Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Uh, Excuse Me?

As my father used to say, wrong answer!

Bar Sweep Sparks Controversy

Comedian Weighs In On Public Intoxication Arrests

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sent a message to bar patrons last week.

TABC agents and Irving police swept through 36 Irving bars and arrested about 30 people on charges of public intoxication. Agency representatives say the move came as a proactive measure to curtail drunken driving.

North Texans interviewed by NBC 5, however, worried that the sweep went too far.

At one location, for example, agents and police arrested patrons of a hotel bar. Some of the suspects said they were registered at the hotel and had no intention of driving. Arresting authorities said the patrons were a danger to themselves and others.

"Going to a bar is not an opportunity to go get drunk," TABC Capt. David Alexander said. "It's to have a good time but not to get drunk."

Dallas comedian Steve Harvey agreed with the Texas residents who said the arrests infringed on individual rights.

"If a guy's got a designated driver, go ahead and let him get toasted," Harvey told NBC 5.

Texas law states that inebriated individuals could be subjected to arrest anywhere for public intoxication. Harvey and other North Texans called the measure extreme.

"That seems to be an extreme case," one man said. "You are self-contained, in the hotel, you're not going in the streets, it seems a little ridiculous."

TABC officials said the sweep concerned saving lives, not individual rights. Harvey and others interviewed by NBC 5 said they believe drunken driving to be unacceptable, although Harvey wanted to confirm that the United States remains a free country.

"Freedom of drinking should always be allowed, and it is only American to let a guy get drunk where he wants to get drunk," Harvey said.

First, I have this to say to any peace officer who participated in these raids or others like it: Hang up your badge and resign now! You have broken your oath to defend the Constitution. You have disgraced the uniform of your department and you've broken the faith of the public and of your fellow officers. Even if you were under under orders, that's no excuse. No one in who wears any uniform in the Unites States is obligated to obey an unlawful order. And these arrests were not lawful by any stretch of the imagination.

Those people who you've arrested will automaticly be presumed guilty. They will be bullied into exhaustion by prosecuting attorney's looking to get convictions in order to keep TABC well funded and further their own careers. Even if they beat the charge, they will be deprived of due process and harrassed for years. Their license will be revoked (illegally of course). Their employement may be at risk and they will have to fight for their very freedom while you sleep safe in your beds and secure in your perceived sense of untouchability as police officers. Their lives will never be the same.

Ask yourselves, is it right ruining someone's life just for having a drink at a bar?

By participating in these "sweeps" you've betrayed every one of your colleagues who puts his or her life on the line to keep their jurisdiction safe. Ask yourself why you took an oath of service only to become the lapdog of TABC, MADD, and every other neoprohibitionist group in this country. Congratulations, you have now become the Bad Guy.

There are still too many good police officers literaly fighting a war everyday to protect the public for your participation in this program to be anything but unacceptable. You officers that took part in these raids do a disservice to those good officers and you sully the memory of those officers who have paid the ultimate price for public safety. You disgust me!

Second, The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) needs to go away. It is a completely unnecessary organization that does absolutely no service to the citizens of the State of Texas. TABC is nothing more than the strong arm for an extremely vocal minority who wants to deprive the majority of basic rights. It's completely at odds with the very concept of "public service."

I remember when I first got out of the Navy. I wasn't driving so instead of getting a state ID, I just kept using my military reserve "pink ID", which is valid ID in all US States and Territories as well as a valid passport. Well TABC had just gone around raiding bars, clubs, and liqour stores all over Houston in a "crackdown" (that very term makes my blood boil!) on underage drinking. Then after they scared the hell out of everybody in the service industry, went around "training" people in the industry that only a Texas driver's license or DPS ID was valid ID at all. Needless to say that for about three months I got into it with every bouncer and liquor store clerk I came across. Most of the time the phrase "Geneva Convention of 1970" used in the proper tone of voice shut them up pretty quickly. Although one time at a club I had a TABC guy who was actually at a club on some sort of inspection start yelling at me about it. He and the bouncer had backed me into a corner and were saying it was fake and threatened to destroy my military ID card on the spot (he'd already cut up another guy's driver's licence, saying it was fake). It was at that point the the Houston Police Officer working the door stepped over and informed him that if he did that he'd be arrested for destruction of government property and would likely do time in a federal prison for it.

Sometimes, we take our victories where we can.

But the point is that TABC is nothing more than a consortium of bullies. And when they get out of line, they are subject to the law just like everyone else. In that incident, the officer did the right thing. In Irving last week, the officers did not do the right thing.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission sent a message to bar patrons last week.

And just what message is that? That people who drink have no rights? That someone can be arrested when they haven't done anything more than having a drink at a bar, even though they haven't gotten behind the wheel and weren't going to? That one is guilty before one has even committed a crime? Or that the police, instead of being trusted to defend the Constitution, are now becoming that which people need to defend themselves against? Because through the actions of TABC and participating law enforcment, every one of those messages was sent loud and clear.

TABC is not even pretending:

TABC officials said the sweep concerned saving lives, not individual rights.

That just says it all right there. If anyone really believes that TABC's overwhelming interest is in saving lives, then I've got some land for sale. And even if they were trying to save lives, that's still unnaceptable.

Benjamin Franklin said it best:

"The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either."

If this sort of arbitrary harrassment continues, then it's inevitable that the public is going to send a message of it's own.