>Sonora / Tuolumne News, Sports, & Weather, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, Jamestown | Union Democrat

News Classifieds Web
web powered by Web Search Powered by Google

Home arrow Opinion arrow Was delay in hazing search warranted?

Was delay in hazing search warranted?

There was bad news and good over at the Tuolumne County Sheriff"s Department last week.

First the bad: It took the department a month and a half to secure a warrant and search the Columbia College Firehouse, epicenter of a hazing controversy that hit the news in January.

On Jan. 15, a 19-year-old rookie member of the student fire department told deputies that fellow firefighters had forced him to drink large quantities of beer, then kicked him and punched him during an off-campus party in Crystal Falls. He added that other probationary firefighters have been similarly hazed.

Although the case's profile and community impact has been higher than most murders the sheriff investigates, and although the college firehouse seems an obvious place to look, it was six weeks before a warrant was issued for the firehouse and for the Twain Harte home of one student firefighter.

But there is good news: Despite the long grace period, deputies involved in the searches recovered valuable evidence, including videotapes, CDs, photographs, written material and a firehouse computer. All the items seized, said Sheriff's Lt. Dan Bressler, were related to the hazing case.

For this, the Sheriff's Department might thank suspects who were inexplicably oblivious to the possibility that officers might come looking for the evidence.

It wasn't like the movies, where bad guys race home as soon as they get wind of an investigation, run into the house and are flushing contraband down the toilet as G-men bust down the door. Instead, things are progressing at a more leisurely pace in this case.

It should be pointed out, however, that courts do not issue spur-of-the-moment search warrants based on hunches or ungrounded suspicion. Instead, evidence justifying warrants must be presented to a judge, who is required to find that the proposed search is lawful and justified.

"It sometimes takes time to build enough probable cause to cause the issuance of a search warrant," said Bressler, pointing out that Detective Ken Diaz has interviewed more than 30 people in connection with the hazing case. "Because we had only one investigator assigned to the case, he is working this investigation one step at a time."

Only after such interviews, Bressler added, do investigators learn "what is evidence and what isn't."

Finally, he said, it took the department a while to muster the manpower to conduct the searches of buildings where "multiple persons were expected to be found."

Valid reasons? Perhaps, particularly during a countywide budget crisis during which the sheriff and every other department is operating with limited funds and a limited staff.

While rushing headlong into court with incomplete information is certainly ill-advised, securing a warrant quickly enough so evidence isn't disposed of, moved or hidden should be a high priority.

Because detectives can't always rely on the goodwill and slow reflexes that were so graciously extended to them in the hazing case.

What's your view on this issue? Write to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Union Democrat editorial positions are formed through regular meetings of the newspaper's editorial board — Publisher Geoff White, Managing Editor Patty Fuller, City Editor Craig Cassidy and senior reporter-columnist Chris Bateman.

Follow UnionDemocrat.com

Get Today's Top Headlines to your inbox

The Union Democrat print edition

The Union Democrat 11/25/15

View Paper

The Union Democrat is now online in a Replica E-edition form and publishes Tuesday through Saturday. E-Edition or Print Plus subscribers have full access.


If you are not a current subscriber, subscribe today for immediate access. Circulation: 209-533-3614

View all The Union Democrat print publications

Weekender by The Union Democrat

Weekly Arts and entertainment guide for Calaveras and Tuolumne counties

Weekender 11/19/15

View Guide

Available online every Friday or get it early in Thursday's print edition.

View past copies of the weekender

Local / Sports / Business / Stocks / News of Record / State / Nation/World / Obituaries / Submit News
Editorials / Letters
Union Democrat Photos / Community Photos /
Search Classifieds / Jobs / Autos / Homes / Rentals / Place an Ad
Online Extras
Weather / Local Business Links / Community Links / Photo Reprints
Union Democrat
About / Contact / Commercial Printing / Subscriptions / Terms of Use / Site Map

© Copyright 2001 - 2015 Western Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. By Using this site you agree to our Terms of Use