Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Waiting for a response, Mr. Chief of Police

Sooo... in December I had a little run-in with the local police department that I just haven't been in the mood to blog about. There are lots of issues to explore surrounding my experience, and I'll get to those sometime soon. But in the meantime, I'm pasting the text of an email here which contains a pretty basic description of what happened, followed by the response of the chief of police. I have yet to hear from the lieutenant mentioned in the email, and I'm not holding my breath. Methinks I'll be making a visit to a city council meeting, or a bunch of city council meetings, soon...


From: Rachel Lastname[mailto:email@college.edu]
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 2010 3:08 PM
To: Dale Lastname
Cc: Rachelsotheremailaddress
Subject: Question and Complaint

Dear Mr. Lastname,

I’m writing to complain about an experience I had with the LocalPD, and to inquire into your standard practices.

On Dec 19th I was driving home and was pulled over by one of your officers, Casey Lastname. As I drove East on Streetname street, Officer Lastname turned in behind me at about 4th St, and rode my bumper all the way to the light at 9th St. I was aware that he was a police officer, and that I was doing the speed limit, so I continued to drive the same speed even as he pressured me to break the law and drive faster. It was after midnight so the light at Streetname and 9th was flashing red, so I made a complete stop, looked to make sure there were no oncoming vehicles, and then proceeded through the intersection. Throughout this process, Officer Lastname continued to creep forward as if he were so impatient to go that my stopping and obeying the traffic laws was a huge inconvenience to him. I interpreted this as an attempt to make me violate the law so that he would have a reason to pull me over. Although I didn’t in fact violate the traffic laws, he pulled me over anyway to ask if I had been drinking. I had in fact had 2 drinks over the course of the 5½ hours I was out, and I was careful not to drink more than that because I planned to drive home that night. There was no evidence of impairment, I had not violated any traffic laws or driven in a dangerous manner, and I did not appear to be drunk in any way (because I wasn’t), but none of these factors had any impact on Office Lastname’s conduct. He was convinced that I was driving drunk, and he was going to bring me in for DUI that night no matter what the facts were.

It was extremely cold that night, and he asked me to step out of the car for a sobriety test. I complied, and passed the first three tests. This didn’t faze him in the slightest. As I became very cold and began to shiver, he restarted the round of sobriety tests, making me repeat the tests I had just successfully completed. As expected, I finally failed and put my foot down while walking the line for the second time, because I was shaking from the cold. At this point I was very tired and wanted to get home and out of the cold, so I requested a breathalyzer test. He refused. I’m not familiar with the laws in Mystate, but I can’t imagine why an officer would be allowed to refuse to give a breathalyzer test to a person he’s accusing of DUI. The only explanation I can come up with is that increasingly scarce funding for the police department is allocated on the basis of DUI arrests and other similar statistics, so there’s an incentive to arrest as many people as possible regardless of the reality of the situation. If this is the case, then I think the citizens of Mytown have a serious and legitimate complaint. Whatever the case may be, I was cuffed and taken to the detention center, where I received a breathalyzer test resulting in a BAC of 0.011 and 0.010. Clearly I was nowhere near drunk and had violated no laws. In spite of this I was arrested, held for the night, and charged with a DWUI, which was later dismissed by the court.

It is incomprehensible to me why this would be the policy of the police department. What do the police department or the citizens of Mytown gain by jailing people who have clearly not broken a law, making them call their friends and family in the middle of the night to come up with bail money, and then go through the hassle of taking time off work to attend court and try to track down their driver’s licenses (which in my case took several weeks after my court date, involved a lot of misinformation and a misplaced license, and forced me to use vacation time from work)? How does this count as "serving and protecting with dignity and respect"? I cannot make any sense of this practice except from the perspective of justifying budget expenditures based on the number of arrests made (not convictions, of course). And this amounts to a situation where officers are working on commission, and whether or not a person has actually broken a law becomes completely irrelevant. This is a deeply disturbing scenario. It was clear to me that night that Officer Lastname intended to take me to jail no matter what, and just by driving after midnight I was fair game. He intended to make me repeatedly perform sobriety tests until I failed one so that he could justify his intention of taking me in. If that wasn’t his intention, then why would he refuse an on-site breathalyzer when I requested it? And was it legal for him to refuse to give me the breathalyzer test on-site? Is this the standard procedure? If he truly believed I was drunk, why would he refuse it? And if this is the standard procedure, then what is the function of having breathalyzer equipment in the cars, and why has this been deemed a reasonable use of our tax dollars? I would note as well that over the two hours it took for Officer Lastname to process my arrest, the bars closed, and there probably were people who were truly out driving drunk. Wouldn’t department resources have been better utilized by releasing me and pursuing a real DUI?

I would appreciate answers to these questions, and some insight into departmental procedures regarding DUIs. If it is in fact legal for an officer to refuse to administer an on-site breathalyzer then this is deeply problematic and something that should be brought to the attention of city council and the citizens of Mytown.

Thank you for your time,

Rachel Lastname


From: Dale Lastname[email@ci.mytown.mystate.us]
Sent: Friday, February 12, 2010 6:48 AM
To: Rachel Lastname
Cc: Mark Lastname
Subject: RE: Question and Complaint

Ms. Lastname,

I have forwarded your email to Lt. Mark Lastname of our Operations Division, for internal investigation to ensure that the actions of Officer Lastname were appropriate as well as to explain your procedural questions. You can expect a response from him no later than Monday, 15 February.

Your questions are legitimate and your concerns will be taken with all seriousness. The policy of the Mytown Police Department is to always thoroughly investigate and respond to concerns of the public.


Dale Lastname
Chief of Police


  1. It's been awhile, but I remember a discussion of this issue in law school. The legislative trend in many jurisdictions is moving in the direction of requiring officers to administer a chemical test onsite if the driver requests it prcisely because of abuses like this one. I would look up both the municipal code and the state law on this. Also, contact the local ACLU office to see if they have a volunteer who can help you get your hands on the right sourcebooks. Good luck!

  2. Anonymous2/16/2010

    How do you even get a BAC of .01? That's ridiculously low. For most people, one drink puts them pretty close to .08. Damn I bet that pissed off the cops when you blew a .01. They hate being wrong. Hate it hate it hate it. No doubt that's why you got charged. They knew it would get dismissed but also knew it would be a huge hassle. Fuckers.

  3. Anonymous2/16/2010

    In November I was pulled over by a police officer in my town, it was 4am and I was driving home from a friend's house. Because I did not have my driver's license on me, she had my car towed and took me to jail, where I sat for nine hours until the judge came in. I never saw him, but the bailiff brought me a ticket and let me go. The fine for the ticket ended up being $20.

    Zero tolerance makes us all criminals.

  4. I'm so sorry you had to go through this. Thank you for spreading the word.

  5. Good grief, this is terrible. I wish you the best in curbing the stupidity of your local police force, Rachel.