Going for a repeat

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Spontaneous statements are the hidden jewel of police work. They’re those little things people say in the heat of the moment that you can’t make up. They’re also the stuff that make for story time.

These little statements are quick and are gone in a heartbeat if you’re not paying attention. They’re like the setting sun at the beach. One minute it’s there and the next minute it’s not.

Not too long ago, I was handing a DUI crash when I stopped to watch the field sobriety tests. The suspect stood there and listened while the officer gave the instructions.

That’s when the suspect said, “I know how to do them. I’ve done this before.”

Did he really just say that? Of course, he did. This is police work and people just say the funniest shit.

I just stood there and shook my head as I silently laughed as repeat did his tests. What a mess. Hopefully he doesn’t go for a three-peat.

What was he thinking?

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The other night I was trying to get off early when I was sent to a non-injury crash an hour before I was supposed to get off. The call information was that the drivers were arguing and one of them was refusing to exchange information.

When I arrived, I contacted a male, who told me his vehicle was parked in the alley when it was hit by another car. Simple enough, right?

Of course, that plan fell apart because any time you want to get off early something always happens.

I contacted one of the driver’s and could tell he had been drinking. He was also unlicensed. I got his statement and another officer conducted the DUI investigation. In the end, the driver was arrested for DUI and taken to jail.

Here’s the best part of the story. It turned out the DUI guy was the one who didn’t want to exchange information with the victim driver. That was the only reason why the police were called.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

We’re toxic together

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The other night I responded to a restraining order violation call involving a man and a woman, who have a child together. When I got there I saw them speaking to officers. The man, who was Caucasian and his 30s, was sitting on the bumper of a patrol car. His shirt was dirty and his hair was unkempt.

I stood there in awe as I listened to him ramble about all kinds of things. It was both funny and sad to know he was reproducing. I didn’t want to stand too close to him in case some of his dumbness tried to rub off onto me.

One of the first things he said was, “My record is a mile long.”

I had not doubt about that as I listened to him.

The subject of domestic violence came up and he had plenty to talk about since he’d been arrested before. He was talking to a cop when he said, “OJ fucked it up for everyone.”

I couldn’t help but laugh when I heard that. I wasn’t laughing at what happened with OJ Simpson. I was laughing because this guy said it in the middle of a domestic violence restraining order investigation.

The subject turned to his relationship with his ex and what she used to do for a living when he said, “She was a prostitute. It runs in her family.”

Who says that to a bunch of strangers? Just hilarious.

I then made small talk with the victim. “How long were you together?” I asked.

“For 17 years. We’re toxic together.”

She went on to tell me all kinds of stories about their drug use, their prison time and an 18 year daughter she gave up along time ago.

After he was arrested, the woman said she was going to call a friend for a ride. She walked to a fast food restaurant to wait. As she walked away, I wondered how much damage had been caused to their child by the “toxic” relationship they share.

Unfortunately, the poor kid doesn’t have a chance.

 

Two different types of drunks

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The other night we were in the 7-Eleven parking lot on a DUI crash. When I first got there, I saw a male standing in front and didn’t pay much attention to him. Where I work, it’s not uncommon to see people hanging around 7-Eleven with nothing to do. I figured he was just one of those guys.

I did my interviews and the DUI driver was arrested. He was a happy drunk and was very cooperative. He was a carefree guy and was handcuffed with no problems. After he was arrested the driver smiled and said, “Come on. Let me go.” The patrol officer then took him to the car and had him sit in the backseat.

That’s when the guy from in front of 7-Eleven started walking toward us with his hands out like a drunk zombie as he said, “Arrest me instead.”

What a guy, right? It was out of the ordinary for a stranger to act like this on a collision call, but then again, nothing is too weird at work.

We told the guy to step back and go away, but he wouldn’t listen. He kept coming closer and closer. He eventually got arrested and became a bigger idiot after he was handcuffed. The officers took him to the car so he could get a ride with the DUI driver.

Well, he didn’t want to get into the car. The officers took the DUI out and asked me to standby with him. During this time, the other drunk was yelling, screaming and telling everyone what he really thought of cops in his best Rated R language.

That’s when the DUI guy said, “Look at this guy. He’s full of shit. I’m not like that. Let me go.”

I told him, “We appreciate it, but we just can’t let you go. We have to do our jobs.”

“Come on. Let me go.”

“You were DUI and you crashed into that woman. Plus, you don’t even have a license.”

“I know, but look at him. I’m not like that.”

It was funny to listen to nice suspect while the other guy was being such an ass. It almost made me want to give the guy a freebie. Not really. I was kidding. It was amazing to see how a regular call could go downhill in a matter of seconds because of a drunk knucklehead who wasn’t even involved.

That’s police work for you though.

The funny things people say

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Tonight, the same call provided me with two different opportunities to laugh and shake my head. The first one involved a man who was driving with his family when he collided with a DUI in a minor crash.

