The tradition is as old as myself, which is to say it’s as old as the hills—which is my pet name for my biceps. I call the right one Islay and the left one Irish.
Every year, the Old Shredder steps down at the stroke of midnight and hands the ceremonial tools of the trade—the half-empty bottle of gin, the half-full bottle of vodka, the well-oiled typewriter, the well-oiled cabana boy, the jeweled dagger, and assorted other arcane items that shouldn’t be mentioned in print—to the New Shredder, who accepts them with all the pomp, circumstance, solemnity, and skepticism appropriate to the position.
But every year, no one signs up for the job besides myself, so I just end up shaking my own hand, signing my soul away to myself, and shoving all that assorted, dusty, ritualistic crap back into the cabinet for another 12 months.
Still, it’s far more exciting than the San Luis Obispo County sheriff’s swearing in, which I managed to miss—also a tradition.
Frankly, I’m a little nervous. Pat Hedges was such a staple in this column when he was sheriff, I don’t know what I’m going to write about if I can’t think of anything else to write about. If I needed a few more lines to ink up some glaring white space, I could just say, “That Pat Hedges, huh? Isn’t that last thing he did just crazy? What was he thinking?”
I didn’t even have to get into specifics. There was always something that had just happened. I’d usually take this opportunity to list the spying, the allegations of misconduct, the trampling of California law, the personal malarkey, but it’s all been trotted out so many times before in this column, I’d look like I was just rehashing history that was plenty hashed already.
Hedges, it seemed, left one parting gift to the county in the form of a late-December raid on medical marijuana delivery services that netted a dozen people and involved taking children into Child Protective Services. The action certainly had what looked like his fingerprints all over it—cracking down on locals connected to medical marijuana was practically his raison d’etre, a French phrase which means “raisin of destruction,” or something.
So you’ll forgive me—and others throughout the county—for giving him a big fat farewell raspberry of destruction as he abdicated the law-enforcement throne to Ian Parkinson.
(Ian, by the way: Everyone probably forgot to tell you that you’ll have to get sworn in by me, too. I lost that copy of the Bible I stole from some motel, so you’ll have to put your hand on this dog-eared copy of Twilight. Now repeat after me. “I swear and solemnly vow to occasionally abuse my power and position to give Shredder something to write about from time to time.” What? No deal? Well, that’s probably for the good of us all. Still, I’ll be watching.)
But getting back to the raid. In all fairness, let me lay this out. Hedges didn’t run the Narcotics Task Force that recently descended on some locals like the wrath of Khan, but, as sheriff, he did sit on the Board of Governors. That group, which also includes police chiefs from cities around the county, tells the force what to do, where to go, who to bust.
Commander Rodney John of the task force thinks—no surprise—that the operation was a total success. And get this: He has no problem with medicinal marijuana! In fact, he downright loathes those who wouldn’t follow to a T the guidelines set forth in the Compassionate Use Act, the sorts of ne’er-do-wells who ruin the playing field for everyone who needs the medicine. He even said he hates to say it, but illegal operators will lead to the law being repealed.
As far as this particular case goes—in which people at the business end of the machine guns later complained of heart attacks and the like—it’s hard to believe that with all the “suspects” New Times has talked to about this and previous NTF operations that all of them would be lying about how their civil liberties were trampled. But John’s telling sets up his officers—flak vests, ski masks, and the aforementioned machine guns in tow—as nothing more than a bunch of Dudley Do-Rights. Except they’re American. Because, you know, Dudley was a Canadian Mountie. I watch too much TV.
So who to believe? I’ll leave that to you. While making up my own mind, I asked myself this: When was the last time 50 agents descended on a meth lab in this county? Please enlighten me if you know, but off the top of my noggin, I can’t remember. I can, however, think of two such operations on marijuana-related folks in the last eight months. Guess meth really isn’t that big of a problem in SLO County. Or maybe the people who make it blend in too well. Or run too fast.
The saddest part of this whole fiasco, to me, is that, if history is any indicator, the mobile dispensaries’ owners and operators will probably be acquitted or have their charges significantly reduced—but the expense of their litigation and the confiscation of their legal product will combine to put them out of business anyway.
Which is maybe what the people behind the badges have wanted all along.
Hey, Rocky! Watch the Shredder pull a rabbit out of his hat at firstname.lastname@example.org!