RALEIGH — State lawmakers and some local governments may need to brace for some pretty expensive bills for hotel room stays in the future.
Equal treatment under the law should demand it.
After all, if there is no problem when a state Highway Patrol trooper is pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving, not given a sobriety test but instead driven to a local hotel, then shouldn’t that be the standard procedure for all drunken driving cases?
That may not have been what Administrative Law Judge Beecher Gray had in mind when he ruled recently that a Butner police captain should be given back pay. And it may not have been in mind when the Highway Patrol captain pulled was given his job back and provided $37,500 in back pay.
But how else should the broader public interpret the rulings?
The case goes back to April 2010.
Highway Patrol Captain James Williams Jr., while off-duty, was pulled over for suspicion of drunken driving by Butner police Lt. Daniel Parrott. After pulling Williams, Parrott radioed Butner police Capt. Bruce Williams that he needed a supervisor.
Parrott never gave the state trooper a sobriety test, and after he and his supervisor talked, the Butner officer drove the trooper to a nearby hotel.
Parrott, both Williams and another Butner police supervisor, Maj. Anthony Moss, were fired.
The firings were appealed and the cases wound their way into administrative law courts. According to the News & Observer of Raleigh, there was conflicting evidence in the case.
None of that changes the basic facts: Two police officers decided that a trooper pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving shouldn’t be on the road. Otherwise, they would have let him drive off. It also doesn’t change the fact that they took him to a hotel instead of actually determining whether he was drunk.
Gray, ruling in Butner police Capt. Bruce Williams’ favor, noted that there was no police policy that prohibited the state trooper from being driven to the hotel. He also pointed out that the state presented little evidence to show that the trooper was drunk or that the Butner police captain had lied about his impairment.
Imagine that? No sobriety test, no evidence.
The result was that everyone except the man who made the stop, Parrott, won their appeals. It’s tough catching the blame boulder once it starts rolling and you are standing at the bottom of the hill.
What these types of rulings from our administrative law courts do is give sanction to the idea that law enforcement officers are above the laws which they are sworn to uphold.
They insult the public and the law enforcement officers who don’t use their authority to bypass the laws that the rest of us must abide by.
There is a simple way to find out if I am wrong on that count: The next time you drive through Butner and are stopped by a police officer, ask the officer to skip the preliminaries and drive you to a hotel.
Capitol Press Association