I would like to thank Alex and the Daily Camera for taking the time to hear and relate this story. I’m hoping it leads to constructive dialog over things like end-of-life care, community and appropriate use of law-enforcement.
A few clarifications: I was in jail for thirty hours, not three. The arresting officers promised but failed to show me a warrant, and I never received a phone call. Both I requested continuously until I was released when my wife, who had been in the shower, figured out what had occurred, where I was, and bailed me out. A good bit of effort later I received a warrant document with my name on it, but no signature.
This is only a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty, and a person can run for sheriff even if they have been convicted of a felony. They can’t run if they have pled guilty to a felony, though.
I feel that many law-enforcement duties can and should be conducted without the presence of firearms. But I am most certainly not advocating they lack access or ability to use them when needed. In advocating for greater trust of residents I would also like to offer greater trust to deputies, by removing quotas and bureaucratic hurdles, and offering them the opportunity to explore non-violent solutions to social ills without fear of repercussions. The authority that deputies exert should come from trust, not fear.
In Elza’s last months she was exclusively with my family and my chosen resposibility. When she began losing weight and showed other signs of illness I made several visits to VCA Allpets down the street, and followed their recommendations for weight gain (which I was already doing) and antibiotic treatments. The vets were reluctant to refer me to more intensive treatments, indicating that it had little chance of helping, would be unpleasant and had a good chance of killing her. They were also reluctant to advise euthanasia, as she did not appear to be suffering and was likely to die soon. Elza hung on for many more weeks than I expected, and wife and daughter were in California when she was killed. On the morning before Elza’s death I saw a maggot on her for the first and only time. That is when I told her, my wife, and my client (I was running late) that it was the end and that evening I would end her life. When I got back it was dark out and she was missing, I went looking for her but did not find her. The next morning I was contacted and charged by animal control.
I completely understand why someone wouldn’t want to get close to a dying cat. My daughter had been somewhat put off by her dying great-grandmother. But I stand by my request that the owner be contacted directly when possible, and point out that I am facing trial, financial penalties and further time in jail. My family has dealt with loss of income and my eight-year old daughter stood alone watching me get hauled off our front steps to jail. From stories here and elsewhere it appears that appeals to the police are rarely helpful to anyone involved. In most cases there are better ways to facilitate responsible pet-ownership than killing the animal and prosecuting the family. Elza had a long and joyful life, and I am happy to have had her in my life.
Wednesday evening Boulder city police knocked on my door and arrested me in my pajamas while playing with my daughter for not killing our missing cat. I’ve spent an entertaining 30 hours in the county jail, made some colorful friends and learned three new card games.
As I was being hauled off one of the cops said, “hey, wasn’t there a minor there?”. They asked if anyone else was home and I answered truthfully that I didn’t know. One went back and my wife, just out of the shower, answered. He let her know and left. I was not allowed to communicate with anyone, don’t recall them reading rights, and never got a phone call.
I was spitting mad, and chewed them out all the way to jail. I think I saw one cry. They refused to show me the warrant they claimed to have, saying it was available at the jail. I’ve pursued it diligently and still haven’t seen it or heard the particulars. Haven’t seen the complaint it’s based on either, just the initial ticket.
Once at the jail they uncuffed me and I watched a variety of people come in, get processed and sent into the bowels. There were some broken chairs, a tv and bathrooms. Most people were there about three hours, I was there around six. Figured I wouldn’t be in jail long so I made up my mind to hear as many stories as possible, analyze how things operated and see how I might do it differently. Deputies kept asking me if I would like to pay money and get out of jail, but I pointed out I was in my pajamas and my handkerchief and wedding ring had been confiscated. A Wisconsin man ten years my senior had been arrested a few times and gave me a fairly accurate summary. He was there because his truck had slid on the ice (there’d been a foot of snow couple days before) into another car and the cops thought he might have been drunk. His truck was impounded but they released him after a few hours. Those people who did get to make phone calls struggled to remember a useful phone number. After a few hours of loudly denouncing the system I settled into Zazen, and a woman asked me if I was ready for my interview. I went with her and a deputy came along to loom over me. “First you have to swear an oath, then I’ll ask you some questions”. I asked what the oath was and they handed me a sheet of sufficiently complex legalese that I declined. When they fingerprinted me I was tickled to see that under aliases they had typed, “Sheriff, of Love”.
