Ex-Cop Reporting Drunk Diver Told To Hang Up
CALGARY - Following a suspected drunk driver who was weaving all over the highway near Okotoks, retired Mountie Rob Laird grabbed his cellphone and dialed 911.
But Laird said he was shocked when after taking his information, the RCMP dispatcher told him to hang up and stop following the suspect SUV as Laird was breaking the province's new distracted driving law.
"In all my years (of policing) I never saw anyone drive like this," said Laird, who was an RCMP officer for 10 years in Okotoks, High River and Calgary.
"Completely over into the left-hand lane forcing vehicles to take the ditch and shoulder, then back again and down into the other ditch where I thought 'he'll end it here and roll it' but this went on for a long ways.
"Finally we pulled up to a traffic light by Okotoks and stopped so I wrote the license plate down and phoned 911.
"I told the girl I was going to witness a fatal accident."
After giving the dispatcher the plate number and a description of the vehicle, Laird said he was told not to follow the vehicle any longer as he was breaking the law himself.
"She said 'are you on hands-free?' and I said 'no, I'm not' and she says 'sir, I want you to hang up because you are breaking the law and I want you to cease following that vehicle.'"
Laird didn't listen, however, and after hanging up, said he followed the SUV to Black Diamond.
"I watched him get out and stagger and fall and grab his golf clubs out of the trunk and stagger into the house and basically get away with this crime," he said.
Given the gravity of the situation, Laird said the police should have been more worried about a potential drunk driver than his holding a cell phone to his ear.
"My understanding of the law is if you are calling about an emergency, you can use your phone," he said.
But that's not entirely true, explained RCMP spokesman Tim Taniguchi.
"It basically says the use of a cellular phone or other communication device (is allowed) for contacting an emergency response unit by an individual driving or operation a vehicle," he said.
"What we do is if a person calls from a vehicle using a wireless device, that's a contact, we get sufficient information to effect a police response."
Taniguchi said police got enough information from Laird -- the license plate, vehicle make and color -- to begin investigation, which is now ongoing.
"We cannot allow the driver to follow a vehicle while on a phone because that's going against the legislation," he said.
"The best situation would be to have a hands-free device or allow a passenger to use the phone and relay information."
So who's the bad guy here? We have three parties all of whom is that right? If it isn't I know someone out there will correct me seem to be teetering on the edge of wrong. Okay, so drunk, weaving, careless idiot driver is NOT on the edge but waaay over. The other two, however, are clearly in that area of two rights - one trying to be more right than the other - are not necessarily right.
But before I get into that....Okotoks?? Who names these towns? Oh yeah, Canadians. Now back to my story.
Ex-cop just can't stop being a cop. Dispatcher is so rigid with rules she probably can't go to the bathroom without a handbook. These two were on a collision course with one trying to be more right and law abiding than the other. So much so that the drunk gets away. He even has time to get his golf clubs out of his trunk. Saaaay! I wonder if the SUV driver was the same guy caught drunk driving in a golf cart in Massachusetts - you know...the one someone called police about to say a clown stole a golf cart? Naaah. Couldn't be.
But to add insult to injury, we get a lesson on what is legal and what is illegal about using a "non-hands-free" cellular device while driving. Gee, common sense says if you have doubt don't. Which brings me to another point - common sense doesn't appear to be so common any more. So sad.
Without a doubt, when ex-cop and dispatcher hung up from talking with one another, they simultaneously said, "What the Hell?"