The Road To Livermore Is Paved With Good Intentions

There came to be a day when a group of officers in my agency had to go to training and that training was held in the capital city of Sacramento, a two to three hour drive from our jurisdiction. A Captain and three sergeants, myself included, all dressed in street clothes, piled into a marked police car for the trip. Our travel up and the training itself was completely uneventful, to the point that I have no recollection as to what the training was about. Probably just as well. Anyway, it was the way back that presented a significant series of problems for us.

Of the four of us, I was perfectly happy sitting in the back seat where I could sleep for the entire trip. I shared the back with Tom, who was a smidge more senior than me, and was nicknamed “Gadget” because he carried inordinate amounts of equipment with him whether on or off-duty, various tools hiding in pockets throughout his ensemble. Roy, our least senior member of the trip, was driving and had decided to share with us a secret shortcut that he had learned that would reduce our commute time back home. He explained that Highway 84 would take us past the City of Livermore and we wouldn’t have to deal with the traffic at the 680/580 interchange.

Keep in mind that this was a long time ago, when Highway 84 was literally just a two-lane highway that stretched across acres of vineyards and dirt and it only scooted inside the city limits for a couple of miles. Now, Hwy 84 can be described minimally as a multi-lane expressway and perhaps even a freeway for several miles. Either way, as we were just about to exit the city of Livermore proper, we saw that a single car was driving toward us, about a mile away. It was driving very slowly and was swerving slightly, centered over the solid, double yellow lines, and blocking a long line (as far as the eye could see) of cars behind it that wanted to pass. As we got nearer, we could see the driver stared glassy eyed, straight ahead and took no notice of us.

Our Captain, sitting in the front passenger seat, told us that we needed to do something, as though we were going to ignore the guy while we drove past in a big, white police car with a blue stripe and our phone number on the side. As we passed the car, moving onto the shoulder a bit to avoid being hit, the driver still didn’t turn his head, staring straight ahead. Roy flipped on the red and blue light bar (again, this was a long time ago, so the car we were in had an old Jetstream light bar with actual rotating lights inside) and made a quick U-turn, putting us directly behind our road hog. The lights and siren made no impact on our driver who continued along the double yellow lines at about 10 miles per hour.

While the others tried to figure out what to do next, I took out my flip phone and called our own dispatch center, as I didn’t know the phone number to Livermore PD by heart and I figured this would be quicker than dialing 9-1-1 and waiting for all the transfers. Our dispatcher, Drew, answered and asked me if I could hold for a moment. I said, no, with urgency in my voice.

“Drew, this is Wes, we need Code 3 backup from Livermore Police Department. We are northbound on Hwy 84, just south of Vineyard. We are trying to stop an intoxicated driver and need additional units.” I then looked at my phone and realized that I had lost signal…and I didn’t know how much information Drew had gotten.

Meanwhile, back at the University, Drew had been working the dispatch console and one of our supervisors was standing with him when my call came in. This is what Drew heard, “Drew, this is Wes, we need Code 3 backup…” The two of them sat there for a moment, realizing that they weren’t going to get any more information and didn’t know how dire our situation was or if we were in mortal danger. The supervisor looked at Drew and shouted, “Well, do something!”

I told the others in the car that we were likely not going to get any help. The Captain, Martin, while being the oldest of us in the car, was also the most fit; perhaps even superfit. Neither Tom nor I were suited to that category, so this next tactic didn’t even occur to us. Martin opened his door, while we were moving, got out, ran up to the other car, reached in through the open driver’s side window and ripped the key from the ignition, shutting the car down. Like a superhero.

Now that we were stopped, Tom and I hopped out and took the driver into custody, Tom producing a pair of regular, duty handcuffs from his jacket and securing them on the driver’s wrists. I then moved the suspect’s car and our car out of the street while Roy, the tallest of us, ran down the street holding his flip phone as high as he could, looking for signal. Can you hear me now?

We had the suspect in custody, sitting quietly on the curb, very likely under the influence of PCP and nearly catatonic, both cars were safely parked out of the street, and Roy was running down the dirt shoulder toward us, because he had reached Drew, explained our situation, and asked for Livermore PD to come take care of everything. Now we wait.

I’m about to punch Livermore PD in the eye, but it isn’t like Livermore is a bad agency; it could have been any agency. Cops in general, tend toward laziness, so we should have seen this coming. The first officer on the scene was an older guy on a motorcycle and weighed in a little on the large side. He listened to Martin (remember, a police captain) carefully, then with no hint of irony, said, “So, what are you going to do with him?”

Three unarmed police officers, and Tom (who knows how many guns he had on him at any given time), all in street clothes, in a car designed to hold no more than four adults, thirty miles outside our jurisdiction, in a neighboring county. We were not equipped to book a prisoner in a county we’ve never worked in.

Martin: “We’re turning him over to you.”

Livermore Officer: “Aren’t you guys real cops?”

At this point, Martin lost his temper. “Tom, uncuff him. Wes, give him back his car keys.”

A Livermore supervisor arrived on scene and saw us starting to release the driver.

Supervisor: “What are you doing?”

Martin: “Turning him loose. Good luck stopping him. It wasn’t easy.”

The supervisor and the motorcycle officer had a talk a little distance away, and while we could not hear them, we knew what the content of the speech would consist of and how many “F” words the discussion probably contained. After a few moments, the motorcycle officer returned and switched his handcuffs onto the prisoner and loaded him into the back of the supervisor’s car.

And then we were free. We climbed back into out car and continued on our way, headed for home. Tom looked at his watch.

“Roy? That shortcut just cost us 53 minutes.” Not counting our report writing time, when we got back to the station.