I got to the intake cell around 3AM wearing a red outfit with BCSO emblazoned on the back, was handed a bag of bedding and sent to share cell 4 with a small young hispanic man (Martin?) who had been processed earlier. He was coughing, slept the whole time I was there, and appeared to have been severely beaten. Our cells were buzzed open at 5AM to the holler of “breakfast!”. I went down to inspect and meet folks, but they weren’t feeling social. It was a brown tray with unidentifiable brown foods. Except the orange, which I ate. A table in the middle of the room had a stack of papers and folders with “DON’T TOUCH MY SHIT!” on it, and turned out to belong to the enormous black gangster-looking fellow in the almost-normal clothing. He worked closely with the deputies, never seemed to be in lockdown, and cleaned the public areas twice a day. I tried but failed to connect. Doughnut, the large latino gangster-looking type who had arrived with me scribbled, “I touched your shit” when he wasn’t looking. They managed to connect over evil glances and literal strutting.
I tried some broken Korean on the sad asian, who turned out to be a visiting Korean professor to the University of Colorado, there on domestic violence charges. He’d had a loud argument with his wife and the neighbors had called the police. He was very concerned for her and their four children, and rather confused in broken English. A Coloradan first-timer was there on similar charges after arguing with his girlfriend in the house they built together, and completely ashamed of the situation.
Darren the heroin junkie struggled with a dislocating artificial hip, but proudly announced he was sober since his arrest and looking forward to his new sober future. He worked the room looking for people likely to get out soon, asking them to go to his house and give his dog his meds, for which he had written four copies of instructions prior to arrest. Another suffered from liver cancer, a healing broken back, and “air bubbles in the brain”, all complicated by BCSO’s refusal to give him his meds. He was very disappointed to be spending his 21st Christmas in a row in jail, and dreamed of celebrating one as a free homeless man. Young dread-locked tweaker Richard had no illusions of his lifestyle, lived an obviously careful regimen to address the downsides, and was looking forward to getting back to his stash. He taught me Rummy and I taught him King’s Corners before some weirdness put us all in lockdown.
I thought claiming to be there for non-cat-murder would be seen skeptically, but they all laughed, and one black guy topped me with a story of knocking on a wrong door, getting no answer, leaving and being arrested a couple blocks away for trespassing. Inmates swapped stories comparing different prisons. Gilpin county was the gold-standard, California the hardest to get out of, Chicago the most dangerous. No one there knew anyone who had left a New York jail.
Around 1:30 most of us were herded down to prepare for the in-jail court room with the public defender, where we were all put in handcuffs and chains. The deputy left there to watch us joked with the thieves and gangsters, but seemed generally depressed by the situation and complained how he wanted out of jail. My companions-in-chains teased that I’d be his boss. One young man had been arrested with his wife, who was put in a glass room so they couldn’t communicate except by blowing kisses.
We went to court in two shifts, hispanics first. When I got there I was glad to see my wife had figured out where I was and was sitting in the visitor’s section. The public defender spoke for me and I was given no opportunity to interact directly with the judge. The Korean’s wife had been sitting there with a crying child for hours, as had the girlfriend of the other guy. The judge offered to release me on $500 bond that day or $50 bond the next day. Doughnut gloated over all of the errors on his complaint, e.g. described as 120lb. man. One unfortunate young Native-American woman cried as she explained how her wallet and identity had been stolen to commit the frauds she was accused of hundreds of miles away, that she had previously reported it and that her boss had already submitted testimony that she was at work making bread here in Boulder. The judge was unsympathetic, could not lower the bond, and she was to be extradited and prosecuted. Darren wanted to post his $120k bond, but there were already too many liens for bond against his house. After he dies there in jail the court will seize his house.
The only person to appear on charges of murder, Ian Scheuermann, walked in from the visitor’s center in a well-tailored suit, had his picture taken as his family paused proceedings and directed the news crew, was lectured by the judge, and walked out as his $100k bond had already been posted in cash.
Ian Scheuermann appears in court at the Boulder County Jail on Thursday. Scheuermann has been charged with second-degree murder and felony menacing in connection to a fatal stabbing in downtown Boulder. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff photographer)
After 3.5 hours in chains we went back to intake, where I played some lively rounds of spades with the gangsters before lockdown. I finally ate, as I had acted on advice from the thieves and filed paperwork claiming to be a gluten-free Jew (it still cramped me up). Around midnight my name called out, saying I was to be released. My wife had gotten impatient and posted bail.
My Name is Toby Fernsler, and my message is Love.
P.S. My next court appearance at 6th and Canyon is scheduled for Friday, January 15th 2016 at 8:30AM in courtroom E. For my own safety and success I would very much appreciate friends and witnesses to be in attendance. Please share this post.
