Law Enforcement

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Drug Czar and Boise City councilor Jim Tibbs found himself the center of unwanted attention Friday after the local daily paper revealed the former police chief was “Officer #6” in the Ombudsman’s report on a police shooting.

As acting chief, Tibbs responded to the officer-involved shooting incident which caused the death of Matthews Jones in December 2004. In the report released this week, Ombudsman Pierce Murphy noted that “officer #6” had violated department policy by driving a police vehicle after consuming a glass of wine, contrary to department policy.
BPD Car.jpg

There is a simple solution to the problem–and a lesson to be learned for about 150 Boise cops who drive city cars home each night. That’s right folks, close to 150 police vehicles go home every night and most are unmarked.

The lesson is: “If you have had so much as a beer (or glass of Christmas wine) and you get called to duty, either don’t go or call for a patrolman to pick you up.” Any officer with the smell of booze at a crime scene is automatically discredited by many–especially defense lawyers.

The Tibbs incident has been simmering since the night of the shooting incident. Many in the media–including the GUARDIAN–had heard reports and rumors, but since they were not confirmed or public knowledge, it was inappropriate to raise the issue.

While council President Maryann Jordan offered a noncommittal statement that she was pleased Tibbs had revealed himself as the cop who had wine and drove, Mayor Dave Bieter was less charitable characterizing Tibbs behavior as “unacceptable.”

Tibbs was lucky. Another off duty cop caused a traffic accident that same night at Capitol and Myrtle when he ran a red light with lights and siren going. He was responding to the same incident nearly 20 minutes after the fact in an unmarked vehicle. A motorist made an abrupt stop to avoid and the unmarked police vehicle and was struck by a third vehicle. There has been no allegation that either Tibbs or the cop in the unmarked car were impaired.

Ironically, Boise Police are conducting a “crackdown” this evening in the downtown core area where booze tends to flow–including at sidewalk cafes. Along with the Idaho State Police and Garden City Police, they will be on the lookout for drivers under the influence.

No doubt there will be a lot of sober people standing on one leg, touching their noses with eyes closed and picking up coins after having a single glass of wine, especially if they catch a yellow light or forget the turn signal.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Maybe it’s time for a “Hooch Czar.”

  2. One drink does not a smell make?

  3. One glass of wine an hour before driving?
    Aw, c’mon; let ye who hasn’t done worse cast the first stone.

    (Besides, according to the data cop-types like to push, it takes about an hour for one glass of wine or one beer or one shot of booze to wear off.)

  4. Just playing devil’s advocate here, but who’s to say whether it was one glass or four?

    EDITOR NOTE–There is no allegation of impairment or influence. The policy says NO alcohol within 8hrs. Airlines have similar rules.

  5. I worked for a doctor. When he was “on call” he drank not a drop of beer. Period. He was a wise man to not have “beer breath” if he was called to the ER. Why give a person cause to wonder . . .
    So it just comes down to this…if you are “on call” you are off booze. Doctors do it all the time. It’s so hard to not drink when you are on call???? If drink is so vital, change professions so that you can clock out and hit the bottle or just one glass.

  6. I’m reminded of what a traffic judge at the old Barrister street location once said many years ago. Boise is an amazing place. No one in this town ever drinks more than one or two drinks according to their testimony.

  7. I thought Tibbs was strictly a Jack Daniels man. The way he was chewing gum you’d have thought…well anyway. He should have let a DC take the call…preferably one who hadn’t been drinking.

  8. Let’s look at this from yet another perspective…

    What if there was, forbid the thought, a major catastrophe here in Boise? Would anyone care if a first responder had consumed a beer or a cocktail?

    I for one would not give a darn. One glass of wine does not make someone drunk. Fer cryin’ out loud, the docs are saying it is good for the heart!! All the experience and training these folks get exceeds the influence of one drink.

    Comparing pilots and cops is like comparing an apple to a phone. There are no similarities in the jobs.

  9. curious george
    Jul 18, 2006, 8:25 am

    “Comparing pilots and cops is like comparing an apple to a phone.”

    You’re right. We have empowered police with a far greater responsibility. Our social contract with our police force grants an officer tremendous power within our communities. An officer can demand compliance to requests that if made by anyone else would result in angry retorts. Yet, we give them these powers in order to “protect and serve” the safety of the public. We also authorize (require) that they carry weapons, grant them the ability to violate traffic regulations, among many other powers – all in order to protect the public peace. What we ask (require) in exchange is an officer’s compliance with a strict code of ethics. And, if one of these rules is to abstain from ANY alcohol within 8-hours before driving a police vehicle – why would anyone be trying to defend an officer that has violated this very simple rule?

    This is not an example of an average citizen who’s tipped one back before driving. It’s a case of an officer who has violated this inviolate contract. If this code of ethics is too strict, or there’s no built-in case for exegency, then ask (as a citizen) to have it changed. For me, I kind of enjoy being able to drink a few beers at Lucky 13 knowing that “my” police force has sworn to this rather strict code, in order to protect me & mine from those of us who get a little too rowdy.

    Now to the case at point. Why did Interim Chief Tibbs feel obligated to drive, as opposed to having another officer at the party (whose shift was starting in less than eight hours and hadn’t imbibed) drive him to the scene? I have to think that more than his judgement was impared (if that’s even possible with one glass of wine), perhaps his ego got in the way. If I had a choice between being confronted by an armed police officer who had a glass of wine one hour before (and hadn’t driven), or one who believes his ego exempts him from the rules, I’ll take the former. Unfortunately, this incident presents a worse-case scenario – a chief of police who broke his oath (even though it may be a small infraction of that oath), and then refused to concede the point and ask for help from a fellow officer.

    Doesn’t this sound like a familiar pattern of behavior? It seems like Chief Tibb’s actions were a reflection of a systemic problem throughout the Boise Police Department, something the Ombudsman’s report implies (an officer who acts before thinking, and who doesn’t ask his fellow officers for assistance). Fortunately, the report also makes some recommendations on how to address this problem. Lets hope the current Chief follows the Ombudsman’s suggestions – of course, the City Council can always mandate that the recommendations be implemented.

    EDITOR NOTE–We have talked to Tibbs who offers this version of events:
    He drank the glass of wine at home prior to getting in his private vehicle to go to the party. He was a few blocks from home when his pager alert sounded. He went back home, got his radio and city car to respond to the incident…forgetting of course about the previous glass of wine due to concern about the shooting incident.

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