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Boys will be boys 

A firefighter, police officer, and fire chief walk into a bar. The firefighter winds up beating a man to a pulp in a fight, the police officer sneaks down to Mexico and attempts to smuggle an enormous quantity of pharmaceuticals illegally into the United States, and the fire chief helps the firefighter get his job back—on the condition, of course, that the firefighter be kept on a short leash. Because sending someone with a documented history of violence into a high-stress environment—say, a fire—doesn’t sound like a dangerous idea at all.

Crap, did I forget to mention the duck? The joke’s not really funny without the duck. Anyway, the duck’s in the bar as well, but he’s mostly just minding his own business. Y’know, not smuggling drugs and beating people senseless.

Ready for the punchline?

City councilman Dan Carpenter is going to find a way to blame SLO City Manager Katie Lichtig for all of it. She somehow manipulated Dan McDow—a seven-year member of the SLO police force—into illegally smuggling drugs from Mexico. Then she used her womanly wiles to convince firefighter John Ryan Mason—who was with the fire department for 10 years—to beat Jory Brigham until he was unconscious in the bathroom at Pappy McGregor’s in SLO. And, as if she hadn’t already caused enough trouble, she forced the city to rehire Mason. Then she forced SLO Fire Chief Charlie Hines to announce his retirement after less than three years as chief, leaving some unknown new chief holding Mason’s leash.

Ain’t that just the way it goes? You have a (male) officer who tried to sneak drugs into the country, a (male) firefighter who tried to brain a guy, a (male) fire chief who went to bat for the guy who tried to brain the guy. And we’re dumping the blame for everything that’s happened in this shitstorm of a no-win situation on the city manager’s (female) shoulders. Is it fair to bring gender into this? Sure, it might be a reach, but so is blaming a single person for this stew of stupidity. Last I checked, a firefighter, police officer, and fire chief should be capable of accepting responsibility for their own decisions.

Of course, I have to wonder why the city is fighting tooth and nail to prevent McDow from getting his old job back. Not that I want an attempted drug smuggler on the local police force. And I especially don’t want an unsuccessful attempted drug smuggler on the police force. Given the number of people who successfully bring drugs into this country from Mexico, we can reasonably conclude that McDow isn’t even as intelligent as the drug thugs that cops are supposed to chase down. Claiming “oops, I didn’t realize how bad this stuff really is” doesn’t help.

But why did the city cave to Mason—a man accused of a violent crime—but continue fighting against McDow? By all accounts, Chief Hines had a major role in Mason’s inglorious (and highly unpopular) return. The fact that Hines is now bailing, and leaving someone else to deal with the consequences of his decision to fight for Mason, seems less than noble. So maybe Mason got rehired simply because he was popular within his department. McDow, on the other hand, sounds like he might not have been the best behaved of officers—if sneaking drugs out of Mexico wasn’t enough of a giveaway. And now he’s suing the city in a last desperate attempt to get his job back. Why the city would want a police officer with no respect for the law is beyond me. But then again, they seemed to welcome back a firefighter who almost killed a guy in a bar, so I guess the city’s logic is beyond me.

It’s possible the city just didn’t want the headache of a third-party arbitrator in its dealings with Mason. A lot of these third-party arbitrators are former cops, and we know those boys and girls in blue like to stick together. In fact, I have to wonder whether the SLO Police Department and SLO Fire Department ignored behavioral warning signs from McDow and Mason in order to stand by their respective men. I don’t exactly have a degree in psychology—I’m still two credits short of my AA in origami—but I find it difficult to believe that drug transporting and bar fights are behaviors that spring out of nowhere, catching everyone by surprise.

If their managers and colleagues somehow failed to recognize that McDow and Mason were potentially dangerous liabilities—both to their departments and the public’s safety—then I’m not certain either department is qualified to carry out the charge of protecting the public’s safety. If the police can’t recognize a criminal among their own ranks, how will they identify one on the street? And if the fire department didn’t recognize that they were hiring a maniac, how can we be certain the rest of the department is mentally sound?

Luckily, we know exactly who to blame. And it’s not the public employees who engaged in such profoundly stupid behavior that I have to wonder how they manage to safely cross the street. Nor is it their direct managers or departments. But hey, when did we ever let facts or fairness stand in the way of politics and name-calling?


Shredder needs a buddy with a big car for a trip to Mexico. Send requests for pharmaceuticals to

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