Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1995
Join Date: Oct 2003
As an epilog to this whole discussion, here are some correspondence from the GCPBA list below that provide context and perspective.
NOTE - I had nothing to do with any of the trips below, have not met the ranger, and have no personal experience with this issue other than to have read many of the posts on this and other venues. I also removed inappropriate information someone posted regarding the ranger in question. Please do not address any questions about this issue to me.
Here's a the first-hand account the episode in the original post appears to be based on:
From: On Behalf Of Jim Siebe
Sent: Wednesday, April 18, 2012 11:52 AM
Subject: [gcpba] Tubby's post on Utahrafters Concerning " Big Brother is Alive and Well at Lees Ferry"
Tubby's post obviously refers to an experience we had with ranger Dan on March 4, 2012 at Lees Ferry. Upon my return home, I typed up a trip report and chronology of how he hassled us at the put-in, but I lost everything when my stinkin' computer froze up. As busy as I've been after being gone for 3 1/2 weeks, I decided to let bygones be bygones until I saw the post. Unfortunately, I misplaced my note logging his last name, but it was of eastern European origin.
There were twelve (12) people on the trip, and nine boats. Eight of us ranged in age from 59-66. Another was 52, and three were 25, 26 and 32 (incidentally all three are commercial guides on other rivers and are serious about boating). All but one had been down the river multiple times; one of us, the imputed 66 year old DUI artist had been down approximately 20 times. Incidentally, our group included three criminal defense attorneys (I am one).
Another launchee and I had driven my truck, trailer and two boats straight down from North Idaho; an 18 hour jam. We stopped at Page and purchased ice, fresh food and beer. We arrived at the ramp around 1:00 p.m. to rig for the next day's launch. The 66 year old (John) is a dear friend that I had not seen or boated with for five years, so I offered him a beer shortly after I stepped out of the truck.
Ranger Dan (that may be a little too endearing, so hereafter I wil refer to him as "B.C.", short for "Bad Cop") immediately sought me out as trip leader (accosted me might be a better description) and started pressing me for paperwork. He promptly rejected two lifejackets for faulty straps. He also rejected our fire extinguisher, resulting in our leaving the two 2 hp four stroke motors we planned on using from Diamond down in our rigs. Amazingly, he then told me that he had cause to cancel my permit, because another member of our group (a 62 year old) had possessed an open container of alcohol in his vehicle. I didn't take a threat of that magnitude lightly, especially since he had no cause to cancel my trip for something another individual might have done that was totally unconnected to my activities or the river trip. (The offender in that instance was driving a crew cab containing a cardboard box on the back seat with a half gallon whiskey bottle that had been opened and duct-taped shut. No one in the vehicle had been drinking, period, let alone from that bottle.)
B.C. then told John to move his truck (we were the only ones rigging there, but rules are rules). As my friend set his beer down and started for the truck, he asked him if he was ok to drive. He answered "yes" and B.C. made no attempt to stop him. Immediately after ignition, while starting to back up, B.C. yelled for him to stop, informed him that he had not attached his seatbelt, and ordered him out of the truck to perform field sobriety tests. John told him he had consumed less than 2 beers (I observed no indica of intoxication, myself). Nevertheless, he made a spectacle of my friend and subjected us to a several hour ordeal as set out below.
I went up to B.C. and asked what the problem was and was told to stand clear as I "was obstructing a DUI investigation". (The community caretaking function as cops lovingly refer to it, allows them to have friendly contacts without reasonable suspicion, in order to make certain drivers or the community are safe. While allowing John to walk the 50 feet to his truck after asking if he was ok to drive seems to conflict with that function- if he was genuinely was concerned for everyone's safety, Arizona seat belt laws are secondary, meaning an officer cannot pull a driver over if he observes that a seatbelt is not attached- he or she can only ticket you for the same if you are stopped for another violation).
B.C. then subjected John to over an hour of testing, while our and another group that had just arrived, watched. Having prosecuted and defended in excess of 5,000 DUIs in a 33 year legal career, I cringed to see how poorly he administered the tests. At one point, B.C. read from a a manual while he tested my friend. That aside, NHTSA and health experts warn that field balance tests are not approved for those over 60 years of age. B.C. also failed to adequately demonstrate the tests. After a seemingly interminable period of time (and readministration of the tests, over and over), he gave John a breath test. The result was .012, or less than one sixth of the required amount to constitute a DUI. After letting John go, B.C. came up to me and lamely stated that they had experienced trouble with people speeding at the put-in and that last summer someone had almost run over a three-year-old girl.
Before resuming inspection of our remaining gear, B.C. walked past another truck and spied an unmarked prescription bottle lying on the seat, whereupon he reached in, seized it and asked that truck owner (also another John) what was in the bottle. John told him it contained fishing lures (he had purchased an Arizona fishing license and was looking forward to fishing for Stripers below Separation Canyon). B.C. then went off on a rant, stating that unmarked pill bottles were suspicious and that using one in that fashion was improper. He warned that John that he was going to test the contents and that if it contained even a residue of a controlled substance, he'd arrest him for a felony. He also grilled John about whether there were any other drugs in the truck. At some point, B.C. opened the medicine bottle, inspected and smelled it and pronounced that it had once contained marijuana. He donned latex gloves and announced that he was going to search the vehicle. I approached to question this latest round of harassment and was again told to stand clear, as I was interfering with an investigation. B.C. then announced that if he found any marijuana he was going to search all of our boats. While tossing the truck, he grilled John about how he knew us, whether he knew if anyone in the group smoked marijuana, and other particulars that were none of his business. He fished items from the glove box, under the seat, and emptied bags and boxes. Contents were strewn everywhere just like you'd expect if cops tossed a house pursuant to a search warrant. He then left with some muscle relaxers, antibiotics, the infamous fishing lure pill bottle and John for testing and further interrogation. Not finding anything illegal, he returned, and again warned us that pill bottles weren't meant for such use. No citations of any kind were issued.
