Sidney Delaplaine at home in Vancouver, Washington, August 2009
Life in small town America has its perks, but things can get pretty damn iffy pretty damn quickly when you piss off the local cops.
Of course, that couldn't be the reason Sid Delaplaine is facing a long prison sentence, could it?
Piling On The Charges For Medical Marijuana
In October 2006, Vancouver, Washington medical marijuana patient Delaplaine grew 21 plants in his backyard (not in public view) for his annual supply of medicine. "I had already cut six of them; 15 were still growing," he told me. The Vancouver Police Department raided his home and took all the plants, along with a couple of guns.
Delaplaine was charged with manufacturing and selling marijuana, with charges enhanced because of guns, even further enhanced because a school bus stop is in front of his house.
The harassment didn't stop with the raid. "They've been dogging me for three years," Delaplaine told me. "Every time the cops have had an opportunity to come to my house and roust me, they did."
Vengeance Is Mine, Sayeth The Cop
Sid Delaplaine's daughter used to be a dispatcher with the Vancouver, Washington Police Department. She loved her job. And it bothered her a lot when she noticed back in 2006 that calls for help from one of the officers, a native of India named Navin Sharma, somehow seemed to result in a certain lack of response from the other officers.
Surely such nasty racial prejudice wouldn't exist among members of the esteemed police force of Vancouver. But then, there it was. When Officer Sharma called in, sometimes the other officers just wouldn't respond at all.
Trying to do the right thing, Delaplaine's daughter reported what she'd observed to internal affairs. But her confidence was broken by one or more officers, and soon she found herself blackballed.
Despite becoming the victim of what looks a lot like a case of blaming the messenger by the Vancouver PD, Delaplaine's daughter's testimony helped Officer Sharma eventually win a settlement of $1.65 million in September 2008. Sharma said he faced discrimination and retaliation after he won an earlier settlement from the city. His attorneys said the city seized upon minor mistakes Sharma made on drunken driving reports as a pretext for firing him.
Not surprisingly, California consulting firm Matrix, recently hired (to the tune of $46,440) by the Vancouver PD, told them they have a significant problems with poor morale, inadequate communication, organizational dysfunction and labor-management unrest. The consulting firm reached these conclusions after a four-month study of the department, focusing on its internal affairs and disciplinary processes.
In employee surveys conducted as part of the study, a miniscule 5 percent of respondents within the Vancouver PD said there was a "positive organizational culture" in the department.
Not surprisingly, lawsuits, arbitrator rulings and internal investigations have had a negative effect on the department, the consultants concluded. "Morale is poor," said Brown Taylor, a Matrix consultant and former police chief himself (Los Altos and Mountain View, CA). The scandal-plagued department has gone through nine police chiefs in the past 19 years.
Rather than accepting the obvious findings of the consultants, apologizing, and promising to do better, the police union reacted with suspicion and hostility. "With the current climate we have, without us trusting the administration, guild members aren't convinced that it would lead to a fairer process," said Ryan Martin, president of the Vancouver Police Officers Guild. "We can't trust they will make the appropriate decisions anyway. So why would we give up a right that protects our members?"
There now, that's a great, productive attitude to have, Officer Martin. Good to see you're more concerned with protecting misbehaving cops than, you know, being held accountable and stuff!
Chris Sutter, assistant chief for administration in Vancouver, said the department started a working group in 2008 to examine these issues, but quickly ran into opposition from the union. "They have been very reluctant to recommend any changes," Sutter told the Columbian newspaper. "In fact," added Police Chief Cliff Cook, "they won't put anything in writing."
So there you have a brief summary of the Vancouver police officers' "constructive" reactions to criticism.
Now, just because one brave young dispatcher helped to expose racism, cronyism and corruption in the local police department, that wouldn't result in what looks a lot like vindictive, petty retaliatory actions from the cops themselves, would it?
Douglas Hiatt (photo courtesy of NORML)
What You Can Do
Seattle activist attorney Douglas Hiatt is taking on Sid Delaplaine's case pro bono. But as the upcoming trial is in Vancouver, he and a couple more volunteer attorneys will have to spend the time (probably a week or more) in a hotel and will incur considerable expenses.
Hiatt needs our help in meeting and defraying those expenses; his goal is to raise $5,000 to ensure that Sid Delaplaine receives a fair trial with the best defense possible.
Please send what you can; anything helps:
3161 Elliott Ave., Suite 340
Seattle, WA 98121
If you'd rather contribute online, you can donate to the anti-Drug War group The November Coalition.
Be sure to include a note with your donation that it is intended for Douglas Hiatt, and the money will go towards defending Sidney Delaplaine:
Donate to Douglas Hiatt via November.org