Why Ignorance Is Bliss
On a recent Southwest Airlines flight, The Flash dug deeply into the seatback pocket and struck gold: a copy of the airline's Chief Pilot's Newsletter, which provided riveting, if not reassuring, reading.
"Before we get carried away in our euphoria," an unnamed pilot writes, "consider that we have had several incidents over the past year that could have turned out disastrously, had our crews been less than alert. Are we perhaps using up all our good luck?"
Is this Southwest? Or South by Southwest?
"Perhaps we have some people in a real hurry," the 26-page newsletter states. "In fact, too big a hurry. . . . Could two crewmembers take off without clearance and never even check the final approach? Do some of our Captains always insist on squeezing around other aircraft rather than waiting a minute or two when it would be much safer and more comfortable? Do some of our Captains always seem to want to do intersection takeoffs, even when they are heavy, where there is no operational reason to do so? Do some of our Captains always fly fast and press the field even though they'll be early? Do we have some Captains who don't follow procedures, and First Officers who let them get away with it? Speed is life. But also sometimes, speed kills."
The newsletter gives advice on how to smooth the ride. ("Now if you want to wake those passengers up and make a few hearts skip a beat, extend the landing gear at 250 KIAS.")
Does anyone have a Valium?
What's a pilot to do about damaged aircraft? Write it down and get it fixed, of course! But make certain you're not covering ground another pilot has already flown over. ". . . there will be a new and improved procedure forthcoming in the next few weeks," the newsletter advises, "to help crews in identifying which dents have previously been inspected. Stay tuned!"
Does anyone have some ether?
A headline jumps out: "Pilots Should Cry Over Spilled Milk." To wit: "Most of the time when liquids are spilled on avionics equipment, a unit will fail with no consequence. But when conditions are right and a necessary unit[s] fails at the wrong time, the situation could become critical," the newsletter states.
Spilled drinks in the cockpit are a big problem, costing United Airlines an estimated $500,000 a year in maintenance costs, the newsletter reports. "Fifty percent of all units are contaminated with sticky sugar from liquids. Many knobs are so contaminated, they won't even turn," it says.
Which way to the parachutes?
Wait, there's more, including technical descriptions of how to keep the tail from striking the ground on takeoffs and landings, and a lecture on taxi procedures at busy airports. The author tells how he recently pulled his plane in front of a small aircraft that was taking off. "I will not make this mistake again," the writer says.
In the understatement of the year, Rod Jones, the airline's assistant chief pilot, explains that the newsletter "is not intended to be left in seatback pockets."
Piece on Earth
This week's lesson in civility and tolerance revolves around Scottsdale Police detective Jeffrey Lorzel, who has been reprimanded by the department for calling an old nemesis "a piece of shit" after encountering the man at his workplace.
"I want the public to know that cops still do this stuff," says Lee Beitman, a bodybuilder, former personal trainer, private investigator and Dirty Dozen wanna-be.
The incident occurred November 1 at the Phoenix Home Depot where Beitman works. According to a Scottsdale Police Department internal investigative report, Lorzel, who was off duty, ran into Beitman, taunted him and made the fecal remark. Lorzel did not return calls seeking comment; he is appealing his punishment.
Lorzel and Beitman go way back, to 1994, the day Beitman got his patch as a member of the Dirty Dozen motorcycle gang. Beitman, who in his private investigative mode had on occasion assisted Scottsdale PD, says Lorzel and Phoenix Police detective Jack Ballantine came to his house that day and warned him that if he didn't act as an informant, the motorcycle gang would be told he was one. Within two weeks, Beitman was booted from the club.
Ballantine denies that Beitman was threatened. "We went to his home to interview him when we found out he was a prospective member of the Dirty Dozen. It was just a matter of finding out who he was," Ballantine says, adding that the cops were concerned about a licensed private eye becoming a member of the notorious gang.
Beitman retaliated by using his PI techniques to find out Lorzel's home address. He then paid Lorzel a visit. "I told him that I was going to sue him and the city for interfering in my personal life," Beitman says. "He stated that he was in fear for his family because I had knowledge of where he lived."
When another Scottsdale cop gave Beitman a ticket for speeding and a seat-belt violation, Beitman found that cop's home address and pulled a little trick, filling out a form that forwarded the policeman's mail to a pizza joint.
Beitman was arrested and charged with threatening and intimidating an officer. After his residence was searched, he also was charged with possession of illegal steroids. Both those charges were dropped when Beitman copped a plea to possession of a forgery device--the pen he used to forward the officer's mail. He was sentenced to probation and surrendered his PI license.
Since Lorzel bumped into him at Home Depot, Beitman has obtained a restraining order against the detective. He's also trying to get his PI license back.
The Shirt Hits the Fan
Among the legion of attorneys suing Sheriff Joke Arpaio for conditions and practices in Maricopa County jails is Nick Hentoff, who was among the first to object to The Crime Avenger's shortsighted approach to incarceration.
