Pubdate: Thu, 07 Jun 2012
Source: Now, The (Surrey, CN BC)
Copyright: 2012 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Tom Zytaruk


'The only drugs I was on that day was coffee and adrenaline,' Surrey 
driver insists after roadside stop

A busy day turned into a nightmare for Robert Stierle last November 
after Mounties stopped the Surrey dad on suspicion of running a red 
light at a busy intersection in Whalley.

The 51-year-old Surrey man had been to Bible study, choir practise, 
worked out at the gym, bought some supplies at a health food store 
and was finally enjoying a cup of coffee when he realized he was late 
in picking his kids up from school.

He says he'd caught the tail end of a yellow light at King George 
Boulevard and 108th Avenue when a constable driving an unmarked 
cruiser pulled him over.

"He said it's red," Stierle recalled. "I dispute that, maybe I'm 
wrong. I don't know."

What he did know was there was no way he'd pick up his kids on time 
now, and he was stressed about it. The constable was back inside the 
cruiser, checking on him.

"I thought I was going to get a ticket and be let go." Thinking he'd 
better call the school, he stepped out to get his cellphone. It was 
inside a jacket rolled up in the back of his van, where he'd left it 
after his visit to the gym. The cop hollered at him to return to his 
seat because doing stuff like that could get him shot.

Two other cops arrived, in separate cars, and the three officers 
talked amongst themselves. Stierle said the officer let him go on the 
red light, but told him there was "another problem."

Seeing Stierle sweaty and agitated, the constable accused him of 
being on drugs. Stierle was outraged. Ironically, in 2006 he'd 
spearheaded a Surrey-wide campaign to get corner stores to stop 
displaying pipes and other drug paraphernalia where children can see them.

"The only drugs I was on that day was coffee and adrenaline," Stierle said.

He noted he has no criminal record, and hasn't had a traffic ticket 
in six years. He said police laughed at him when he said he'd been to 
the gym, and Bible study before that.

He showed the Now a letter from his Lutheran pastor confirming his 
attendance at Bible study and choir practise that morning. He also 
had printouts of his sign-in and out times from Surrey Sport & 
Leisure Complex, as well as receipts from a health food store.

"Nobody's asked to see these documents," he said of the police. "They 
assume I'm lying, and that's good for them. I tell them I was at 
Bible study in church and they laughed at me. They laughed."


During his interview with the Now, Stierle seemed fidgety and 
high-strung. His dad, who accompanied him, said he's always been that way.

The police asked him if he'd submit to a drug test. Worried about his 
kids waiting at school, Stierle figured he had no time for a blood or 
urine test and refused.

He also found it strange, he said, that the police didn't seize a 
container filled with pills when they searched his car.

"If they were concerned about drug use, and these were unlabelled - a 
whole Tupperware container full of white pills, Tylenol - they didn't 
seize it, they gave it back to me."

Stierle said he was handcuffed and kept in a room at Whalley District 
1 office where at one point a constable identifying himself as a drug 
recognition expert shone a flashlight into his mouth and called some 
other Mounties over to have a look at "classic crack cocaine teeth."

Stierle said his 72-year-old father advised him not to submit to the 
testing until he'd spoken with a lawyer. But Stierle relented, he 
said, after they threatened to arrest his dad for interfering with 
their investigation.

Eventually a legal aid lawyer - a disembodied voice on the other end 
of a phone - told him he had to submit to the testing.

"I said I will pee in a cup," Stierle said he told the officers, and 
was shocked by the response: "They said that won't be necessary."

All the while Stierle was thinking the police had wanted to do blood 
and urine tests, they wanted to test his balance, do a walk and turn 
test, a finger-to-nose test, a one-leg stand and a time test.

He failed these, was given a 24-hour driving prohibition under the 
Motor Vehicle Act for drug impairment, and was sent on his way. If it 
were for drinking and driving, he could have appealed this, but not 
so for drug impairment.

On the back of the prohibition notice, it reads: "If a notice was 
served on you because your ability to drive was affected by drugs, 
you do not have a right of review by the Superintendent."

Stierle filed a complaint with the Commission for Public Complaints 
Against the RCMP in January, alleging the three officers demonstrated 
a neglect of duty "by failing to complete a full investigation into 
impairment by drugs" by refusing his offer to provide a urine sample.

Stierle wants an apology and the prohibition order rescinded.

Legislation requires the RCMP to conduct the first investigation into 
any such complaint. Assistant Commissioner Fraser MacRae, who has 
since retired, filed his conclusions on May 24 and invariably sided 
with his officers.

Among his observations, MacRae noted that Stierle estimated the 
balance test took 30 seconds when in fact 42 seconds had passed, and 
that he lost his balance and swayed during other tests. Stierle said 
he suffered a severe foot injury as a child, making balancing difficult.

MacRae also stated, upon consultation with a staff sergeant who had 
spoken with a drug recognition instructor, that "obtaining blood 
and/or urine samples was not warranted." Unhappy with this result, 
Stierle is pursuing the next step of his complaint with the Commission.


Meanwhile, Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston is writing a letter to 
the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles requesting that the 24-hour 
prohibition be removed from Stierle's driving record.

"I think he has a pretty convincing argument that he was not taking 
any drugs that day," Ralston told the Now. "The discretion granted to 
a police officer - it's important for them to do their job - but it 
can be abused."

Sgt. Drew Grainger, spokesman for the Surrey RCMP, noted that the 
prohibition, under 215(3) of the Motor Vehicle Act, "will have no 
effect at all on him getting across the border" and "has no bearing 
on international travel."

Mike Milne, a press officer for U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 
confirmed this.

That's cold comfort to Stierle, who works as a high rigger for 
concert and stage productions.

"This is extremely important that I have no connection to drug use 
while operating machinery," he said.

In order to be certified as a drug recognition expert, a police 
officer must have at least two years of service, have Standard Field 
Sobriety Test training, have "reasonable background and experience" 
in making impaired driving arrests, complete some classroom training, 
participate and document the results of at least 12 drug evaluations, 
and pass a comprehensive test.

Stierle believes police should not be able to make medical or 
psychological assessments.

To this day, he said, the police still haven't told him what drug 
they suspect he was on. "I so traumatically fear them now."
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