B.C. pulled me aside and told me that we were a bunch of troublemakers (all three lawyers and rest of the group had bitten our lips and had said nothing during this fiasco, which ultimately meant that we rigged until dark). He again threatened me to pull my permit. When I asked what was the matter at that point, he pointed to several people who were drinking beers. I told him that there was nothing illegal about that, that it was a warm day and that none of them planned on driving. He responded: "It still doesn't look good". (Apparently that's what everyone rigging at Lees Ferry wants to do: look good). B.C. told me that we had better straighten out our act and that he was sending river rangers down to check on us after we launched.
The next morning , he gave us the talk and quiz, acting like we were pals and that nothing had ever happened. He used the phrase "River Karma' no less than half a dozen times. Then, as he was winding down, he cut things short, bolted the scene, and headed towards another group that had just pulled in, stating that he could smell marijuana. We didn't see any arrests, but their welcome must have resembed ours. When I later told an outfitter of the experience, he mentioned that B.C. was new and that he had bragged about hiking down under the rim on his days off to spy on camps with binoculars (we call that voyeurism in Idaho).
Postscript: Aside from rigging in a rush, leaving some important things in my truck as a result of the distractions, thinking at various times I might have to drive to Page to bail people out of jail and then delay our launch while I ran down lawyers for my friends, the interruption precluded my driving back Page to buy a new fire extinguisher, which was a sore spot as at times we battled 30-50 mph winds the last 50 miles of the 18 day, 290 mile trip.
Several days later a group of river rangers rolled into our camp at Lava, where we chose to lay over to hike. They were very conciliatory and apologized, telling us that they had heard about our travails from another group. They explained that B.C. was new and gave us a large dry bag full of firewood. Below Separation, we spoke with another group of mostly retired NPS personnel. The leader also told us that B.C. was new- just out of the "academy" and that it would take some time for him to learn people skills and to become a ranger.
My take: Anyone with a badge, bullet-proof vest and a gun is not there to help. It appears that the focus of interest at Lees Ferry is what is in the vehicles or on the boats at the ramp, just like any other traffic stop. Reflecting back on a few years of experience with cops makes this all the less surprising. (Don't forget that 5 years ago (right before my last launch) the Coconino County Sheriff brought drug dogs down to the ramp to check boats...)
From: On Behalf Of rymndbligh
Sent: Sunday, April 22, 2012 11:58 AM
Subject: [gcpba] Big Brother
Having been the first of our group to be accosted by Ranger Dan (AKA BC) on the now infamous Siebe trip March 5th, I feel the need to respond to the follow-up threads.
Early afternoon, on March 4th having just inflated 2 rafts & 1 cat, I was now busy with pre-launch rigging. While observing BC coming around the corner. I realized with the new arrival of Siebe & Chuck that our group now had 3 vehicles on the launch. The other pre-launch group had no vehicles on the launch. Being a retired D.O.E. government employee myself I know how some government employees can be a stickler for rules.
So jumping into Mike Scott's truck, i attempted to move off the launch in order to avoid any hassles.
While driving up the incline at about 3 mph, BC jumped out of his vehicle & rather briskly walked up to intercept me. At that point I expected an ass-chewing for having too many vehicles on the launch. I was wrong. BC immediately informed me that he had observed I was not wearing a seat belt. i pointed to the parking space now 75' away that was my target stopping place and said "I was just going right there".
BC now informed me that he could give me a $150 fine for not wearing my seat belt. At this point BC noticed a 3/4 full bottle of whiskey and asked me if I had been drinking. I responded "no sir I have not been drinking. I do not drink whiskey. That bottle belongs to Mike Scott."
BC then informed me that he could issue me a citation for and open container. I pointed to Mike S who is also a retired government employee ( Lt. Colonel Air Force) and told him again that the whiskey was Mike's. BC asked me again if I had been drinking and my reponse was the same.
BC told me that everyone needs to be safer on the launch and that he does not want to see anyone hurt. He asked me for the third time if I had been drinking. This time my reponse probably resembled the stare-down Mike Tyson gave his opponents that he was soon going to thump. i am pretty sure my tone of voice changed also. "No sir I have not been drinking! I do not drink whiskey!" BC then turned and walked toward the launch.
I returned to launch myself and informed everyone of the situation and that they should keep any beer whiskey or any other substances under wraps and fasten their seat belts. I also warned all new arrival groups.
Siebe covered the rest of our hassle excellently like the professionial he is. I might add that BC also turned down our fire extinguisher that I had taken on a trip last June. As I was putting my 2hp honda into the truck, Ranger Dave informed me that it would not be safe as there had been a lot of vehicle break-ins at the overnite parking lot
I will conclude with this thought. Rangers at Lee's Ferry can not secure the overnite parking area but after 3 hrs of harrassment at launch, they sure seem to be protecting us from ourselves!
Nothing in the world is more yielding and gentle than water. Yet it has no equal for conquering the resistant and tough. The flexible can overcome the unbending; the soft can overcome the hard. - Lao Tse