Archive for October, 2007

Lab Fraud Discovered in Breathalyzer Accuracy Checks

Friday, October 5th, 2007

And in today's "Suspicions Confirmed" Department:

DUI Lab Errors Affect Drivers' Licenses

Olympia, WA, Oct. 3.  AP  –  Department of Licensing examiners have reinstated 28 drivers' license in the past two weeks because of problems at the State Patrol's toxicology lab.

One examiner who dismissed 18 suspensions, Josephine Townsend, told The Olympian she lost confidence in the reliability of breath test evidence.

The department has scheduled a hearing for the patrol to explain its work in verifying the breath test machines are accurate.

The lab manager resigned in July after she was accused of certifying machines she never checked personally. And in August the lab revealed that a calculating error produced results that were slightly higher than they should have been.

Keep in mind that most contested DUI cases involve "trial by machine" — the breathalyzers are judge, jury and executioner in most DUI cases.  Our system of justice cloaks these devices with a reverence reflected in laws imposing a legal presumption of guilt — that is, if the machine  registers .08% or higher, the jury is instructed that they must convict the defendant unless he can prove his own innocence

So how accurate are thse machines?  See some of my earlier posts: How Breathalyzers Work — and Why They Don'tHow Accurate are Breathalyzers?; Report: Breathalyzers Outdated, Unstable, Unreliable; Breathalyzers: State of the Art?; Why Breathalyzers Don't Measure Alcohol.

Not to mention crime labs falsifying accuracy, calibration and maintenance records…


To Protect and Serve….

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

In the “Suspicions Confirmed” department, from today’s Los Angeles Times:

For Deputies, Arrests Can be a Contest

Los Angeles, CA.  Oct. 4 –  Participating in sports such as football, weightlifting and boxing has long been part of the culture within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.  But deputies have recently been playing some new games — on-duty enforcement competitions that have police watchers across the country crying foul.

One recent competition, described in an internal Sheriff’s Department email obtained by The Times, was called “Operation Any Booking”.  The object was to arrest as many people as possible within a specific 24-hour period.

Other one-day competitions have included “Operation Vehicle Impound”, a contest aimed at seizing as many cars as possible.  And another challenged deputies to see how many gang members and other suspected criminals could be stopped and questioned…

Hubert Williams, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Police Foundation, which promotes innovative policing strategies, called the competitions “highly problematic and inappropriate”…

“It’s crazy”, said Jane White, the associate director of the National Center for Community Policing.  “I’m at a loss for words.   I’ve never heard of anything like this before.”

 (Lt. James) Tatreau said he stood  by the idea to encourage deputies’ productivity and had been encouraged by deputies who liked the competition.

“They were pumped and excited”, Tatreau said.  “I’ve never got any negative feedback.  It’s not a quota or review system.  It’s a morale booster.”

“We’re not doing anything wrong,” Tatreau said.  “No way, no how did ayone encourage officers to falsify a report or an arrest.”


MADD Mothers on Patrol

Monday, October 1st, 2007

You just knew it was going to happen…

MADD Plans to Go on Patrol for DUIs

Volunteers will look for impaired drivers and notify authorities, not make stops.

Tampa, FL.  Sept. 29  – Had a few drinks before getting behind the wheel? Think again. That harmless-looking minivan in the rearview mirror might be the neighbors on patrol.

That's how Mothers Against Drunk Driving pitched its latest plan to get impaired drivers off the roads.

Called the Traffic Observation Program, the pilot program is slated to begin in Hillsborough County and may become a statewide initiative, according to Don Murray, Florida's executive director for MADD.  The plan: Recruit 20 volunteers armed with donated cell phones and send them out in the middle of the night to watch for telltale signs of drunk drivers.

MADD has worked closely with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, so Murray suggested to other MADD members that the pilot program begin here…

Volunteers will go out in teams. They will drive their own vehicles and take GPS equipment, so they'll be able to find their way through unfamiliar areas for two to four hours of searching, Murray said. They'll be told ahead of time of the sometimes-subtle clues for drunk drivers, such as driving under the speed limit or lingering too long at a green light, Murray said…

The program was Murray's idea, he said, inspired by worries of what potential budget cuts could do to law enforcement's DUI teams…

"Obviously anything that's going to get drunk drivers off the road, we're interested in," said Tampa police Cpl. Jared Douds. "That's certainly a positive for everybody."

So be careful you're not "driving under the speed limit or lingering too long at a green light", or that flashing red light in your rear-view mirror will be compliments of your local Madd Mother.

(Thanks to Jeanne M. Pruett, President of Responsibility in DUI Laws, Inc.)