His girlfriend was in the right front passenger and their two children were in the backseat. They were 5 and 2 years old. His girlfriend had an appointment she was late for. Someone drove up and dropped off grandpa and gave her a ride.

That left dad, grandpa and the two kids. I asked dad what his 2 year old son’s name was. He answered it pretty fast like he should since it was his own flesh and blood. He then ran into some trouble.

“What’s his birthday?” I asked.

“Ah…..”

“You don’t know his birthday?”

He started to squirm as he looked around for help. He looked at me like I was going to save him from the embarrassment rocket that was plummeting back to earth to land on him. He then said the dumbest thing I heard all night. “Ah. June. I don’t know. My wife knows.”

It was like the loser music from the Price is Right started up in the background when he said that.

“You might want to work on that one.” I said.

I looked at grandpa and thought I’d give it and shot. “Do you know his birthday?”

“Ah,” he said as he shifted back and forth. “My wife knows it.”

I looked to the 5 year old brother to save the day. I thought how cool it would be if the kid could throw a strike down the middle and deliver the ultimate game winning performance to show up dad.

“Do you know your brother’s birthday?” I asked.

The child started talking about something else as he dashed my hopes to poke at dad for not knowing his youngest son’s birthday.

“What’s your other son’s name and birthday?”

He told me the child’s name and then said, “October. Ah.”

It was on the tip of his tongue and it was painful to watch since there were only 8 days left in the month. Then by some miracle he blurted out his son’s birthday like he beat the buzzer on a timed test. At least he got that one.

I walked away wondering if he was going to remember Christmas. My only regret was not asking for his girlfriend’s birthday. I’m sure he would’ve crashed and burned on that one too.

I then watched the end of the DUI investigation. The driver attempted to raise a foot in the air for the test, but he kept putting it down like a horse trying to do Morse code with his front hoof. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap.

He rose the other foot and it came down like the other, but more often and faster as he lost his balance. He was either doing Morse code again or he was bull getting ready to charge at a matador.

At one point the driver just turned around in defeat and put his hands behind his back as he said to arrest him. The officer told him to turn around. The driver did and attempted Morse code again.

There was another test, but the driver turned around and put his hands behind his back as he tried to get me to handcuff him. I gave him a coach pep talk and said, “Go back over there.”

When the investigation was over, the officer told him to put his hands behind his back. He turned around and did as he told. That’s when a big smile appeared on the driver’s face as he said, “See, I told you.” The tone in his voice was hilarious like he knew he was more drunk that we thought.

A patrol unit arrived to transport the DUI to jail. One of the officers in the car only had a year on the job and was young looking.

The DUI looked at him and said, “The fucking new guy is taking me?”

You just can’t make this stuff up.

When two DUI drivers crash into each other

A photo I took at one of our DUI check points.

A photo I took at one of our DUI check points.

A common theme of the blog is, “You just can’t make this stuff up.” The other night we had such a call. In fact, the cops on the call were still talking about it tonight.

The story starts out with two friends. We’ll call them Tom and Frank to make it easier. Tom went to visit Frank at his house. Tom and Frank decided to get drunk at the house, which was fine. But rather than stay at Frank’s house where they were safe, they decided to leave and drive in separate cars. You can probably see where this is going already.

Of course, it didn’t matter that they didn’t have driver’s licenses even though they have lived in California for over 10 years.

As they left the house, Frank was in front of Tom. Frank approached a stop sign at a major cross street and stopped. Unfortunately for Tom, he was drunk and his driving ability was about as good as a snake trying to play a piano.

Disaster was moments away for Tom as he was about to achieve Badge415 blog status. He rear ended Frank and rolled over onto his roof, sending glass all over the street. But wait, there’s more……

After the collision, Frank made a U-turn and stopped at Tom’s car. Tom crawled out and jumped into Frank’s car so they could get out of there before the cops showed up.

Frank drove 100 yards down the street to his house and pulled into the driveway. He made a clean get away except for one thing. Frank somehow felt the need to achieve Badge415 blog status also. As he pulled into his driveway he sideswiped his roommate’s truck. Frank was now at fault for the second collision after being the “victim” of the first. Tom was the suspect of the first collision and a passenger in the second.

DUI investigations were conducted on both drivers and they were arrested for driving while under the influence. They went from one house to the Big House all because they chose poorly.

You couldn’t make this story up even if you tried. It was a lot of extra work, but it was worth it. It wouldn’t be a “normal” police shift without some type of craziness to shake things up.

Why is there still a problem with drunk driving?

A photo I took at one of our DUI check points.

A photo I took at one of our DUI check points.

Why is there still a DUI problem?

Last Friday and Saturday night I handled eleven collisions. Six of those were DUI crashes. I even went to a head-on collision involving a DUI driver vs. DUI driver! What are the odds of two DUI drivers finding each other and crashing in the middle of the night? That doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, everyone shakes their head.

