It is a weekend night in November. Employees of the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office go to a downtown Grand Rapids bar. There, they celebrate elected prosecutor William Forsyth’s career and coming retirement.
Apparently, there ain’t no party like a prosecutor party, because assistant prosecutor Josh Kuiper gets drunk. Like, so falling down drunk that other members of the office tell him not to drive home.
If only he had listened.
Kuiper allegedly tries to drive home anyways, allegedly ends up going the wrong way on a one-way street, and crashes into a parked car, occupant still inside. Allegedly.
Grand Rapids Police arrive on the scene. They conduct field sobriety tests.
At this point, the officer decides Kuiper “was able to perform well” on his sobriety tests. He doesn’t give Kuiper a PBT. Rather, the officer tickets Kuiper for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. He cuts Kuiper loose.
Watch the video here.
Do you see what I see? During the alphabet test, Kuiper slurs his words. He pauses during the dexterity test. He uses his arms for balance during the walk and turn, and stumbles as he turns around. These are indicators that would lead any trained (and honest) law enforcement officer to think that Kuiper was over the legal limit.
In addition, even if he wasn’t over the legal limit, if Kuiper’s drinking influenced his ability to drive (like smashing into a parked car or driving the wrong way on a one-way, for example), it wouldn’t matter if his blood-alcohol content was a .02 when it happened – he would still be drunk driving under Michigan law.
If Kuiper had been your average John Q. Public, he would have certainly been given a PBT and then been arrested. But this officer didn’t do either of these things. He just let Kuiper go.
There’s a name for what the officer did. It’s called law enforcement courtesy.
Law Enforcement Courtesy. /noun/ Definition: Where members of law enforcement, their families, or other government officials are exempt from compliance with the law due to law enforcement’s intentional failure to perform its duties. Synonyms: corruption, fraud, breach of public trust.
While I was an assistant prosecutor, I had more than one argument with a police officer who defended the practice (I’ve got to work with these people). I’ve spoken with assistant prosecutors who love their don’t-go-to-jail cards, and even joked about keeping their official IDs in a handy place for easy access in the case of law enforcement contact.
In one episode while I was an assistant prosecutor, a county commissioner insisted that I dismiss a traffic ticket for one of his special constituents. When I wouldn’t, he threatened to oppose my boss politically. He called me “too big for her britches.” (The ironic thing was that this commissioner was rather overweight, but I digress.)
Law enforcement courtesy happens. Those who refuse to participate in it face tremendous pressure and even professional attacks. Those who do participate fail in their oath to uphold the law and make our society a little bit less of the land of the free.
Read more about it here: