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Entries in Patrick Genovese (7)

Monday
Mar012010

Never A Cop Around When You Need One

There's never a cop around when you need one; but there was last night.

About a year ago I had an opportunity to ride-along with my brother Patrick during one of his graveyard shifts as a police officer at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It was a slow, wintry night in late December and we were lucky to find a car on the road, let alone pull one over. About six months ago he changed police agencies and last night I had an opportunity to ride-along again. It was still a wintry night, but his duties as a Santa Barbara Deputy Sheriff proved a bit more eventful than life at the UC.

A few hours into our shift, we pulled up to a red light. We had just cleared a traffic stop on a vehicle with a burnt-out headlight. The car next to us rolled down the passenger side window and a young woman leaned over to say the car behind us was swerving quite a bit. This beat, like many, is no stranger to the over-reactive complaints of paranoid citizens and motorists, so we accepted her tip rather half-heartedly. Nevertheless, as the light turned green and we drove on, Patrick kept his eye on the rear-view mirror.

Sure enough, the car behind us did appear to be driving a little "funny". As my brother changed lanes to let the vehicle pass us, I turned around to get a look at the driver in question. As we slowed down, so did he. This was starting to look like more than a paranoid motorist's complaint. Patrick brought the squad car nearly to a halt in the middle of the number one traffic lane and the red pickup truck finally passed us on the right. For about a quarter of a mile we watched as the truck drifted from the number two lane to the number one lane to the shoulder and back. This driver was clearly impaired for one reason or another.

Patrick flipped on the red and blue and called in a traffic stop on the radio, "3536 code 9."

The driver continued without any indication of, well, anything. He just kept weaving back and forth across the road, occasionally accelerating but only to overcompensate with the brakes. We continued on for about a half mile or so at this sort of stuttered pace before my brother flipped on full lights and siren. If the solid red and blue light in his rear view mirror didn't get his attention before, the full array of super bright LED strobes and blaring sound surely would. Again, no change.

Now it was starting to get interesting.

Going on a ride-along is a fairly easy endeavor. You simply need to find an agency with a willing officer, an obliging sergeant, and fill out what I like to call the "in case shit" form. This is a straight-forward release of liability form that collects some personal information and a signature from you in case something should happen. It is typically shredded at the end of the ride-along, unless of course something bad happens to you. Along those lines, my brother chose this moment to let me know that "if I get in a pursuit I have to kick you out of the car".

I beg your pardon?

It's 9:30 at night and 50 degrees outside and you're going to just drop me off in the middle of downtown Goleta? Wasn't there another form I could have signed?

So now this was getting really interesting. With full lights and siren this guy still wasn't stopping, but he wasn't exactly fleeing either. We were still ho humming down the road at maybe 45 mph. After another half mile or so, my brother made a shrewd, last ditch effort to keep his passenger in the car. "3536, coming up on failure to yield". Had he said "in pursuit" instead, I was history. About the same time, the red truck made a right turn onto a residential street. It was starting to look like this driver was trying to make it home before succumbing to the law.

Almost immediately after making the turn, the truck stopped in kind of a half-assed attempt to pull over to the side. As my brother jumped out of the car and drew his gun, a second squad car screached to a halt next to him. The second officer ran around to my door, opened it, and with gun drawn and using my door as cover, told me to move to the back of the car. I did not hesitate.

Patrick ordered the driver out of the vehicle. The red truck started to move again. Now I was getting worried. At this point failure to yield was off the table. If my brother and his partner had to get back in their cars, this was a pursuit, and I would be hailing a cab. Fortunately, the truck was moving further towards the curb, and it was now blocked in front by a parked car. Concerned that a low speed collision might be next, Patrick and his partner decided to move in. At gunpoint, they ordered the sole occupant to shut off the ignition of his deadly weapon. The man turned and stared glassy eyed out the open driver's side window. It was clear that he was unarmed and not all there. My brother holstered his weapon, opened the car door, dragged the suspect out of the car, and in almost the same motion, flipped him around and slapped on the handcuffs. Code four, and no cab for Sean.

This guy was so drunk, he couldn't stand up on his own. He was 43, Mexican, and English was optional. What followed was comedic, setting aside the fact that this knucklehead was driving and nearly got shot. Patrick do-si-do'd him to the curb and, in an awkward, unchoregraphed two-step (with a little help from his partner), sat him down. He was too drunk for any field sobriety tests--he could barely tell us his name (which I will omit to protect the dumbass). He was even too drunk to blow into a breathalyser. Legally this posed a bit of a challenge as, up to this point, there was no objective evidence that this idiot was drunk. My brother looked at me and said "what do you think I should do with him?" The answer was obvious, but I appreciated the predicament. Ironically it's a lot easier administratively if you fail sobriety tests rather than be too drunk to even take them.

As we discussed the nuances of the law, and Patrick's partner got the knucklehead to admit to drinking "ten or five" beers, the sergeant rolled up in his SUV. A tall, clean cut, middle-aged man with gray hair, the sarge sounds eerily like John Wayne when he speaks and, like the Duke, he's a little more straight forward about the law. Patrick quickly brought him up to speed, explaining that field sobriety tests were not going to be an option. The sergeant sauntered up to the curb, took one look at the knucklehead and said with John Wayne cadence, "well he's drunk!".

"Hey!" the sergeant addressed the suspect for the first time. "How much have you had to drink tonight?"

He replied, in broken English, "I already tell him".

The sergeant came right back with "well I wasn't here yet, so tell me again".

The suspect: "ten or five beers".

Sarge: "Ten or five? Man, I'd be drunk! I don't think I could stand up after ten beers. You want to blow into a machine for me?"

Suspect, smiling: "Oh no no no."

Sarge: "Well then do you want to walk a straight line for me? Stand up, let me see you walk along this line here."

It was clear as my brother helped the knucklehead up, that his coy smile and mild protests were more about his inability to do much of anything and not a desire to be uncooperative. This guy just wanted to curl up and go to sleep. And that's exactly what he did after my brother patted him down and placed him in the back of our squad car. But that wasn't before Sarge asked one more question, just the way The Duke might have asked it: "Hey, so what were you drinkin'? Don't tell me it was Budweiser".

The knucklehead, smiling, his eyes barely staying open: "Bud Light".

The sergeant shook his head and rolled his eyes in feigned disgust, "oh no, Bud Light?"

We drove to the hospital where they drew the knucklehead's blood and then we dropped him off at the county lockup where, because of his record (guess what lurks in the past on his rap sheet?) his bail was set at $10,000. Of course, the small baggie of cocaine the jailer found hidden in his pocket didn't help his case. Unfortunately, the results of the blood draw will take several days, so I will probably never know officially just how drunk this idiot was. The best guess amongst the officers was somewhere between .15 and .20. The legal "limit" in California to be driving is .08. My brother did comment that this was the drunkest driver he'd ever arrested. I guess that should be some kind of consolation; along with that on this particular night, for that woman at the stoplight, there was a cop around when she needed one.