It was shortly after midnight in the fall in Michigan. My partner, Paul and I were on patrol in our city: a ghetto suburb of Detroit. We have all the fun of the Big City – just on a smaller scale. Any shift with fewer than six ‘Man-with-a-gun’ calls is considered slow. Drunk driver arrests can be downright miserable, so finding a way to have some fun with them becomes a challenge.
Paul and I were rolling down one of the main drags when we spotted another unit on a traffic stop. It was a one-man car, behind the subject vehicle. They were stopped on the shoulder of the road, headed the opposite direction from us. Paul swung the car around to provide backup. (He always drives; the wimp doesn’t like my turns on two wheels.)
We pulled up behind the other unit. He had a late model Jeep stopped; occupied one time. Paul and I approached. The other officer – Ron – had just finished the initial interview and had the driver’s creds in his paw.
“Do you guys have a computer? Mine is down,” he said. I was happy to oblige, took the documents are returned to our car to run the driver. Came back valid with no priors. Good stuff. Looking at the subject’s address, I saw that his home was nearby.
I returned to Paul and Ron to advise of my findings. Ron then said, “I think he’s drunk,” followed quickly by, “I don’t want any overtime and I’m due off in an hour.” I used my superior policing skills. Based on Ron’s statements (in police work, we call those CLUES), I concluded that he wanted us to take over on the stop.
AND SO, IT BEGAN …
I approached on the driver’s side. The driver was a BM in his mid-fifties. He was pleasant as he explained he has just gotten off work and was nearly home. The usual question, “How much have you had to drink tonight?” I got the standard response, “Just a couple of beers.”
Uh-huh. (Note of information: to some guys, ‘just a couple’ really means six to eight)
I asked my new friend to step out of the vehicle so we could do some field sobriety tests together. (It goes down easer if I make it sound like a game that we are both playing.)
My new friend flunked them all. Shocking. I invited him to have a seat back in his car.
THE PARADE OF EXCUSES
“We’ve been on seven days at work for the last three months, twelve hour days,” he offered, looking for some sympathy.
“After I got off work, I stopped with my buddies for a couple of beers. I just live a mile from here and my wife is home waiting for me. She’s probably worried, by now,” as he finished his sob story.
Nicely done, I thought. His speech was not slurred, but I could smell the beer. And, after all, he flunked the sobriety tests. What to do; what to do.
I explained to my new pal that I could arrest him for Operating a motor vehicle under the influence of an intoxicant. He would spend the night in jail. His car would be towed and impounded in the city yard.
My new friend was no longer smiling.
“Do you have a cell phone?” I asked. He quickly said that he indeed had a phone and showed it to me. Wonderful!
I then explained, “Although I could arrest you, I’m not going to do that.” The look in his eyes was like a kid getting his favorite toy on Christmas morning. I thought for a moment he would start giggling. His glee would prove to be short-lived.
I instructed my new friend to use the phone to call his wife (it’s now about 1:30AM). We would send a car to their home to pick her up. She would be brought here so she could drive her husband home.
The look on his face was of sheer terror. One would think that I just told him that I was going to pull my gun and execute him, on the spot.
He looked up at me and very slowly said, “MY WIFE … I HAVE TO CALL MY WIFE?” I confirmed the earlier instruction.
“Couldn’t you just arrest me and take me to jail?” he responded. I let him know that my decision would stand and that he should start dialing his home.
When his wife answered, he started telling her that he had been stopped by the police, but didn’t know why. He continued to stumble and stammer along until I took the phone from him. I politely introduced myself and explained the reason for the call. I asked if she was willing to come to the scene and drive her intoxicated husband home.
To no surprise, I could detect that she was not terribly pleased with the situation. But, she agreed to my plan.
Paul and I departed for the home, leaving Ron to babysit our intoxicated friend. As we pulled into the driveway, she emerged from around the back of the house and proceeded toward our car with a walk that closely resembled that of a Storm Trooper. Her teeth and fists were clenched.
I met her in the driveway, introduced myself and shook her hand. I apologized for awakening her. I went on to explain that I wanted her involvement because I sensed that she could do a better job of changing her husband’s behavior than a judge could.
She looked me squarely in the eye and said, “He will NEVER forget this!”
“Wonderful,” I responded, “I thought that might be the case.” I invited her to have a seat in our car and away we went.
Arriving back at the scene, I quickly released her from the patrol car. She repeated her Storm Trooper walk up to the Jeep. I noticed that her husband had already took a seat on the passenger side of the vehicle.
Mrs. Wife opened the driver’s door, slid in and simultaneously there was an audible WHACK! as she smacked him squarely in the back of the head. The Jeep was put in gear and off they drove.
I looked at my partners with a broad grin. We exchanged high-fives and wondered if there would be a domestic violence call later to the residence. We could only wonder.
This was a cops’ delight: No paper. Little chance the bad behavior would be repeated. Everything wrapped up in about an hour. What more could any cop want on a drunk driving incident?
I was certain of one thing: this poor chump would never get caught driving drunk again – as long as his wife was alive.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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