Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Couple taken for a ride

BOWMANVILLE -- "It's not a mixed message. You can't be intoxicated in a public place. It's an offence."

-- Insp. Charlie Green, Durham Regional Police

That argument may be a tough sell.

Especially considering that two people charged with public intoxication -- and they are not alone in this roust -- were standing on the corner, hand-in-hand, waiting for the arrival of A Ryde Home, a local designated driver service.

It's a service, in fact, that 61-year-old retiree Jack Knowler and his girlfriend, Bev Rogers, use every Thursday when they take in karaoke night at Hanc's Bar.

"You do the right thing, you drink but you don't drive, and this happens? How is that right?" he asks. "How is it right that you get a $65 ticket for public intoxication while quietly waiting for your DD to pick you up?

"If that's not a mixed message, what is?"

He has a point.

Jack Knowler, who retired from the PPG paint plant in Oshawa two years ago, has no criminal record, has never had an impaired charge and certainly no previous public intoxication charge and, for sure, he is not one of those locals who, in the vernacular, are "known to police."

And neither is Bev Rogers, who runs a small construction company.

Both are decent, responsible, and law-abiding.

"If we have more than one drink, we always call the service," says Knowler. "My home is less than a mile from Hanc's bar, so I could have probably driven home, taken the chance, and likely beaten the odds.

"But I didn't. Instead, I did the right thing.

"And what did it get us?" he asked. "One ticket for her and one ticket for me."

On the night they were charged, Jack Knowler and Bev Rogers had first gone to Maddy's Pub, just up the street from Hanc's, and that's where Knowler left his truck -- about a block and a half from Hanc's.

The main drag of this town has little or no public parking, and so that is where cars are left -- in the parking lots of the pubs, the restaurants, and the Legion.

Publican Vic Hanc sees this ticket tactic as nothing but harassment, and was on the phone last week to his local councillor and MPP to raise a stink about it.

"By issuing these tickets, the police are enticing people to try to drive home," says Hanc. "It just blows my mind.

"It's on-the-spot judgment, with no discretion. They should be thanking those people for not trying to drive."

Martin McLellan, a 62-year-old retired GM worker, left his truck in the Legion lot a few nights ago and, on the way back from his local pub -- his cellphone to his ear talking to the A Ryde Home dispatcher -- suddenly had a police cruiser pull up beside him as he walked along the sidewalk.

"I wasn't staggering, but they said I was drunk," says McLellan. "Then, when I told them I was just talking to the DD service, they said they'd give me a ride home.

"And they did -- but not without first giving me a $65 ticket for public intoxication.

"I wasn't too happy about it," says McLellan. "The DD service would have cost me no more than $20, tip included.

"What are the cops trying to do?" he asks. "Put us behind the wheels of our vehicles?"

Colleen Monk is the entrepreneur behind A Ryde Home, one of a dozen such designated-driving services in the area.

She has been in business three years, has seven cars on the road and, during the so-called Festive RIDE season, she will bump up her fleet to perhaps 15 cars.

And she, too, is upset about what the police are doing.

"It's getting a bit ridiculous, doesn't you think?" she says. "My driver literally pulled in to pick up (Knowler and Roger) at the same time the cops pulled up.

"But the cops didn't care.

"Here we have people doing the right thing, and getting penalized for it," she says.

"And it is just not right."

Dressed in her A Ryde Home jacket with Designation Driver embroidered on the front, the driver dispatched to pick up Jack Knowler and Bev Rogers in the parking lot of Maddy's, which closes early on Thursdays, says the police cut the couple no slack.


"The officer saw my jacket. He knew what was going on, but he couldn't have cared less," says the DD, who asked that her name not be published.

"All he said was that they shouldn't have been hanging around a dark parking lot in the first place."

Insp. Charlie Green heads up the Bowmanville detachment of Durham Regional Police, a force that routinely publishes the names of those charged with impaired driving on its public website.

And, as far as he is concerned, the cops did no wrong issuing those public intoxication tickets to people waiting for their designated driver to show up.

"When I was transferred here three years ago from Pickering, I could not believe the number of drunks I saw on the streets," says Green. "But it's a lot better today.

"Being drunk in a public place is an offence, and I do not want to see (drunken people) stepping off a curb and getting whacked by a car."

After checking the logs, he noted that the charges against Knowler and Rogers were laid by uniformed members of the DRAVIS squad -- Durham Region Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy -- whose role as described on the force's website is to "reduce violence, increase community safety and improve the quality of life for members of our communities within Durham Region."

According to Green, part of the DRAVIS detail is to check out local drinking establishments for trouble near closing time, and "to enforce the law."

"They take what is basically a zero-tolerance approach to everything," says Green. "It's high enforcement.

"When it comes to public intoxication, they may take you home, but you're going to get a ticket."


Toronto Sun

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