18 April 2008

i do not understand

Last month, a Santa Clara County Deputy Sheriff struck three cyclists while driving on the wrong side of the road in Cupertino. Two of the cyclists were killed, and a third was severely injured.

Last week, after a month-long investigation by the California Highway Patrol (to avoid the Sheriff's Department from investigating their own colleagues), a sentence recommendation was handed down. Two years. Maximum.

The following is my complaint to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department, submitted to their Internal Affairs Unit complaint form via web. In the box where it asked for what type of complaint, I wrote "Improper conduct."

. . . . . . . . . . .

Hello. My name is Katie O'Shea, and I'm a cyclist. I am from the San Francisco Bay Area, currently living in Los Angeles. I visit several times a year with my bicycle. My brother cycles in San Jose and Santa Clara. And I do not understand you.

I do understand that Deputy James Council killed two cyclists and injured a third while on duty on March 9th, 2008. I also understand that investigators on the case do not believe there was any instance of drunken driving involved. I am not interested in what they believe; I am interested in what they know.

The CHP, called in to handle the case because it was a deputy sheriff in the incident, did not administer a blood alcohol test. Why not? A blood sample was taken, presumably several hours later, at the station. Which is "within the letter of the law." I would like to know whether it is within the spirit of the law. A deputy sheriff was spotted driving erratically for several miles, then crossed the double yellow line, then hit three cyclists, then wandered off in a daze commenting only about his life being over, his career being over, without attempting to help the three cyclists he'd just struck. That should have aroused suspicion. That should have merited a blood alcohol test. It did not. I do not understand.

How many instances of drunk driving did Deputy Council have in the past? Two. Did this inform the CHP's decision to take a blood test at the station and not a breathalyzer? With two previous drunken driving incidents, I would think it would be in the CHP's best interests to keep Deputy Council off the road. For everyone's safety, including Deputy Council's, but mostly the general populace. Sympathy for a colleague, I understand. But sympathy at the expense of public safety, I do not understand.

It's been suggested that Deputy Council may have been sleep deprived. How long had Deputy Council been on shift before the crash? Are the hours you get from your deputies worth two lives and a big hospital bill? Are they worth it to the Gough family? What about the Peterson's? You must weigh what is more important -- a few more hours per shift per deputy, or people. If you determine that the former is more important, then I really don't understand.

It has been reported that Deputy Council will serve a maximum of two years in prison for the senseless, reckless killing of two cyclists and the brutal injuries of a third. Two years. Two people. One year per person. That seems light-handed. If the reason for the light sentence is because he was sleep-deprived, then the Sheriff's Department should take a long, hard look at their policies on work hours. How many more people will die before they change their policy? If, instead, the reason for the light sentence is because Deputy Council was "one of their own," then the CHP should take a long, hard look at what this action means. It means that they are more interested in protecting their employees than in protecting the public. If this is the protection and the service that we can expect from you in the future, I decline it. Because I do not understand it.

Katie O'Shea

. . . . . . . . . . .

You can, too.

No comments: