In preparation for an approaching family reunion paintball tournament, I’ve taken to reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. That is, I started reading it. And then I realized that it’s 13 chapters and uses really big words like “tactical dispositions.” Dude was a badass, no doubt about it. But he was also a bit on the long-winded side, and who needs strategy when your buddy in the military will let you borrow a couple of drones?
And anyhow, I picked up key tactical advice while recently doing my business. There on the bathroom wall, in crudely shaped Sharpie letters, were the words: “The enmy of my enmy is my friend.” What’s weird is that I was in my own bathroom, and that wasn’t the only graffiti. Apparently, I’m also the one to call if you’re looking for a good time.
In the past I’ve perhaps been a tad overzealous in jumping aboard the lifestyle-hippie train. All you have to do is say “namaste” a couple of times per day and then scream obscenities in fits of non-non-violent roadrage. But I’ve now come to realize that I walk the path of the warrior. And a warrior needs enemies.
Identifying these enemies isn’t as easy as you might think. At first I thought drunk drivers were an obvious pick. They recklessly disregard public safety so they can get drunk and publicly make asses of themselves. I’m uncomfortable with the fact that this puts me in BFF territory with cops—y’know, the people who enforce the law when it suits them and then disregard it when they feel like it? But they are the enemy of my enemy, and the bathroom stall says that makes them my friend.
But what happens when one enemy (for the sake of this argument, a local police department) of my enemy (for the sake of this argument, drunk drivers) sucks so badly at being an enemy that it gives my real enemy an advantage? If your head hurts, don’t worry; it’s just my highly technical war talk.
You might get a better sense of what I mean by looking at the case of alleged drunk driver Robert Scott Sproston and the Pismo Beach Police Department. What happens when the guy who reportedly blew a Blood Alcohol Content of .21—nearly three times the legal limit—might simply walk out of the courtroom because the arresting officer, William Garrett, failed to advise him of the benefits of a blood test in court?
And what happens when Garrett, who is now retired, admits in court that during his nine years of arresting people for suspicion of driving under the influence, he’s only read this legally required advisement once?
Forget for a minute the specifics of Sproston’s situation and the possibility of the case against him falling apart because of a technicality that fritters away the only evidence the cops say they have in their favor. The defense attorney, Scott Whitenack, thinks this kind of admission indicates that a huge, and very costly, lawsuit against the Pismo Beach Police Department could be coming down the pipeline because of lack of proper training in the ranks.
Chief Jeffrey Norton said there are policies in place to make sure rights are known to everybody who needs to know their rights, but it’s hard to argue against the deafening silence following someone basically saying, “But, yeah, it didn’t happen.”
Is this nitpicking? Realistic, even? Think about how proper procedure being followed might have changed the outcome of dozens of trials over the past nine years. Remember my aforementioned discomfort about being forced into cahoots with cops? Remember how I mentioned their tendency to pick and choose which rules they intend to enforce? Remember how you snorted when you read that line and thought to yourself, There goes that paranoid Shredder, raking up muck just for the fun of it?
Yeah, about that: I go after cops because they have to be blameless, they have to be perfect. Because when they’re not, their shortcomings can undermine the intended purpose of the law. And people could go free on technicalities. They may be innocent, they may be guilty, but it doesn’t matter, because the whole process gets short-circuited.
What’s especially worrisome—more so even than someone who didn’t have the intelligence to call a cab or designated driver going free—is the fact Garrett might not be the only officer in the department who didn’t bother to provide DUI suspects with a Trombetta advisement. (Which basically means telling them that the results of a blood or urine test can be saved and potentially questioned in court.) See, there’s this handy little checkbox on the officer’s paperwork, which allows the officers to indicate that they did, in fact, read the suspect the required words. Garrett testified that he never checked the box because he never issued the advisement. So I figure that his superiors either failed to notice this oversight or noticed and didn’t care.
What’s the price tag on an apparent collective disregard of fourth amendment rights? Well, Paso Robles just wound up spending $50,000—plus an unknown amount in attorney’s fees—in a settlement with Rodi Bragg, who accused officer Jeffry Bromby of physically scarring her during an arrest for petty shoplifting. When New Times called the Paso Robles Police Department out for Bromby’s aggressive behavior in 2011, then-Chief of Police Lisa Solomon insisted that Bromby’s use of force was “deemed within policy.” My feeling at the time was that maybe the department’s policies were shit—especially if they were flexible enough to look the other way when a shoplifter’s arm was burned on hot asphalt. My feelings today are a little more smug. I’m not gonna say I told you so, except that I totally told you so. I totally told you so a year and a half ago. And, maybe, in another year and a half, I’m going to say I told you so again. Only, this time, the price tag will probably be much higher and the city fielding the bill will be coastal.And the lesson learned? Maybe I need to start choosing my enemies by the quality of their enemies.
Shredder’s always down to drive designated. Send drunk missives to firstname.lastname@example.org.