Looking at the calendar, it’s hard to believe I retired from the Houston Police Department 18 years ago; how can that be? Time is one of those intangibles created to make things less confusing and remind us of our mortality.
There’s a story by Hasti Taghi on KPRC’s website, Officer’s Out For Drunken Driving Crackdown which jogged my memory; some of the best times on night shift had to be arresting DWI suspects. The story related how money from “impaired driving mobilization grants”, in other words federal tax dollars, would highlight the surge of DWI’s that happen each year around the Rodeo and Spring Break.
I don’t want to get into the finance side of police work, overtime pay for special operations or politics today; just the singularly gratifying aspect of getting a dangerous driver off the street from a line officer’s point of view. Making an arrest for DWI made a complete package from the time the driver displayed erratic movement, stopping that vehicle, verifying his/her state of intoxication, the official breath test and formal interview done by the Accident Division, walking the suspect to the jail doors and lastly; the paper work, to include the filing of charges. This made for a satisfying process, a validation of the original observation.
Hasti’s story brought up the fact; Rodeo time in Houston brings out a rash of DWI’s and extra dangers to anyone who shares the roadway with them. There will also be plenty of extra police units out with only one purpose, to spot and arrest folks who’ve been out drinking and driving.
One night I got behind a DWI suspect driving an SUV on Long Point near Campbell. His vehicle was doing a bob and weave as it went down the street, occasionally taking a bite out of the raised curb and then over reacting as he crossed over into the adjacent lane; half a mile or so was enough as I put on the emergency lights and added some noise.
After getting him pulled over, a well dressed man in a business suit wearing a Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo button on his lapel greeted me and expected the “good ol’ boy” treatment since he was a big “muckity-muck” with the Rodeo. He was a good sized fellow and before he could blink he was cuffed and in the back seat of my patrol car.
“You’d never have gotten those cuffs on me if I knew you were gonna’ arrest me”
He might have had a point there; but I’d never let size keep me from getting the job done in the past and wasn’t about to start with him. I went through my own verification process; a good whiff of alcohol on his breath, slurred speech and his inability to remain focused while I spoke with him. His recitation of the alphabet left much to be desired as I took dictation, “A, B, C, D, E, F, M, N, R, F, G…” I’ve taken some liberties with the exact order he supplied that night thirty plus years ago; but you get the idea.
About a year later I got subpoenaed as a witness on his case. His lawyer explained to the judge how it was all a mistake; that his client had borrowed a friend’s SUV and its handling characteristics were unfamiliar which may have looked as if he were out of control. The lawyer then added how his client was vice president of a local bank, an upstanding member of the community who would never endanger anyone.
I had my notes, the ones taken during the field interview. The prosecutor brought up the alphabet portion and how anyone, much less a vice president of a bank could do so poorly; sarcasm dripped with each point. The confidence level of the defense attorney faded as he watched his client sputter; looking at his shoes while trying to explain away slurred speech and the inability to recite the alphabet, as if a borrowed SUV had anything to do with being intoxicated.
DWI is an equal opportunity offense; anyone, rich or poor, can find a bottle and a set of car keys. Go out and enjoy the Rodeo and spring break; but remember, life’s tough enough without having to sober up, hire a lawyer, pay court costs and visit a probation officer each month. It will be that much harder if you crash your car or end up killing someone; is it worth the risk?