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Don’t blow off Thoma’s side of the story just yet

Let it never be said that Doug Clark’s the sort of guy who can’t admit when he’s wrong.

So listen up. I totally blew it on the issue of breathalyzers and the badge.

Guess I’m old-fashioned. I just couldn’t conceive of any self-respecting law enforcement agency keeping any cop on the payroll who must blow into an alcohol-measuring contraption in order to fire up his prowl car.

And so I backed Spokane police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick’s decision to fire Brad Thoma.

Involved in off-duty hit-and-run drunken driving shenanigans, the veteran officer was told he couldn’t drive without first huffing and puffing into an ignition interlock device.

Kirkpatrick didn’t think such a limitation was safe, let alone the sort of image the public wants in people who take an oath to protect and serve.

As a buddy of mine put it: “If I see the flashing lights in my rearview mirror, I want to know that the gun-toting dude pulling me over isn’t Officer Rip Torn.”

But the more I’ve thought about it, the more value I see in keeping cops like Thoma on the force.

Not as a role models, certainly, but for their educational value as “blow models.”

Imagine the impact such a blow model could have in demonstrating the consequences of drunken driving to our impressionable youth.

(The following scene takes place in a parking lot outside a Spokane elementary school where a teacher has assembled her fifth-grade class.)

Teacher: All right, students. I want all of you to welcome our special guest today from the Spokane Police Department, Officer Blotto.

Class: Yaaaaayyy!!

Officer Blotto: Howdy, kids. I’ve been told to come here today to show what can happen to you if you drink and drive.

Class: Yaaaaayyy!!

Officer Blotto: Getting a drunken driving ticket was a very traumatic experience. It took over an hour before I sobered up enough to remember my home phone number. Then I had to hire this really expensive sleazebag lawyer to defend me.

Teacher: You poor dear.

Officer Blotto: But it paid off. I got this deal where I can get my citation erased as long as I follow my court-ordered program.

Class: Yaaaaayyy!!

Officer Blotto: It is rather embarrassing. I have to blow sober air into this contraption in order to start my squad car, which I will now demonstrate.

(Sliding behind the wheel, Officer Blotto begins to blow into a plastic mouthpiece.)

Squad car: (Nothing.)

Officer Blotto: Wheeeeezzzzeee …

Squad car: (Nothing.)

Teacher: What’s wrong?

Officer Blotto: (red-faced and gasping) Whew! Looks like ol’ Officer Blotto’s lost his touch.

Teacher: You think it’s the battery?

Officer Blotto: Either that or the Bloody Mary I drank while waiting out here in the parking lot.

Teacher: Oh, Officer Blotto. How could you?

Officer Blotto: Easy. You just need tomato juice, vodka and a dash of Tabasco. I’ve always considered the celery optional.

Teacher: What’ll you do now?

Officer Blotto: Only one thing to do. I’ve gotta call for some emergency roadside service.

Teacher: You mean AAA, Officer Blotto?

Officer Blotto: No, I mean the Spokane Police Guild.

Class: Yaaaaayy!!

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by e-mail at