Civil Liberties

"Professional Courtesy" May Help Indy Cop Escape Hard Time


I've written before about the "professional courtesy" problem, where police officers let fellow officers off the hook for driving while intoxicated (see here, here, and here). The latest example comes from Indianapolis, where on August 6, Officer David Bisard struck two motorcycles stopped at a red light, killing one person and critically injuring two others. Police reports initially blamed the bikers for the accident, though subsequent reports confirm that the motorcyclists were doing exactly what they're supposed to do when an emergency vehicle approaches. According to the Indianapolis Star, Bisard has an aggressive history on the road. He had more vehicle pursuits than any other cop in Marion County. In two years he'd had 14 such pursuits, with five collisions.

None of the officers who responded on August 6 thought to give Bisard a breath test, or apparently even suspect him of being drunk. At first blush perhaps that's understandable, given that Bisard was on-duty at the time. But when he was finally given a blood test more than two hours after the accident, he tested at .19. (This is more aggravating when you consider how adept police officers seem to be at detecting booze on citizens who aren't cops. Last May I was pulled over by an Indiana State Trooper. I'd had two beers over four hours, plus eaten a big dinner, yet he still claimed he was "nearly knocked out by the stench of booze rolling out" of my car. Long story short: I politely asserted my rights and got neither the undeserved DWI, nor the speeding ticket (which I probably deserved)).

Prosecutors initially filed a host of DWI-related charges against Bisard. But on August 19, Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi announced he had no choice but to drop the most serious charges because Bisard's blood had been drawn by an uncertified lab tech. And because none of Brisard's fellow officers apparently noticed his intoxication at the scene of the accident, there was no admissible evidence that Brisard was drunk when he caused the crash.

In the face of a pretty furious public backlash, there have at least been some consequences: According to the Star, Brisard does still face a lesser charge of reckless homicide, plus added charges of criminal recklessness. IMPD officials dismissed Lt. George Crooks as coordinator of the multiagency Fatal Alcohol Crash Team, and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard announced last week that Assistant Chief Darryl Pierce, Deputy Chief Ron Hicks, and Commander John Conley would all be demoted for the handling of Bisard's case.

A final bit of irony:

As a member of the Noblesville Police Department in the late 1990s, he received awards two years in a row from Mothers Against Drunk Driving and won commendations four years in a row.