Commentary by Michael Mayo, Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, July 24, 2003
I don’t know about you, but if somebody reported me passed out behind the wheel at 5:30 a.m., and a short time later I ran a red light, swerved from lane to lane, became belligerent when pulled over by the police, and refused to take a Breathalyzer test, I’d pretty much expect to be hauled off to jail on DUI charges.
Even if I was a police officer.
So why, exactly, are some police reps complaining about the treatment accorded Pembroke Pines Officer Angela Dearing by the Broward Sheriff’s Office last summer?
To read their accounts in the latest issue of the Centurion, the monthly newsletter of the Broward Police Benevolent Association, they seem indignant that one officer would have the gall to arrest another, especially for what they call a “discretionary matter” like DUI.
In the process, they also label the sheriff’s officers responsible for the July 2002 arrest “scoundrels,” “clowns” and “spineless.”
Dearing’s case was resolved in May when she pled out to a lesser charge of reckless driving. She was sentenced to 12 months’ probation and must perform 100 hours of community service and attend DUI school. Dearing, 28, gets to keep her job.
Forget the post-publication spinning by the PBA. This is an in-house look at how some cops really feel when it comes to dealing with their own. It’s illuminating and disturbing, the kind of stuff you’d expect to hear around a water cooler or bar, not see in print from those who should know better. (To read the stories, go to www.bcpba.org/July%202003.htm.)
Neil Vaughan, the PBA chapter vice president, rails against “the actions taken by a few deputies in the cover of darkness” and the “discretion, or lack thereof, by the scoundrels in this case.”
He writes: “Over 10 months ago, a BSO Deputy arrested a Pembroke Pines Police Officer, yes a fellow police officer, for DUI. … My concern deals strictly with the lack of discretion shown by the deputies and sergeants in this case. Quite frankly, this would not be such an issue if we, as law enforcement officers, did not call taxicabs on a regular basis for average citizens, which obviously begs the question, ‘How far should professional courtesy extend?'”Looking at the case, it seems courtesies were extended, perhaps more than an average citizen would have gotten.
According to the Sheriff’s Office report, someone called the agency to report a woman passed out in a Nissan Maxima around 5:30 a.m. on July 19, 2002, in Pompano Beach. When Deputy James Herbert arrived, Dearing allegedly pulled away, made an improper right on red, weaved through several lanes, and initially didn’t stop when Herbert tried to pull her over. He noted that she had alcohol on her breath and bloodshot, glassy eyes.
After Dearing identified herself as a police officer, she was allowed to call Glen Parker, her department’s PBA representative, to give her a ride home. According to the police report, Dearing then behaved belligerently and a sheriff’s supervisor was summoned. She refused a Breathalyzer test.
According to Parker’s newsletter account, he arrived on the scene and put Dearing in his car. He writes, “I then went to thank the deputies and offered to have our tow company tow her car. Well, this is where I was shocked. The deputy informed me that his sergeant had ordered a member of the DUI Task Force be called out. This only meant one thing, they planned on arresting her! … This officer did not cause any injuries or property damage. However she was accused of being rude.”
Parker went on to call the sergeant “spineless,” the arrest “unmerited” and Dearing “a victim.”
Sounds to me like the sheriff’s officers are the victims here, unfairly bashed by their own for properly doing their jobs.
To her credit, it seems Dearing doesn’t share the sentiments of her union reps. Her attorney, Jeremy Kroll, said: “She’s disappointed that a difficult personal situation has become a public issue. She has no personal animosity toward the agencies that handled this matter. She just wants to move on with her life.”