The Mourning After

A lot of police officers are apprehensive of DUI arrests because they tend to involve a lot of paperwork for a fairly minor violation, and as I have said before, cops tend toward laziness. DUI arrests require a regular police report, a vehicle report for towing the car, a DMV form for suspending the driver’s license, the occasional accident report (three forms), a booking sheet, an arrest affidavit, and sometimes, a property form. And then there are the crime lab forms. God forbid the person refuses to give a breath or blood sample (urine samples are no longer an option) and you then have to write up a search warrant to take blood. DUI arrests can be a lot of work for a low-level violation, but DUIs cause massive carnage in our country every year. So far this year, we are at one DUI related death every 52 minutes in the United States, or about 10,000 per year (one third of all traffic fatalities). When I first became a police officer in 1990, DUI related fatalities exceeded 15,000 per year and reached almost half of all traffic fatalities. I have never had an ethical problem with making a lot of DUI arrests, plus, they tend to be fun.

When I make an arrest for a DUI and there are passengers in the car, I try to obtain identification for the passengers, as well. They are witnesses, after all. And it seemed to me that almost every middle-aged, upper middle- class male that I arrested for DUI had a female passenger. However, there is a box on the booking paperwork that asks for an emergency contact for the arrestee, just in case they become sick or injured while in custody. I would ask these men who to put in this box and invariably they would say, “My wife.”

“Is that the woman that was in the car with you?”

Wide-eyed shock in response. “Uh…no.”

“Okay. You realize that if you go to court on this, we are going to call her as a witness, right?”

Same deer in headlights expression. I never went to court on any of these cases.

Several times, everyone in the car was drunk, but intoxicated passengers would ask if they could drive the car so that it wouldn’t get towed. I would give them the breathalyzer which would show that they could not legally drive, and then I would tell them, “No.”

But sometimes, when trying to give people a break, we would allow them to call a sober person to come pick up them and the car. The sober person would arrive, we would hand them the keys to the car and then drive away. But we aren’t stupid, we would have an officer waiting around the corner, and when the car went by with one of the drunken passengers behind the wheel, we have now made two DUI arrests from the same car. And this time we towed it away.

There were times during night shift where I would just park at the edge of campus and keep an eye on the riff-raff visiting the nearby Jack in the Box restaurant which was open 24 hours. On one occasion, while I was parked there, I saw all the cars stop for a red light and then go on the green. Except for one car. It just sat there in the lane. The driver opened her door and fell out onto the asphalt, picked herself up and staggered around the car. I watched the passenger slide into the driver’s seat and promptly pass out while the original driver struggled to open the passenger side door which may have been locked.

I had seen enough. I pulled onto the roadway and blocked the car with my car, just in case the new driver woke up and I called for backup. The first driver had crumpled to the ground beside the passenger door, so I placed her in handcuffs and walked her to the curb, then went back and hooked up the new driver and walked her up to the curb.

Now, for me, this is the funny part of the story. I was working this shift to cover another supervisor who was on vacation. When the two officers from the shift arrived, I asked one of them to tow the car and the other one to take the two prisoners and put them in the holding cells at the police station. These two officers then began peppering me with questions as to my observations, my probable cause, the charges that I placed them under arrest for. I was confused. Did they not think that I knew how to make a DUI arrest? Were they questioning my abilities, thinking perhaps I had lost my mind? I told them, “Hey, just tow the car and take the two prisoners to the station.”

They stared at me for several seconds, then the more senior officer began telling the younger officer, “So, you’re going to write in your report that the sergeant made the car stop…”

I laughed. Loud. It was funny. I realized that they were so used to their regular supervisor making arrests and then giving them the report that they thought I was having them do all the work. “No, no, no,” I said. “I’m writing the report. Everything. Just tow the car and park the two of them in the holding cells.”

They both looked very relieved and took care of my requests. And just to be clear, I only made one DUI arrest, the second “driver” I arrested for drunk in public, since she didn’t actually do any driving.

Now, there were always the DUI drivers who were driving down the Light Rail Train tracks instead of the roadway, or the multiple people I arrested while I was on bicycle patrol, but the women who offered sexual favors in exchange for being released were a fairly regular occurrence. One woman, who had been driving like a pinball careening off the concrete support columns of a university parking garage, looked around at the officer that had stopped her, me (the backup officer), the four police cadets and two parking officers and offered to give the primary officer a blowjob if he could just let her go. He shook his head and then looked at me and said, “It couldn’t possibly occur to her that this might work unless it’s worked before.”

I had one shift where I had a civilian ride-along in the car with me, when I pulled over a car for driving 80 MPH in a 35 MPH zone. When the car stopped, we both watched the driver and passenger switch places. This was another occasion where I had the passenger arrested for drunk in public, because he could barely give us his name. But the driver, a young woman with a thick, Irish accent, ended up in the back of my car, arrested for DUI. On the way to jail, she asked, “Can’t I just give you a blowjob and you let me go?”

I laughed. “Why would you even ask that when I have a civilian ride-along in the car?”

“That’s okay, I’ll blow him, too.”

My ride-along looked at me with a questioning look. I shook my head. No one is getting a blowjob.

Finally, there was the young woman, who while in the back of the car, kept asking very personal questions about me. I kept my answers very vague. When we arrived down at the jail, the correctional officer began speaking to my prisoner and asked her, “So, how’s your night going?” (That must be a joke for the COs).

She sighed. “I finally meet a really nice guy, and he takes me to jail.”

Now, even if I found her attractive, what kind of foundation would that establish for a relationship? Eeeek.

Every year, the county where I worked engaged in a type of DUI reduction program called “Avoid the 13.” This was for the original thirteen police agencies involved in the program, but by the time I had become a police officer, the program had actually grown to seventeen agencies, including my university police department. I took part as often as I could and received awards for making more than five DUI arrests during the 22-day program.

On one particular DUI patrol shift, where my whole assignment was to make DUI arrests, I made my first arrest at just about 9:30 PM, after stopping a car for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. During my investigation, I determined that the suspect had just come from a Christmas party at a local restaurant, which happened to be situated between the university and the freeway. When I was done booking this prisoner into jail, I returned to campus just after 11:30 PM. As I was driving back to the police station, I stopped another car driving the wrong way on a one-way street. This turned out to be my second DUI arrest of the night, and it happened to come from the same Christmas party. I finished booking that prisoner and drove back toward the police station at about 1:30 AM the next morning, when, as you might have guessed, I stopped a car for driving the wrong way on a one-way street. This was my third and final DUI arrest of the shift, and it also came from the same Christmas party.

I don’t know if they were all using Apple Maps or if the restaurant gave bad directions to the freeway, or if the Beat Gods had simply felt that I was worthy of this honor. Either way, it worked out for everybody. I got to set a record and all those people got home alive, just later than they had expected.

Happy Holidays, everyone. Stay Safe.