May 14, 2005

I Will Undoubtedly Get Pelted For This But...

I have to say it anyway.

You can't drive with a Blood Alcohol Content of more than .08 in Minnesota.

But if you're a cop, apparently you can be out there policing---with a loaded sidearm---with a BAC of .20---more than twice the legal limit.

Which of course doesn't count the fact that Sgt. Vick got into his car and was in the process of driving home when he was murdered.

According to this paper:

Two thirds of drivers in alcohol related fatal accidents have a BAC of .14 or higher. The average BAC involved in fatal accidents is .17

Think about that one for a minute, eh?

I'm sure Sgt. Vick was a good guy and a good cop, and he most certainly didn't deserve what happned to him. I'm not trying to smear the guy. Really, I'm not. He was out doing his job, which meant he was working undercover. In bars. Where you have to drink to fit in. I think he probably had one too many and that's that.

While I am concerned about the fact that I'm pretty damn sure the St.Paul police, had he lived, would have done nothing more than slapped him on the wrist for this behavior---that he would have in no way, shape or form, ever been prosecuted for this behavior, unlike the general population---this isn't really what interests me. What I find curious are Sgt. Vick's defenders.

His defenders say "he made a mistake" and his life and death shouldn't be judged by that one mistake. The Mayor of St. Paul said it was important that no one should "revictimize the family." If Sgt. Vick simply "made a mistake" and no one should be "revictimizing" his family for said mistake, why are people jumping to his defense left and right, instead of saying, "yeah, it happens" and moving along? Doesn't that action say something rather spectacular about how we treat those who have had too much to drink in this day and age? Doesn't that action say something rather spectacular about how we look at alcohol in this country nowadays?

Being drunk every once and a while never used to be anything to be ashamed about. Maybe you forgot to eat before you went out. Maybe you just had one too many. It never used to signal that you were a problem person because you tied one on and never was the reputation you worked hard over a lifetime to establish on the line because of a night of drinking. Not so anymore, it seems. As far as society is concerned, if you have a BAC as high as Sgt. Vick's, you're a bad person. Unless, of course, you happen to be Sgt. Vick. Then you're not a bad person. You just made a mistake. That by releasing this information, and then commenting on it, we're all speaking ill of the dead.

Ummm, I don't think so. I think this controversy points directly toward the fact that in this country we are moving toward a new age of prohibition. One where excessive regulation will act in place of a new Eighteenth Amendment. Outlawing alcohol outright didn't make the problems associated with those who drink---drunk driving, fighting, excessive screwing---disappear, so now the conventional wisdom is to not only make buying and consuming alcohol a nanny-state, regulatory nightmare, but it's to also shame people into line. The bar goes lower and lower every year in regards to what is acceptable behavior where alcohol is concerned. If something doesn't happen sometime soon, pretty soon you'll have a wine box in the fridge that will have a breathalyzer attached to it and it won't dispense any more wine if you blow above the legal limit.

I don't think Sergeant Vick was a bad guy because he had a BAC of .20, even if I don't think he should have been out policing with that much liquor in his system. But how many people do think Sgt. Vick was a bad guy simply because he had that much liquor in his system? That's the question that matters. How many have made assumptions precisely about what type of person he was strictly because of his BAC level? After all, if no one had made this assumption, he wouldn't need any defenders, would he? It would all be taken in stride.

Think about that for a minute and then try and tell me this country hasn't gotten out of line with its attitude toward alcohol.

Posted by Kathy at May 14, 2005 12:22 AM

Neo-prohibition has been a topic I've blogged about often. I totally agree with you.

Posted by: Ith at May 14, 2005 12:38 AM

Speaking as someone who knows EXACTLY and INTIMATELY how police in the people's republic of Minnesota treat people with specific Blood Alcohol Contents (unfortunately), I can tell you right now that .20 is far more than "one too many".

I'm sorry the man died. Shouldn't have happened and my heart goes out to his family. But to defend him on this crap is not just a double-standard, it is hypocritical in the extreme. If an individual in Minnesota is SUSPECTED of being intoxicated (by legal definition, which might mean one drink for a small person within the last hour), police can detain them - even if they're only leaving a bar with keys to a vehicle in their pocket and long before they approach a car - and all of that individual's rights are suspended.