On the Morning of September 11, 2001 I was teaching a college algebra course while several of my students huddled around pocket-radios talking about a missing plane. There was little wifi and no smart phones then. By the time my second class showed up they were too upset to pay attention, so I reluctantly dismissed them. Seemed silly to be so upset over a missing plane over the East Coast.
The response of the world to these shocking attacks was an overwhelming sense of love and sympathy. At that point every nation, every person in the world voiced their strongest condolences, even countries like Cuba. Russia sent a massive monument with a teardrop and the names of all the victims. The United States was the most beloved nation on Earth.
The response of the U.S. government was overwhelming and endless war and tyranny, around the world and at home. Of course now it is common knowledge that Afghan goat-herders had nothing to do with those attacks, that two planes can’t knock down three buildings, that this was all a pretext for tyranny. The continuing violence of the US federal government based around such an obvious lie lays bare the corruption that runs through it deeper than one can imagine, and the continuing participation by mainstream media makes everything they say potential propoganda. Big government and big media have exposed themselves as corrupt, violent, and illegitimate.
So what to do? My approach has been to act locally and always out of love. The first, most natural response of the world was love. I believe this is almost universal, and is more common when expected (see: The Golden Rule). Vote locally, get to know your neighbors, take care of the people closest to you, know your food and your farmers. If everyone did this, the world would become Paradise.
News from this year’s political activities 🙂
Samuel Forgy’s death was tragic and unnecessary. Standard police training for years has been to view drugged people as “bad guys”, escalate all conflicts, and shoot to kill. While there are unlikely to be any legal repercussions for the officers involved, there may be significant personal ones.
Several lawsuits have recently been filed challenging the legalization of marijuana in Colorado. Here’s my response to this article:
The long-serving and only libertarian sheriff in the US Bill Masters is a hard act to follow, and as usual he is inspiring and concise in that interview. I also sympathize with the sheriffs who are frustrated with the conflicted legal environment they operate in. The standard policeman’s “Blue Book” listing a subset of the criminal laws they are expected to enforce is hundreds of pages long. There are so many laws now that nearly any activity can be prosecuted. That is why I go by “Sheriff of Love”, because there are too many conflicting laws to enforce. Simpler guiding principles are needed. Mine is love: I want you to be well, I want the environment to be well, and I want it for myself too. This is why I oppose prosecuting victimless crimes: no one is injured so no one should be injured (punished by the state). Like these sheriffs I would also challenge the laws I find immoral or illogical, but I would do it by refusing to enforce them, and make their authors sue me. There are too many bad laws to challenge on an individual basis.
Sheriff of Love
The City of Boulder has a law requiring everyone to shovel the snow on the sidewalk in front of their house, enforced by the city police with an escalating series of fines. It recently came up in the news, here is my response:
I do not believe this is an appropriate use of police or state violence. Such laws and enforcement activities underlie the problems revealed in the Ferguson protests. This can easily be assertained by a brief visit to the Boulder County jail, which is just as overcrowded with minorities and mentally ill as any jail in the nation. At the very least snow enforcement officers should be armed with snow shovels, not guns.
There are many alternatives to punishment which will be more effective at clearing sidewalks:
Love, not Punishment http://sheriffoflove.com/
With the November 4th, 2014 election approaching, my low-key campaign for Boulder County Sheriff continues. As a write-in candidate registered as Toby Fernsler, my name does not appear on the ballot and has been omitted from local news candidate lists. The Boulder Weekly went so far as to say incumbant Joe Pelle is the only candidate running, but did run my letter the next week pointing out that to be a write-in candidate requires registering a year in advance, filing regular timely paperwork, and submitting fingerprints for an FBI background check.
When the final vote is tallied one thing that may not be reflected is the quality of the votes. I have been gladdened by those people who not only went out of their way to discover my name, but then took the time to call me and let me know they wrote it in. As a mathematician practicing non-violence, I am offering a sharp contrast to traditional law-enforcement. It is somewhat experimental, one that we would all participate in. As sheriff I expect I would quickly discover the limits of treating all with dignity and compassion, and yet I will still choose to try. This is true for county residents as well, which is why I say voting for me is voting for yourself too, claiming the confidence to renounce government violence and extend trust to your neighbors. Extending trust and respect has served me well on a personal level, but not always. I do not know what would occur if it were applied as government and social policy. My many thanks to those who, like me, wish to find out.
My name is Toby Fernsler, and my message is Love.