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Different Standards for Austin DWI Suspects?

Posted by Brian Tillman on 21 June 2011

I’m sad that the Statesman beat me to the punch, but glad to see I wasn’t the only one annoyed by the Austin Police Chief’s involvement in the dismissal of radio host Jeff Ward’s DWI. According to a Statesman article last night, it looks like now the Austin Police Union is a bit irritated as well. Let’s review: high profile radio host is stopped for DWI, but he knows Chief Acevedo, who is a frequent guest on his show. Host has his fiancee call the Chief on cell phone from the scene of the stop, and then the Chief accepts a call from him at the jail. Chief reviews Ward’s case with police brass, then personally calls the County Attorney’s office to point out problems with the case. Ward was arrested Thursday night, and County Attorney declines to prosecute the case by Monday morning. Case closed.

Frankly it’s hard to find a pretty angle to see this from. The police union’s beef is in the appearance of special treatment afforded to Ward, and the Chief’s personal involvement. Acevedo says it was handled using standard department protocol, just like any other high-profile DWI stop of a high profileofficial, celebrity, orathlete. That means it wasreviewed by the chain of command and submitted to the County Attorney’s office. According to Acevedo, the only thing that makes this case notable was that the County Attorney decided not to prosecute it.

No, what reeeally makes it notable is that there IS a protocol for high-profile cases at all. According to Acevedo, the police department regularly reviews some DWI videos at random to check on the soundness of arrests. What’s apparentlyNOT random is the reviewof ALL cases where the defendant is “high profile,” or could otherwise draw attention to the department’s actions. For all of you people who are not “high profile,” that’s a problem! If you’re Joe Schmoe with a good video, the police are not reviewing it. They’re writing up their report and the video, and sending it over to the County Attorney to file the charge, and that happens to over 7000 people in Travis County every year (and that’s just DWI’s). So what happens when Good Video Joe calls up the Chief from jail on a Thursday night? Any guesses? Doesn’t he deserve to have the Chief call over to the prosecutor’s office and point out the weaknesses in the case? I have to admit, I have never seen a cop point out ANY weaknesses in a case. Never mind that the County Attorney is a lawyer who can spotissues in his sleep, and the Chief’s job is law enforcement. What makes it even more ironic is that if it had been just one night later, during the APD’s “no-refusal” initiative for the ROT Rally, Ward would have gotten a needle stuck in his arm, like it or not. And you’d never guess who’s 100% in favor of blood warrants and more “no-refusal” weekends… just what the hell is going on?

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