That a cop, on duty, carrying a side-arm, and driving with a blood alcohol content of .20 should be considered to have made a "mistake" beggars credulity. It's crap. It's nonsense. I'm grateful to the police and the dangerous job they do, but far too often they abuse a position of authority to get away with things that the general population would be crucified for. This cops defenders make me sick.

Posted by: MRN aka "The Husband" at May 14, 2005 12:59 AM

There is another connected thread here. "Us" v. "Them". On both sides. The fact that there are readily perceived sides is instructive enough. I have never once heard a cop criticise another from his own organization in public and that perception predates Frank Serpico.

Watch those gigantic cop funerals: tribute or threat?

Posted by: Mr.Kurtz at May 15, 2005 10:04 AM

A very good point, Mr. Kurtz, and it is one that hasn't skipped past me. Unfortunately, I'm hardly the one to comment on it, seeing as how the husband has had his own issues with law enforcement. Anything I write could be perceived as biased.

It's quite a sad situation when people have to get in a mess of trouble before they realize that the police really do see anyone who's not a police officer as a potential threat.

Posted by: Kathy at May 15, 2005 12:11 PM

Well the local media in the Twin Cities canonized Sgt. Vick during a 5 hour televised funeral. I don't think the Pope's funeral git that nmuch coverage here.

Saint Paul officers drinking on duty is common both in uniform and undercover. The whole undercover excuse is nothing but that. Vick and his partner were out getting drunk on the taxpayer's dollar. Although if you watch reports that his partners BAC was .013, the SP Chief of Police admitted that his BAC was not taken until 4-5 hours after the incident.

BTW, legally drunk in MN is still at .10 until August. MN was one of the last state's to adopt a .08. Alcohol is such a dominant part of the culture here.

Posted by: Not The Mama at May 16, 2005 01:34 PM

I was wrong. I thought they'd already switched it around quite some time ago. I thought they'd shoved it through when they created the felony dwi/automobile siezure law. My bad. And thanks for pointing that out.

Posted by: Kathy at May 16, 2005 01:55 PM

Vehicles can only be seized in MN on the 3rd DWI or implied consent conviction. Normally this would be the 4th DWI since most city attorneys allow the person to plead down to Careless Driving and pay a large fine on their "first" incident.

Even then, many cities will not seize the car. They look at it as too much hassle fighting with the creditors.

I am sorry that Vick was killed but he was not the Saint that he has been made to be. Sure he helped people at times but the hero label should be reserved for those who are killed while actually upholding the law and not breaking it themselves.

Posted by: Not The Mama at May 17, 2005 01:19 PM

Oh, I know ALL about vehicle seizure. Trust me on this one. I lost an Audi A6 that the husband had given to me for a birthday present to the city of Brooklyn Park because he chose to drive it around the night he was committed his felony dwi. It all just depends upon what type of vehicle it is. If it's nice and they think they can make money off of it at auction, they'll take it. If it's a crap car, they won't bother. Or so the very expensive lawyer told us when he said it would ultimately be a waste of time and money to fight the seizure.

I do, however, wonder if they closed the loophole in the law yet re: the creditors. We may have lost all the money we'd invested in the car, but we didn't have to keep paying on it when they seized it. The City of Brooklyn Park had to pay off the balance before they could sell it. I have to think if the legislature hasn't done that already, they'll do it soon enough. It's too tempting to do otherwise: it just provides one more way to show drunk drivers the errors of their ways.

Posted by: Kathy at May 17, 2005 02:29 PM

Sorry to hear about your trouble but I do believe that the PDs should seize all cars or not and not discriminate based on value. Even a junker has a $50-$200 value in scrap.

The Minnesota PDs are full of the"good old boy" network. They only want to hire other officers like themselves. Most of the times these are freinds and relatives that won't reveal their dirty little secrets.

I was turned down by Saint Paul PD. A senior officer told me that since I don't drink and never have that they don't trust me.

Like I have said before alcohol is very dominate in the culture here as you know if you live/lived here.

I wonder how fast it would have been covered up if Vick had killed a citizen through DWI or shot the accidentally.

A lot of people are making excuses for him saying he had a high tolerance for alcohol. Well, they also so that he was not a drunk. From what I know people who "have a high tolerance" are usually heavy drinkers.

Saint Paul set themselves up to have a difficult time prosecuting DWI. How can you expect a citizen to obey a law the even the officers will not.

Posted by: NotTheMama at May 18, 2005 12:18 PM
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