Surprise, AZ- Let’s get one thing straight the majority of police that patrol the streets are decent folks who are truly interested in keeping the citizens they swore to protect safe, but every once in a while there is one that crosses the line, and that individual’s actions cause people to view the whole lot as jack-booted thugs that want nothing more than to take your freedoms away.
Retired firefighter, Jesse Thornton, 64, recently had the misfortune of running into one of those cops who give others a bad name. Thornton had just finished running some errands and a swim workout at LA Fitness when he was pulled over for crossing the center white line by a Surprise officer around 11 p.m.
Thornton explained to the officer that his eyes were bloodshot because he had just been swimming at LA Fitness, but the cop wasn’t buying his story, insisting Thornton was drunk and informing him that he was going to be given a sobriety test, even though he didn’t exhibit the other signs of intoxication, such as alcohol-laden breath, or slurred speech.
The Surprise officer then asked Thornton to submit to field sobriety test, that’s when he told police he had knee problems–he was due to have surgery just two days after the arrest. Apparently, he did not perform the sobriety tests to the officer’s satisfaction so he was then dragged down to the station for a breathalyzer.
It should be noted that NHTSA has outlined for law enforcement agencies the many reasons why people perform poorly on field sobriety tests and knee problems is among them.
Once at the station Thornton, who was cooperative with police the entire time, blew a 0.00 on a breathalyzer, but the arresting officer was still convinced he was drunk. Not really a vote of confidence for the soundness of the Surprise police department’s breathalyzers.
Despite the results of his breathalyzer, Surprise police were still convinced the retiree was on some intoxicating substance so they called in a drug recognition expert who told Thornton, “I would never have arrested you, you show no signs of impairment.”
That didn’t stop Surprise police though, Thornton was charged with DUI, his car was impounded and police notified the Department of Motor Vehicles and his license was suspended.
His wife had to leave work and pick him and had to shell out close to $5,000 as a result of his unjustified arrest.
Did the Surprise police officers cross the line? Yeah, they did; they really had no “probable cause” to arrest Thornton for driving under the influence, especially after a breathalyzer showed he was stone cold sober and a drug expert confirmed.
Thornton told ABC 15 that since he moved to Surprise from Ohio he had been pulled over ten times and issued four tickets. He says this wasn’t a DUI, it was “driving while black.”
He has since retained an attorney and is suing the city for $500,000.