Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Was it an imbroglio, a kerfuffle, or an assault? And if the latter, who was assaulted? Was the hostess of Francine Busby’s Encinitas rally assaulted by a rogue policeman or was the officer assaulted by a gaggle of Busby supporters who were mightily offended at having standard police procedures applied to their better-than-thou coastal selves?

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis decided that discretion was the better part of law enforcement in this case and declined to prosecute anyone. Nevertheless, the D.A.’s statement isn’t exactly an exercise in agnosticism. Indeed, Dumanis observed that a “review of the evidence indicates there has been a misdemeanor violation of the law by both Ms. Barman and Ms. Morgan” who “delayed and obstructed the officer while he was performing his duties.”

The decision not to prosecute, in other words, was based on the prudential calculation that “conflicting accounts” made a conviction doubtful. I’m sure the desire to have a relatively minor but politically-charged case in the rear view mirror also weighed heavily on Dumanis’s decision.

If I had to make a bet on what actually happened that night, my money would go with the testimony of the mental health professional who was on a ride-along with Deputy Abbott and was, according to Dumanis’s report, “shoved, elbowed and kicked” during the incident.

Another bet is that Busby’s upscale supporters possess a similar view of law- enforcement-applied-to-them as was on display in the recent case of Professor Henry Gates. The Harvard Prof apparently went ballistic when he was interrogated by Cambridge police officer James Crowley about a possible break-in at his own residence. A telling line in the police report has Gates indignantly yelling, “You don’t know who you’re messing with.”

A couple of years ago San Diego Congressman Bob Filner exhibited this same entitlement mentality when he disregarded airport regulations and dissed a “lowly” airport baggage worker at Dulles Airport in Washington. The one nice thing about the Filner fracas was that the very important Congressman eventually pled “sort of guilty” (via a “no contest” Alford Plea) to the reduced trespassing charges that were brought against him.

More importantly, and as part of the terms of his plea, Filner issued this apology in a written statement released after his hearing: “I want to say that I’m sorry. In particular, I would like to apologize to people at the baggage counter. I overreacted, I behaved discourteously and I shouldn’t have.”

Based on available evidence, I suspect the officer at Busby’s rally regrets reaching out to take the arm of an uncooperative hostess. Whether that action was prudent or justified, under the circumstances, is under departmental review.

What clearly seems in order, however, is a Filner-like letter of apology directed to Officer Abbott by those Busby supporters who felt entitled to diss and assault him. That letter, absent a court order, is as unlikely as a mea culpa from the Harvard Prof who treated a distinguished Cambridge police officer like dirt.

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