In Hentoff's latest case, which involves an inmate who was stabbed by a fellow prisoner while awaiting trial, the attorney's attempt to depose the Jokester was met with a remarkable response.
Arpaio's attorneys requested that the sheriff be protected from the bulldog lawyer and his offensive style--of attire.
It seems America's Toughest Sheriff is still suffering the ill effects of an earlier interrogation at the hands of Hentoff, who deposed Arpaio in June in a separate case. (The Flash would not make up anything this ridiculous.)
In a motion to spare the sheriff from the trauma of another Hentoff grilling, attorney Daniel Struck wrote, "In a recent deposition . . . [Hentoff] teased, insulted and generally harassed Sheriff Arpaio. . . . In addition, [Hentoff] showed up for Sheriff Arpaio's deposition in soiled shorts and a Flintstones tee shirt in a deliberate attempt to insult and show disrespect."
Hentoff did indeed wear a "Dino the Dinosaur" tee shirt to the deposition, but he denies that his shorts were soiled.
Hentoff provided transcripts of the deposition, during which Arpaio provided a maddeningly inane series of answers to Hentoff's rather simple questions about his jail policies. To almost every inquiry, Arpaio answered either, "I don't know," or, "Ask my staff."
Other responses were similarly illuminating.
Hentoff: "If I were to characterize [the girlie-magazine ban] as one of your flagship policies, would you disagree with me?"
Arpaio: "I don't know. I don't know what 'flagship' means. I am not a sailor, so you've got me confused."
Arpaio's attorneys told U.S. District Court Judge Morton Sitver that such probing questions--and the Dino the Dinosaur tee shirt--belittled their client, and asked that he be protected from such rough treatment in the future.
Hentoff's response to the court: "It is hard to believe that 'America's Toughest Sheriff' is so traumatized following aggressive questioning by an attorney wearing a 'Dino the Dinosaur' tee shirt that a protective order is necessary." Hentoff's motion contained Polaroids of the savage shirt and shorts. The photo from the motion is reproduced here.
On November 14, Sitver denied Arpaio's request not to be deposed.
Bearing Down on Bearup
Tireless effort has turned up more startling revelations about the impostor in Sheriff Joke Arpaio's office.
No, not David Pecard, who is safely exiled in the sheriff's gulag. The Flash refers to the other one who still has free rein of Arpaio's offices, computers and confidential files.
It turns out that Tom Bearup, The Crime Avenger's "executive officer" and chief political hack, merely exaggerated his background on December 7 when he told radio listeners that he was a 1981 graduate of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Academy. He was, in fact, a 1971 graduate of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Reserve Academy. (Hey, he was only a decade and one little word--"Reserve"--off.)
And The Flash has learned that Bearup shares yet another characteristic with master doppelganger Pecard: For a year in 1964-65, Bearup himself was AWOL from the Army, a fact he disclosed in his application to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Joke himself has professed an eagerness to find the truth about Pecard with a conviction not seen since O.J. went in search of the real killers.
Expect the sheriff to keep up a noisy harangue about Pecard's many aliases and wives while keeping quiet about the crucial period, November 23 to 26, when Pecard's wrongdoings first came to Arpaio's attention.
Bearup tells New Times that after receiving complaints about Pecard from female inmates on November 23, he started a thorough investigation of the impostor. That investigation would be so thorough, he told the women who had been assaulted, that they wouldn't need to contact attorneys. That, according to Patty Shelton, attorney for one of the women.
But even though it was clear early on Pecard could be facing numerous charges, including sexual assault, Bearup held Pecard in his office on November 25 just long enough for military police to come take him away.
Why not put the master criminal in the jail across the street? Bearup says he wanted to make certain Pecard would be held in some type of custody while he continued his investigation.
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There was one problem: Fort Huachuca doesn't have a custody facility. So when soldiers took Pecard to the base, they simply told him to go to his quarters. The next day, Pecard went AWOL.
Bearup says he communicated the serious nature of Pecard's alleged crimes to the military police who came to take him away. But Barry Napp, a Fort Huachuca spokesman, says the Army's knowledge of Pecard's alleged misdeeds was relatively vague. He says MPs took Pecard from Bearup's office knowing that he was accused of an "alleged indecent assault."
"There was no other wrongdoing alleged," Napp says.
Meanwhile, County Attorney Rick Romley learned of this comedy of errors only after Joel Robbins, an attorney for one of the female inmates, wrote him a letter on November 27.
Since Pecard's rearrest on December 5, the Sheriff's Office has tried to take claim for unmasking Pecard while playing down its role in early days--a time during which Arpaio and his major-domo, Bearup, seemed more interested in making Pecard quietly disappear than arresting him or nailing him for any crimes.