a recording on KLAQ-FM, Allen told morning commuters that he would be draconian in enforcing a new ordinance that bans motorists from using hand-held cell phones. He said his officers would confiscate and destroy the phone of anyone cited for violating the ordinance.

Allen said many police officers wear boots, which would come in handy for stomping lawbreakers' phones.

The spoof ran on the KLAQ "Morning Show" with Buzz Adams, and video of Allen making his threat appeared soon after on social networking sites such as YouTube and Facebook.

Allen did not respond to a request for an interview, but his spokesman said the chief was trying to be funny.

"This was just a way to show the lighter side of the Police Department. No malice was intended," said Detective Mike Baranyay, the spokesman. "I don't think Chief Allen's participation on this prank will have any effect on the way people understand the cell-phone ordinance."

Not everybody was laughing.

Elizabeth Dembicky, an East Side resident, said she was familiar with the new ordinance but was still duped by Allen.

"I heard the chief's voice on the radio and recognized him. I couldn't believe what he was saying. I was so upset," she said. "I thought, 'How can they smash my phone? That's my property.' "

Dembicky said that she enjoys a good joke but that Allen should not have participated in this prank.

"I mean, really. It's the first day of the ordinance and people are looking to him and his department for rules and guidance," she said. "I'm glad he has a sense of humor, but this was not a smart thing to do."

West Side resident Jesus Chavez, a student at the University of Texas at El Paso, said he fell prey to the joke for a couple of minutes.

"I heard it and I couldn't believe it. The first thing that came into my mind was that I was thankful I had cell-phone insurance," he said.

"Then I realized what day it was. I normally don't fall for pranks, but this time they got me good."

The City Council approved the ban on drivers talking or texting on cell phones unless they use a hands-free device. The ordinance does not allow police officers to destroy cell phones.

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