A matter of discretion

12 Feb
From Google:
dis·cre·tion
disˈkreSHən/
noun
  1. 1.
    the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense or revealing private information.
    “she knew she could rely on his discretion”
    synonyms: circumspection, carefulness, cautionwariness, chariness,guardedness; More

  2. 2.
    the freedom to decide what should be done in a particular situation.
    “it is up to local authorities to use their discretion in setting the charges”
    synonyms: choiceoptionpreferencedispositionvolition; More

     

    Today I attended an Internal Affairs Committee meeting. I know, I’m uncouth. To my own credit, I’ll say, I have quit cussing, out loud, and I’ve been trying to pay extra attention to my hygiene. I don’t eat anything explosive  before a meeting, ever since I had a very unpleasant experience with a batch of brussel sprouts. But, I’m not going to sit there with a cork in it when the city tries to pull some stunt, and I ain’t going out of my way to be polite about it.

    The city was aiming to charge property owners for expenses occurred by police, fire department, ambulance, and hospitals when police are called to a party with underage alcohol consumption. “Property owners” should mean parents, obviously, since it’s been noted in past discussions that a significant portion of the city’s underage drinking is occurring in private homes, the party hosted by a teen or just-turned-21 year old host, with or without the knowledge of the parents. Sometimes the booze is brought in, other times, Mom and Dad are out and the liquor cabinet is unlocked.  And, I’ll say, I’ve actually had the parent of one of my kid’s friends ask me at a family Christmas party if it would be okay for my 13 year old to have some rum and coke punch mixed up by her 16 year old daughter. I quietly but firmly said no, and the other parents acted as though I’d farted out loud.   So, I know, parents are a part of this problem. But, the ordinance specifically named “landlords.”  Parents were never a part of today’s discussion. 

    It’s all about getting more revenues for the police department. This has been a focus of Kurt Trostle since he came into the Chief’s position.  Sure, the police department spends a lot of money on drunken behavior in general. They arrest people all the time, including for underage drinking,  but these people are not charged or convicted, so they can’t be made to pay any of the cost of the salaries or benefits involved. This, I have been told, is because our county DA won’t prosecute unless there’s a death – he  says he doesn’t have enough staff. I’ll also say, I’ll bet it’s just too hard to prove who gave them the booze, who was the host, who was responsible for the underage person being there. Kids won’t rat. So, the police department literally spends millions, and asks for budget appropriations constantly, on Friday/Saturday night shenanigans with no recompense from the actual shenaniganers. 

    Months back a consultant was hired by some local agency to come in and describe the various methods of dealing with problems related to over consumption of alcohol, including but not limited to serving alcohol to minors. One topic he discussed was the social host ordinance. He described an ordinance in which landlords would be held responsible for incidents occurring on their property, with or without their consent or knowledge. He described it as a tool, not to control underage drinking, but to recoup response costs.  He said, the main advantage to this type of ordinance was, it eliminates the due process for landlords. See, you have to give the drunken rioters due process – that’s what Ramsey doesn’t have staff for. But this ordinance these dirty sneaks were trying to foist would have given the police the “discretion” to decide when a response fee should be assessed, to whom it should be assessed, and how much the assessment would be. And, the money would go to the police department and any other agencies involved. Meaning, the landlord would get the Emergency Room and ambulance bill for the underage drinker, in addition to charges for salaries and benefits of police and fire department employees involved. 

    Now, I realize – if the landlord lives in the rental, buys the underage drinker the booze, watches while they drink themselves sick – sure, that person is responsible. I wanted them to say, in so many legal words, that they would eliminate all the instances of “landlord” in the ordinance, and replace them with “responsible party,” which would of course have to be determined in a court of law.

    At this point, I will repeat, were trying to foist. The new draft gave four different options for this ordinance, the first being, no landlord responsibility. Legal staffer Roger Wilson explained that after a meeting with “stakeholders” (I wasn’t invited, even though I’ve been talking to Wilson about this ordinance), he decided that was what he would recommend. The other three options were completely ridiculous, and I can’t help believing they were put in as a threat if we landlords didn’t go along with this ordinance as a whole. Tami Ritter a couple of times tried to get speakers to say they’d support the ordinance if the landlord clause was removed. The committee finally voted unanimously to forward a recommendation of no landlord responsibility. 

    That was only part of the ordinance. The meeting ran so long – several people fell to complaining about how police have handled them or their tenants, including myself, the conversation went off track sometimes. See, it’s this whole notion of “police discretion.” That scares the hell out of me, that a cop is allowed to decide to, as Officer Lori MacPhail said at the meeting, “take somebody’s liberty.” And, she was wearing a piece – I’ll add, “take somebody’s life.” As we have seen in this town a number of times. 

    See, they don’t use the best discretion, none of these dummies. As I sat waiting for the meeting to start, I was unable to avoid overhearing a conversation between Tami Ritter and Lori MacPhail. Ritter was telling MacPhail that her mother had been sick last night. She said, in a room full of people, that her mother had got food poisoning from some chicken she’d bought at a local grocery chain. She named the store, one of our largest employers as well as sales tax contributors, by name. But, did she take her mother to the doctor? How does she know it’s food poisoning? How did she know it was the chicken? I think that’s really indiscreet Honey. She just took a shit on the  reputation of this well-known chain, saying they sell bad chicken without providing any substantiation of the claim. How many people walked out of there thinking that was true, and will never buy meat at that chain again, and will tell their family and friends? That’s really poor judgement for an officer of the public trust. But both Ritter and MacPhail repeatedly claimed they have good discretion. 

     

     

     

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