On my last call on Saturday night, we were dealing with a driver who rear ended another car. Of course, he had been drinking too. While we were on that call, one of our officers was flagged down by a passing motorist about a person who was passed out behind the wheel. The vehicle was about one hundred yards behind us at the next intersection. That driver was also DUI. At least he didn’t crash into our police cars.

At the end of my shift on Saturday, I wondered what was going on. How come the message about drinking and driving was still falling on deaf ears? With all of the information and awareness out there about drunk driving, it’s hard to believe we still have such a problem.

I also wondered if people really knew how big of a DUI problem we still have. At least I think there’s still a problem based on what I see at work every night.

Here’s something to think about. I have a running log of every accident report I’ve ever taken since I started working as a collision investigator in January of 1999. On average, 1 out of every 3 crashes I take is a DUI collision. Sometimes it’s 1 out of every 4. No matter what, it’s been the same numbers year after year.

I’m at 5,800 collisions in my career. Do the math. That’s pretty scary If you think about it.

If you’re one of those people who drink and drive, you should think about this.

No DUI driver ever expected to get arrested. No one thinks they’re going to crash and end up in jail. No DUI driver ever thought they would kill someone, but it happens every day. No one thinks it’s going to happen to them.

Let me say that again……

No one thinks it’s going to happen to them.

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Well, I have news for you. It happens more often than you think.

So, if you’re one of those guys who go out drinking, give us all a break and take a cab or use a designated driver. It’s easier for everyone, including the collision investigator.

And make sure your designated driver hasn’t been drinking too. I’ve taken a few crashes where the designated driver was DUI when they crashed. It always makes for a good story when that happens.

Remember, the designated driver is supposed to be the guy who didn’t drink at all. It’s not supposed to be the guy who was less drunk than his friends.

Be smart people. Your life and our lives depend on it.

The drunk driver and his family

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The other night I saw something that bothered me for some reason. It wasn’t a dead body, a horrific accident, or amputated body parts. It was a family watching their father get arrested for DUI.

On Saturday night, I was at a hit and run collision when this woman, in her early twenties, drove up and told me the suspect vehicle belonged to her father. The young woman, who I’ll Kate, told me someone called her mother to let her know her husband was involved in a collision and where the vehicle was.

While we were talking, her mother’s cell phone rang. It was the person who had originally called about her father. She handed me the phone and said, “You talk to him.”

A man told me he was with the driver from the collision at a nearby shopping center. I hung up and told Kate where her dad was. She asked, “Can I go with you?” I told her she would have to drive her car instead.

She knew which shopping center I was talking about and she pulled into the parking lot just ahead of me. Her brother, who was about 13 or 14 years old, jumped out of the vehicle and ran to his father. The boy was about my son’s height and age, with a similar build.

The son was crying hysterically as he wrapped both arms around his father. He held on to him like he didn’t want to let go because the police were going to take his father away. The boy’s display of emotions hit me like the sound of a door slamming in a quiet library. A pain shot through my heart as I thought of my son, knowing how much he loved me, just like this boy loved his father too. There wasn’t we could do here. The man had collided into a tree and a parked car. We had a job to do.

I then looked over to a little girl, who was about 7 years old. She was standing a few feet behind her brother and she was crying too. Kate was next to her with a different look on her face. It was a look of sadness, pain and disappointment, all mixed together. She seemed mad, but not at us. She was mad at her father. That’s when she said, “He’s done this before.”

“He’s been in a DUI crash before?”

“Yes, you can look it up. You’ll see.”

Kate wanted to know what was going to happen and stayed in the parking lot with her mom and siblings.

When I spoke to the driver, I was amazed how drunk he was. His was a mess. This wasn’t a guy who had one too many. This was a guy who had twenty too many. Thank goodness there was only one collision.

After I interviewed him, I spoke to some officers, who were at the scene of the crash. It turned out the driver had crashed in front of his sister’s apartment. Officers spoke to his sister and she told them her brother was always drunk.

Later that night I ran his driving record and found the DUI conviction Kate was talking about. It was a felony DUI conviction from almost ten years ago. That would’ve put Kate between 10 or 12 years old at the time. Now I knew what that look was on her face.

It was a look of sadness, pain and disappointment that was a combination of what happened tonight and what she went through as a child. It was also a look of a person, who was used to seeing her father this way. It was tragic.

I cleared the call and moved on, but I couldn’t shake the image of the son hanging onto his father while he cried.

The next day started my days off. I told my family about the call and how it affected me. I also told them other stories from the night before. We laughed at some of the crazy things people do.

Life was back to normal for me with my family. What most people take for granted, I see as a blessing because of what I experience at work.

On Monday I barbecued and we had dinner as a family. As I sat there, I thought back to that kid hugging his father. What a different world my kids live in compared to that kid. Later that night, my son and I stayed up late watching Netflix. Life was good.

There’s one thing about police work. This job always has a way of reminding you how good you have it. It’s important never to forget that.