If I’ve learned anything from co-habitating with my computer these last six months it’s that every once in awhile you need a reset. A little button that you push to make all the bad things disappear, so that you and your dancing unicorn wallpaper can start over together. No spinning wheels. No parking tickets that you received because the City of San Luis Obispo was targeting you because you’re homeless. No ridiculous trial because the overzealous Narcotics Task Force decided to arrest you for distributing medical marijuana to sick people. Of course, in my computer’s case, the problem is usually the fact that the hard drive is overflowing with porn. But hey, one man’s porn is another man’s city government.
So it’s been a week of happy endings, both for the Dooby Dozen and the city’s homeless population. But the thing that every Disney movie forgot to tell us is that happy endings aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be. They usually come at a price—in this case physical, emotional, and financial hardship.
On Aug. 13 the last of the Dooby Dozen cases was dismissed.
Those of you blessed with better memories than I might recall one SLO County Narcotics Task Force Cmdr. Rodney John bragging that the “concrete proof” his operation had gathered would result in successful prosecutions of every person arrested without reductions or dismissals. It only took a year and a half after the original raids, but each and every case has now been dismissed. How’s that crow taste, Rodney? Like chicken, I imagine. But as much as I would love to take better advantage over the opportunity to rub salt in Rodney’s proverbial wounds, there’s a bigger issue at stake here.
The Narcotics Task Force, and its lapdogs from the County District Attorney’s Office have spent the better part of two years and incalculable—mostly because the agencies involved aren’t all that transparent about how they spend their money—dollars arresting and attempting to prosecute 12 people who provided medical marijuana to sick people. It would now appear the joke’s on them. But really, it’s on us—the clowns footing the bill.
Perhaps more importantly, the joke’s on the people whose lives were turned upside down by the NTF’s decision to manipulate an ambiguous law to persecute a group of people who were bending over backward to comply with those laws. It’s true that Rodney is eating his boastful words, and there’s some comfort in that. But at least he—and, let’s be honest, other cops who are still working narcotics in this county under different leadership—managed to ruin peoples’ lives in the process—people who have not been convicted of any crime despite his best efforts.
And if that sounds a little melodramatic, consider the kind of hissy fit you indulge in when your normal round of monthly bills arrives on the same day that Trader Joe’s is out of your favorite wine. Now consider the fact that these people have been arrested, their money and possessions were confiscated, their names have been dragged through the mud, they’ve racked up a fortune in defense attorney fees, and in some cases lost businesses, homes, and marriages. It doesn’t matter that they’re legally innocent, despite the DA’s whining about how the judge’s jury instructions made it impossible for them to carry on with their case (which as I understand it, shows that you don’t really have a case) because the so-called justice system has tossed and tumbled and ground them into victims, essentially.
They were victimized by a system meant to protect us, except that “system” implies the absence of human error and, in this case, it’s difficult to find anyone who doesn’t bear a share of the blame. And the fact that none of them are willing to step back and acknowledge that they erred despite the abundance of damning evidence suggests a level of hubris that tends to lead to pleated uniforms and plots of world domination.
Fortunately, they’re in good company. After months of intensifying their campaign against the homeless—no, not homelessness, just the homeless—the SLO City Council tucked its tail between its legs and agreed to a settlement which expunged the parking tickets issued to homeless people caught sleeping in their cars on public streets. Of course, individually they’re posturing defiantly on the subject, insisting that they acted in the public’s best interest—and by public I don’t mean the homeless residents they wanted cast out. But when given the opportunity to put their money where their mouths have been, they backed down, insisting that they were once again acting in the public’s best interest by accepting the settlement. It’s funny how “the public’s best interest” becomes a crutch to accommodate the whims of the City Council. Feel like chasing homeless people out of town? Well obviously it’s in the public’s best interest. Wanna back down after you receive a very public judicial spanking? Well, that’s in the public’s best interest, too.
Meanwhile City Attorney Christine Dietrick, who led the City Council down its merry path to public humiliation apparently went on vacation less than a week after the City Council voted to settle. I myself am fond of disappearing for a couple of weeks after screwing the proverbial pooch and costing my employers thousands of dollars. That’s why the only living creature who’s actually seen me in the last decade is a hermit crab that lives on a secluded Jamaican beach. ∆
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