There’s an ancient Roman poem that reads “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” The Latin phrase translates to “who will guard the guards themselves?” It’s a phrase that’s been used over the centuries to call out the bad behavior of those who are charged with upholding justice but abuse their positions of power.
Unfortunately, the phrase has had plenty of reasons to be invoked throughout history. But even in the most corrupt of circumstances, it’s possible to find honorable people still working for the public good…
Officer Marian Godina was from Romania and did a job that was largely thankless around the world. He was a traffic cop, which meant any time he interacted with someone in a professional capacity, they were bound to be annoyed with him.
Officer Godina understood that, of course. But that didn’t make his job any less necessary, especially when dealing with drunk drivers. An inebriated person behind the wheel of a car is a very real threat to themselves and to the safety of those around them.
When a drunk driver is pulled over, they’ll typically try to deny that they’ve had anything to drink and do whatever they can to get out of the ticket they deserve. But when Officer Godina pulled over a drunk driver in the city of Brasov, they took an entirely different approach.
After he pulled over a car because of erratic driving, Officer Godina asked the driver if he’d been drinking. Rather than trying to deny he’d been drinking, the driver leaned into his drunken appearance, replying “Do I look sober to you?”
When the traffic cop asked what types of drinks the driver had, he said “All sorts,” belligerently adding, “Write down, a-l-l s-o-r-t-s.” When Officer Godina asked the man if he knew what day it was, he kept up the sassy attitude, saying “It’s night … not day.”
Sharing With the World
The driver took it a step further, spitting out a bunch of expletives in Officer Godina’s direction. Of course, there was no way that driver was getting out of the ticket. And after he’d written the man up, Officer Godina thought the incident was so amusing, he put it up on his personal Facebook page.
But when his bosses found the post, they weren’t at all amused. Officer Godina got an angry call no employee wants to hear. His bosses said they wanted to see him immediately. He was badly chewed out and ordered to take down his entire Facebook page. He was so humiliated that he thought about quitting the force entirely.
But after his Facebook page disappeared, the Brasov police server got so many complaints and messages in support of Officer Godina it crashed entirely. What his bosses didn’t understand was that the Facebook page of this lowly traffic cop was one of the most popular in the country.
To understand why, you’d need to know that Romanian traffic police officers traditionally have been the butt of countless jokes about their lack of integrity, education, and intelligence. But Officer Godina’s page pushed back against those stereotypes. Through his relentless honesty, sharp wit, and even critiques of the corruption he saw around him, he had developed a large, loyal following of fed-up citizens.
The next day, Officer Godina’s bosses had no choice but to back down in the face of such overwhelming public pressure. They reversed course and ordered him to reactivate his Facebook page.
Begining of it All
The popularity of Officer Godina’s Facebook page started in 2009 when he responded to a call about a crash where a taxi had flipped over. A good Samaritan driving a watermelon truck had pulled off the road to rescue the taxi’s driver but in his haste, the truck driver forgot to set his emergency brake.
As a result the truck rolled into a ditch, spilling an entire season’s worth of melons along the side of the road. That left the driver “crying like a child and staring in sorrow,” Officer Godina said.
Refusing to let the truck driver’s good deed be punished, Officer Godina helped him get his truck out of the ditch, then salvage every melon that could be saved. His Facebook post about the incident got thousands of likes as people cheered a government official working for the public good for once.
Variety of Subjects
Officer Godina’s later posts were sometimes educational, explaining why pedestrians could be fined if they didn’t look out for cars. They were also sometimes critical of his bosses for things like putting up a yield sign on a dead end street.
And of course, there were plenty of posts about the more humorous incidents that happened on the job, like the time another drunken driver tried to pretend that it had been his dog operating the car. Another driver tried to get out of a ticket by pretending he’d forgotten his native tongue after living abroad for a year.
Symbol of Justice
With more than a quarter of a million Facebook followers, Officer Godina became somewhat of a symbol of integrity amid a wave of disgust with corruption in his profession. He wanted to be a good and honorable police officer since he was a child, but that often proved difficult when surrounded by such blatant corruption.
Difficult Working Environment
Officer Godina and his colleagues would regularly write traffic tickets only to have them torn up after wealthy or influential people appealed to higher ups. It felt like an echo of the past when powerful party members in the days of communism were effectively above the law.
It seemed like a similar incident was unfolding when Officer Godina fined the driver of a local councilor after he failed to stop at a crosswalk and almost hit a girl. His bosses said he shouldn’t have fined the driver, accused him of being disrespectful, and launched a disciplinary inquiry. Officer Godina documented all of it on Facebook, including a recording of his conversation with the driver.
Again, his fans were outraged. About 100 policemen from across the country came to Brasov to support him with bumper stickers that read “I am Godina.” The national media picked up the scandal and in the weeks that followed, the councilor who was in the car resigned and the head of Brasov police and one of his deputies went into early retirement.
Later on, Officer Godina put his Facebook fame to good use and secured himself a book contract. He wrote “Flashes From the Other Way,” a compilation of his funniest Facebook posts and other stories from his life as a policeman. It would go on to become one of Romania’s top-selling books.