Poulsbo, WA — Instead of simply doing their jobs, officers exposed the blatant double standard between themselves and ordinary citizens by refusing to arrest a deputy who admitted to driving drunk on body cam video after vomiting on himself. Although the cops had probable cause to arrest the inebriated deputy, one of the officers shut off her body camera while apparently discussing how to cover up the embarrassing incident with the police chief.
At 9:25 p.m. on October 16, Poulsbo Officer Danielle Branes responded to a call from a movie theater employee about an intoxicated man sitting in his car ignoring suggestions from passersby not to drive drunk. Immediately after approaching Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim Porter, Officer Branes informed the deputy that she could smell alcohol on his breath. Although Branes offered to give her colleague a ride home, Sgt. Porter refused her help and waited until she left the parking lot before driving home drunk. After asking the theater employees to call 911 if they saw Porter attempting to drive, Branes reported that Porter was “totally wasted.”
Around 11:10 p.m., a theater employee called 911 to report Porter’s vehicle leaving the parking lot. Responding to the call, Poulsbo Officer Jennifer Corn and Reserve Officer Joshua Krebs arrived at Porter’s home to find him sitting in the driver’s seat of his vehicle. While slurring his speech and refusing to wait patiently, Porter ordered the officers to “go away.”
Officer Corn responded, “I, I wish I could. I can’t.”
Later on in the video, Corn informed Porter, “I just came to make sure you made it home, but seeing you in the vehicle I had to check on you. I’m wishing I hadn’t, but now I’m stuck.”
“No, you’re not stuck, Jen,” Porter retorted.
“I am, because somebody saw you drive out of there,” Corn replied.
“No, we’re good,” asserted Porter.
“You’re drunk,” Corn observed.
“Yeah,” stated Porter.
“And you just drove here from…from the theater,” Corn noted.
“Yes…two miles,” admitted Porter.
“Yup, I know,” acknowledged Corn. “And I’m really hoping that there’s nothing in the law that will stick here.”
According to Corn and Krebs, Porter had vomited on himself and clearly appeared drunk. After repeatedly attempting to walk away, Porter was forced to remain near his vehicle while waiting for Sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Dickson and Poulsbo Chief Al Townsend to arrive. Instead of administering field sobriety tests or conducting further questioning about his admitted DUI, the officers stood with Porter in awkward silence for nearly 20 minutes while waiting for their bosses.
During this time, Porter did several things that would have gotten a normal citizen, tasered, handcuffed, beaten, or killed. Getting out of the car when told not to, repeatedly putting hands in pockets, and refusing to obey the officers’ commands have proven to be death sentences for otherwise completely innocent people.
Immediately after Chief Townsend’s arrival, Corn informed her boss that she was shutting off her body camera before discussing the details of Porter’s DUI and subsequent detention. Instead of ordering Corn to leave the video running, Townsend allowed his subordinate to shut off her camera in order to secretly devise how to let Porter off the hook without arresting him.
Instead of chastising Porter for driving drunk and endangering lives, Corn apologetically whimpered at Porter, “I…I’m just gonna be straight to up for you…with you, because I respect you. Um, right now, we have the reasonable suspicion to detain you. Ok? But we don’t, at this time, have probable cause for your arrest. Ok?”
After obtaining the body cam video and police report from the city through a public records request, the Kitsap Sun also discovered that Corn never asked Porter to perform any sobriety tests, take a field Breathalyzer, search his car, or inform him of his Miranda rights before conducting further questioning after his initial confession. Although Corn claimed they did not have enough probable cause to arrest Porter, Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim McDonough disagreed with her assessment.
“Poulsbo PD did not conduct an investigation into whether Sgt. Porter was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs to establish probable cause for violation of (the state’s driving under the influence law) even though it appears that they had probable cause to do so,” wrote Sheriff’s Sgt. Jim McDonough on December 24. “An exact determination of Sgt. Porter’s blood alcohol/drug content when he was contacted by Poulsbo (police) cannot be determined. Based on the video alone, it is apparent that Sgt. Porter is impaired.”
Eleven days prior to the incident, Porter rear-ended a car waiting to make a left turn at an intersection at 8 a.m. on October 5. He returned to work on November 11, after learning that no criminal charges would be filed against him.
“Her (Corn’s) decision to call out her supervisors and the KCSO supervisor only go to reinforce that she made no effort to provide any special treatment to Porter, and in fact, suggests that he was treated with more scrutiny than an average citizen would be,” Chief Townsend wrote.
Obviously lying, Townsend has ignored the fact that he allowed Corn to turn her body camera off during a crucial point in the investigation, while she repeatedly cowered before an inebriated suspect covered in his own vomit — who told her he’d been drinking. According to defense attorney Linda Callahan, it was “ridiculous” that Corn did not arrest Porter.
“I would think she is derelict in her duty for not,” Callahan explained. “I defend these people, I’m not going to be leading the race to get this guy convicted, he needs help, but this is a case of the blue wall. They protect each other.”