Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nassau County, NY Police Sued over alleged false DWI arrest...

Law suits are often frivolous as far as I am concerned. I don't think many of them should have ever been allowed to enter the courts with any serious consideration. Instead they should have been dismissed right off. Just the same, the amounts awarded in some lawsuits are just as ridiculous as the law suits themselves, I seem to recall a woman who spilled hot coffee on herself suing MacDonald’s and winning about $40 million dollars (thank goodness it was either reduced or reversed as I recall). Still such things are products of the Bizarro World in which we live.

Yet, despite all of the frivolous law suits, there are ones that merit consideration by the courts. There are ones in which, it is obvious that such a wrong done to someone, that it should indeed be corrected somehow. Sometimes money is the answer, sometimes other things.

For instance, allow me to point to a current case in Nassau Country, New York. Reportedly, the Nassau County Police Department made a vehicle stop on a limousine driver because his vehicle was moving erratically on the highway. According to an article: Court Permits Lawsuit After False DWI Arrest, found at:

when he was stopped, he reportedly told the officers:

"he did not feel well and was unable to control his movements."

The officers apparently gave him a field sobriety test. You know the type, the one they give to people to see if they are drunk. According to the article the test results were negative. In other words the test was passed by the limo driver.

Now I do not know about you, but if the guy passed such a test that I may have given him, I would wonder if there was actually something to his claim that he was feeling ill, and that he had for some reason (other than driving while intoxicated) been driving erratically. Maybe, and this is almost a definite, I would have thought he was having a medical problem. Had this thought crossed my mind, I most likely would have sought medical attention for the driver.

Instead of doing what I very likely would have done, what is it that you think the Nassau County police officers did with the driver? If you guessed that they arrested him, you would be 100% correct as per the report. The limo driver was arrested, taken to Nassau County Police Headquarters, and was handcuffed to a bench for about 2 hours before (YES THAT SAYS BEFORE) any further testing was done for drugs and alcohol. Apparently, when those tests came back negative for the presence of intoxicants, just as had the field sobriety test, the subject was only then brought to see medical personnel at a local hospital. Once there, doctors determined he had had a stroke.

Amazingly this sentence is also included in that article:

"County Attorney Lorna Goodman says the county is disappointed the lawsuit will be allowed."

I wonder, in what light did she make that statement. Was Nassau County disappointed that the law suit will be allowed because they think Nassau County is above having to pay reparations for doing wrong to someone? Or is it that Nassau County believes that this somehow amounted to proper action on the part of the police, and therefore because the county believes this, it should not be subject to a lawsuit. Or is it because Nassau County believes that the Nassau County Police Department is above the law, and does not have to exhibit prudent behavior. Or is it because Nassau County believes it will almost definitely lose this lawsuit and also lose millions of dollars of revenue because of it. You tell me, because I sure don't understand it unless it is the last one, and even then I don't condone any of those reasons.

The police officers in question, in my opinion, may well have been negligent in how they performed their jobs that night. Notice I said how they performed their jobs, I did not say how they performed their duties. There is a difference, a big one. They have, as I see it, a duty to serve and protect, not just to arrest. They have a duty, when they arrest to do so upon probable cause. They may have had probable cause to believe the subject was intoxicated, but they also had probable cause, maybe more so, to believe the subject had some sort of medical problem that required medical attention right away. Sure they, the police, all hear a lot of excuses from drunks who get pulled over. I have a lot of experience in hearing all sorts of excuses from guys who get locked up, as I too am in law enforcement. Yet that does not mean they are supposed to disregard such things as statements like the one made by the subject about his feeling sick and being unable to control himself. They especially should not disregard such statements after getting a negative field sobriety test. Yet to me, it appears they may have done just that, they seemingly ignored the fact that this man was having a medical problem, at least for about 2 hours anyhow.

Yes, of course, a further test or tests may have been needed as to the man's sobriety. The guy could still have been placed in custody to effect them; but should not the police have called for an immediate medical examination of the subject to see if he was suffering from a medical malady; or at least should not the police have immediately conducted those test, then while waiting for the results, have brought the man to see a doctor? I assert that yes, they should almost definitely have done so, but that is just my opinion, based upon what I read in the article. I would like to know more about this case, and my guess is it may never unfold because Nassau County, if it has any smarts at all, will make an out of court settlement with this man. Then again, he may not accept such an offer, and he may bring it to court after all. Time will tell.

Folks, the police are public servants, they are civil servants! THE OPERATIVE TERM IS THEY ARE SERVANTS! THEY ARE NOT OUR MASTERS. They are not here for the primary function of arresting folks, they are here as servants of the communities in which they perform their duties. Sure they have to make a lot of arrests to do so, and it is a great thing when they take the scum off of the streets to send them to jail or to the executioner (when the crime fits); but they had best remember that not all the folks they deal with are arrestable scum, lest the police themselves turn into from what they are tasked protecting us against.

All the best,
Glenn B