The Easy Frame

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on September 22nd, 2005

In most cases, whether a driver was intoxicated or not is largely a matter of the officer's word (particularly if there is no corroborating breath or blood test because, according to the officer, the driver "refused" to cooperate). For whatever reason (quotas, politics, performance evaluations, etc.), setting up a DUI arrest is a fairly simple matter; few will take the accused's word over that of an officer. Doesn't happen? Let's take a look at the last few days….

Edmonton, Ont., Sept. 21 — New details emerged Tuesday in a Royal Canadian Mounted Police inquiry into an Edmonton Police Service attempt to arrest a newspaper columnist over articles that criticized the police.

On November 18, 2004, several officers were involved in a stake-out of the Overtime Bar in a failed attempt to arrest Edmonton Sun writer Kerry Diotte and police oversight commission chairman Martin Ignasiak. Yesterday's disciplinary hearing focused on the head of the traffic section, Sergeant Bill Newton, who is charged with abusing his authority.

According to testimony….Newton ordered Sergeant Randy Schreiner to access confidential police databases to gather information on Diotte. The database produced a descriptions and details of Diotte's automobile and home. Diotte has no history of drunk-driving.

Using the database information, Newton ordered officers to be on the lookout for Diotte's BMW convertible during a "Target All Drunk Drivers" operation meeting on November 18. Sergeant Glen Hayden then informed Newton that he had seen Diotte at the Overtime Bar on two occasions. Around 6pm that evening, Hayden went to the Overtime, saw Diotte's BMW and called in undercover surveillance from two officers who were part of a squad designed to target a list of 100 "aggressive drivers."

The undercover officers identified Diotte and Ignasiak inside the bar as "Target One" and "Target Two" according to witnesses. Around 8:45pm an "informant" at the bar called officer Darren Smith, who placed a lookout bulletin on Diotte. Diotte, whom witnesses say was not drunk, took a cab home.

Hayden drove to Diotte's home to verify whether he was there or not. "It was true that we found that vehicle in a bar lot and the potential for serious harm or death was there," Hayden testified, maintaining that he did nothing wrong. An Edmonton Police disciplinary hearing has dropped charges against Hayden.

Thank God that can't happen here in the United States…

Middletown, Conn, Sept. 15. The mayor of Middletown was arrested for drunken driving, by her own police department…. Thornton was taken into custody last night, near her home on Timber Ridge Road. A Middletown police officer says he saw the mayor driving on Westfield Street in an erratic manner, weaving from side to side, crossing the center line, and failing to stop at a stop sign. That Middletown officer says the mayor was given a sobriety test at the scene, and she failed it. The mayor was also given a breathalyzer test, but officers had to take her to Portland, to the police department there, because the equipment at Middletown was not working.

Middletown, Conn, Sept. 21 — A Superior Court judge dismissed drunken driving charges against Mayor Domenique Thornton Wednesday after blood-alcohol tests showed she was not under the influence of alcohol when she was stopped by police last week. Thornton was taken into custody on Sept. 14. Police said she had been driving erratically, had an odor of alcohol on her breath, and failed a field sobriety test. But a breath test put her blood-alcohol level at .018, well below the state's legal limit of .08, and a urine test confirmed those results.

Middletown, Conn, Sept 22: ……Sebastian Giuliano, the mayor?s Republican contender in the upcoming election, said democratic elected officials "should have known better" when they called the arrest an "abuse of police powers" and "dirty politics." Giuliano excused the mayor?s comments against the police department as "an emotional response," but he added: "It?s unfortunate that she attacked her own police department."

MADD Director Janice Heggie Margolis defended the police Wednesday. Margolis said Mothers Against Drunk Driving fully supports Off. Glenn Morron, who made the arrest. Morron received a MADD award in 2001, she said, for "officers who go above and beyond the call of duty" in apprehending drunk drivers. Margolis cautioned that even small doses of alcohol, such as the mayor?s one glass of wine, may affect driving safety.

(Thanks to Richard Diamond and William Maze.)

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