Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rookie Mistakes Part II

Continued from Rookie Mistakes Part I...
I was hoping to give a quick littering ticket and then get the hell out of there, but she had just complicated things. I knew, (and unfortunately she probably knew), that an OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charge would be a much harder sell now that she was chugging one down inside her own house right in front of me. All she would have to do is tell the judge that she had downed three beers in the length of time it took to answer the door. Judging from how fast she was slurping down the current one, I might have believed it too.

The other problem was that I was green. It was my first year on the job and had never actually encountered a real drunk driver before. Things may have gone differently if there had been a seasoned officer with me that day. But she was lucky, and could probably smell a newbie who had never given anyone a field sobriety test (except of course for the drunk volunteers at the police academy).
I decided to save my breath. Thankfully she had made it home without killing anyone.
"Why did you dump that garbage out in the park?" I asked.
“I wanted to,” she said. Ok…she wasn’t giving me too much to work with. I explained that I was going to give her a ticket for littering. Then the sternest voice I could muster, I gave her a harsh warning about driving while hammered.
“Whatever,” she said, and collapsed into the recliner, flipped on the tv and ignored me. I filled out a citation, and walked it over to the recliner. She was engrossed in the home shopping network, and trying desperately to develop enough coordination with her thumb to light up another cigarette. Eventually, she lit it, snatched my ticket book out of my hands and without being asked, signed on the line. I think she had gotten a ticket before.
I left, and headed for home. As I pulled into my driveway, I rolled down my window and checked my mailbox. Empty.
It turns out that I didn’t have long to wait to get another chance with Mrs. Knorr. Three days later I was returning home from work again, through the state park again when a call came over the radio to be on the lookout for a possible intoxicated driver in a tan Pontiac on a blacktop road about three miles from my house.
Rarely am I in the right place at the right time, especially for game warden stuff- like catching someone poaching a deer from the window of their truck, or watching someone over-bag on ducks- but for other things like bad drivers, accidents and my secret special talent-finding people having elusive sex in the backseats of a minivans, I’m Mrs. Johnny On The Spot.
About three minutes later I met the tan Pontiac. And sure enough there was a short, blond woman peeking over the dashboard attempting to drive. I turned around and got into position behind the car. It was classic drunk driving behavior but even more obvious. A surge of confidence rushed through my brain as I thought to myself, “They lectured us for two days straight in the police academy about how to detect drunk drivers.  Either they grossly under-estimated our intelligence, I was extremely observant in picking out the clues, or this lady was very drunk.”
 I hit my lights and sirens. She didn't respond. I changed the siren tone to the cool one that sounds like a cop car in London. Still nothing. The car inched towards the outside of the road a couple times and each time I thought Mrs. Knorr was going to pull over, she would swerve out again, crossing the center line.

I radioed dispatch to tell them that it looked as though I was in a 25 mile per hour chase. She led me on a scenic tour of the county blacktops, until she decided that maybe she’d be able to lose me on the gravel road. I stayed behind her. Finally, she began to pull over to the side of the road. The car rolled to a stop.
In hindsight, there are so many things I screwed up that I’m surprised I’ve survived as long as I have. My officer safety skills were a little bit lacking. In any case, I jumped out of my truck and scurried up the driver’s door and asked to see her driver’s license. She fumbled around and eventually managed to pull out something that resembled a driver’s license.
“Turn off the car. Stay right there. Don’t go anywhere!” I said.
Though it may have made a little more sense to just take her keys away from her, and maybe try out those fancy handcuffs they gave me which I never expected to actually use. But I felt a strange sense of confusion. She is innocent until proven guilty, right? So…maybe I’ll just check her license first and see if there are any warrants for her arrest first, THEN I’ll worry about whether or not she is drunk…because maybe she really just didn’t see my lights and maybe her music was up so loud she couldn’t hear my sirens? That must be it. Man, was I ever stupid.
Unfortunately I can’t turn back the hands of time to thump myself alongside my head and whisper in my ear, “Hello? Are you stupid? You may want to consider taking her keys away. The keys!” Instead, The instant I began walking back to my truck, with her driver’s license in hand, she fired up the Pontiac, and put the hammer down.
To be continued...

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