Sheriff’s Message, Week of June 11th
The other day as I was working on some irrigation pipe early in the morning, there was an unregistered vehicle parked on a BLM dirt road next to the barbed wire fence. The sight of the vehicle seemed a bit odd and out of place. I crossed the fence to check on the vehicle and its three occupants. To my surprise sat the driver with a butane torch and a marijuana pipe. The driver said he was going smoke the pot with his friends and then drive to his grandma’s house. The look on their faces as I explained the county’s open marijuana vehicle laws, that they were on federal lands where possession of marijuana is still illegal, and that I was the County Sheriff was priceless……………………..
Our deputies are now making more encounters like this. Sadly, there is a large majority of marijuana users who don’t understand the drug’s impairment effect to safely drive. It’s as though they have a similar attitude as drunk drivers did in the 1960s and 70s. My personal plea is for responsible marijuana users to “police” up this segment of citizens. Help us deliver the message on responsible use and to not drive a vehicle for at least twelve hours after consuming any marijuana products.
After July 1st, the new state law mandates that body worn cameras (BWC) are too be worn by all uniformed officers who routinely have public contact. However, all agencies have until June 30, 2018 to implement their programs. We are supportive of BWC, but didn’t have the ability to purchase the equipment and software, store the video files, and have someone manage the program. Our estimated costs are approximately $200,000 a year.
The new law also allows the commissioners to increase the cellphone surcharge an additional .75 cents to fund BWC programs. If our program doesn’t use the total amount generated by the .75 cents, then the law directs commissioners to adjust the amount. Currently, every cellphone with a billing address in Lyon County pays .25 cents for emergency telecommunication services that supports our Dispatch Center. There is still a lot to do in generating the required program money and we anticipate having BWC implementation sometime next spring.
BWC eliminates the “he said, she said,” especially when it comes to citizen complaints. Studies show that citizens behave better when they interact with police who are wearing BWC. Studies have also shown that police wearing BWC are hesitant to take proper action and they are getting hurt because of hesitation. We will be instructing our deputies to act in accordance to their training and do not worry about BWC; that BWC images will support their actions.
Nonetheless, BWC helps with DUI investigations, especially with drug impaired drivers. In a society that wants simple chemical tests for drugged driving, they just don’t exist. BWC will show the judge how the driver acted, and how they showed signs of impairment during standardized field sobriety tests. As an example, this week I made a traffic stop with a driver who failed to stop for a citizen in a crosswalk. Upon contact with the driver, I observed her hands shaking and pinpoint pupils after asking her to remove her sunglasses. I asked her about meth use and she admitted to taking oxycodone earlier in the morning.
After completing standardized field sobriety tests, she showed some signs of impairment; however, her defense attorney would have argued her disabilities as rationale for not being able to successfully complete the tests. There was probable cause for an arrest, but a judge probably would not have convicted. This is the world our deputies live in and the decisions they face. In this case, BWC video would have been argued for and against by both sides. In the end, she was given a traffic ticket for no valid driver’s license and failure to stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk. A licensed driver came to the scene to take possession of the vehicle. In Lyon County, BWC will show our deputies doing the right thing.
And finally, have a wonderful father’s day. As for me, I am on my way to take my grandkids “bobber” fishing. As always, keep the faith.