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Friday, April 11, 2008

The Rookie and Drunk IPS

I'm bored tonight, so I've decided to repost one of my "cop stories", which was briefly posted and taken down a year or so ago. Everyone loves cop stories. I'm not really sure why; they actualy aren't that interesting. Believe me, I lived them.



One night my FTO (Field Training Officer) and I were en route to...somewhere. Maybe just driving around. It had to be around 2:00 am; we were on "dog watch" until 7 am.

My FTO spotted a guy stumbling down a dark street, so we stopped. He didn't do anything to indicate he knew any details about the guy, and just directed me to approach him and talk to him.

So I did. I asked to see some identification. The drunk guy told me he wasn't doing anything wrong, was just walking down the street.

I explained that we were concerned for his safety because he wasn't really "walking"; he was "staggering", thus he must see why we had to stop and talk to him. He allowed as how he could understand such logic.

He had a hard time getting a yellow piece of paper out of his back pocket, and was very apologetic about this. I waited patiently, nodding understandingly while eyeballing him like a hawk in case he had a weapon. Although I could see the paper he was struggling to grasp. To make small talk to cover his ineptitude, he explained he'd been at a friends' house, and was on his way home. I nodded, waiting, watching.

He handed me a license renewal form,finally, and explained he didn't actually have a license and had no photo ID on him, but that the paper was his and it was his name and DOB. And I could check that information out and find that the description matched him. Fine. I wrote it down in my little notebook.

The man was swaying as he stood, finding it necessary to stagger here and there and to and fro in order to remain upright. He continued to answer my questions and cooperate with our sudden roadside "investigation". He was not in custody; this was merely a chat. It was almost a dance. I almost expected my FTO to start blasting a Waltz out of the car's PA system.

I asked the man to remain where he was (as well as he could) as I ran his name and DOB in the MDT (a computer in the car, likely obsolete now).

My FTO asked me what I was going to do; what was my plan? So now I have to explain the options:

Option 1: The man had clearly pickled himself. Detox was an option. We could do that. But one of the things they'd instilled in me was the need to document, document DOCUMENT if we were going to deprive anyone of their freedom, for we'd have to be able to articulate why that person needed to be deprived of said freedom. The key phrase was "unable to care for self", and that had to be clearly defined via objective observation and documentation of behavior. And if we happened to be recording the conversation in which someone displayed an inability to be reasonable, that was good to have in court.

(MN state law as it applies to this case indicates only 1 person needs to be informed of a recording taking place in order for said recording to be admissible in a court of law.)

Option 2:
Let the man go his way, stumbling down the dark street and potentially into the path of...well...anything that might kill him, making us thus responsible for his untimely demise.

Option 3: Give the guy a ride somewhere. Anywhere...just off the road and somewhere to cover our behinds.

Well, I weighed my options. This guy was beyond hammered; did I have the right to deprive him of his freedom? He needed to go to Detox, but as he'd lost his license due to other alcohol offenses, was it likely to do any good? And the key question: Was he capable of caring for himself?

To an extent, no, for he was staggering haphazardly down the sidewalk. But he WAS, in fact, ON THE SIDEWALK. Not in the road. And he WAS cooperating with me.

So I figured we really didn't have the legal right to haul his sorry pickled butt away to holding and call for the detox van.

OK, fine. Let him go on his way? Nope. Option #2 was ruled out quickly.

So I had his address, asked him if it was where he was headed? Yes, so...ok, fine. We'll give you a ride home, then.

The man looked at me as though it was a ploy. I told him it wasn't and explained the logic. He nodded, not able to understand logic in his situation, still distrustful. He was making me promise that I was not going to try to handcuff him, and I promised that as long as he behaved himself, he was only going home. That's when the real negotiations started.

He wanted to ride in the front seat.


He wanted a hug.


I opened the door, and talked him sweetly into the back seat. He wanted me to sit in the back seat with him while my FTO drove.

I closed the door and walked around to the driver's seat.

My FTO seemed angry for some reason I didn't understand. He was always telling me to make decisions, and I did! I realized he disagreed, but he let me make the decision. But his silence was deafening and it freaked me out and made me wonder what I had done wong. Procedurally and legally, nothing at all. And I knew it.

We got the guy to his apartment complex and dropped him off.

My FTO remained in the passenger seat, brooding sulkily. I went around the car to let my drunk out.

He wanted a hug.

I refused.

He begged.

I refused, but offered my hand and wished him well.

He thanked me profusely, I told him goodnight and watched him stumble away, shaking my head.

My FTO brooded all the way back to the LEC (law enforcement center) until we called in 10-8.

The silence continued and finally I yelled "WHAT!????"

Finally he told me: This guy was a frequent flier. Every contact any officer had EVER had with him had ended in a physical fight.


Because he was drunk A LOT. And he caused a lot of trouble, not just through disorderly behavior, but drunk driving and any other imaginable offense committable by a man out of his mind.

And keep in mind...the city I worked in was a pretty large city; it wasn't a small town with a carriage run for a main road and a couple of stores with a flagpole between them. It was significant that all 80 officers knew this man well.

All of the other female officers had also met and fought him to the ground not just once in their careers, but several times during their rookie year alone.

Apparently he was the unofficial litmus test of any given rookie. Poor guy.

I suspect that everyone else had also sentenced him into Detox, and perhaps that's what I should have done, too, because that's really where he belonged. But as he had been coooperative, I realized that he was, in fact, making a good decision for himself. He was not argumentative, he answered my questions, even if somtimes incoherently, and willingly sat in the squad car as directed. I couldn't in good conscience send him to Detox, not with the key phrase I'd have to put on the report.

I can't comment on what had happened before; for all I knew, this guy was normally a belligerant drunk who picked all the fights he was in. But I can say with certainty that my FTO was looking forward to a fight and it never happened. As it was, we returned to the station, I wrote up the report and filled out a driver evaluation form; The man's license status was "Cancelled IPS" (Inimical to Public Safety), with the restriction that any alcohol use would cause his license to remain revoked. I filled up the form to prevent his license from being reinstated. I hope to God the State of MN got the form and stamped his application "DENIED". That man maybe didn't need to go to Detox, but he sure didn't need a license, either!

I know that God was with me when I was on the Job, and that was one of the incidents that remind me of that fact; every other cop had got into a physical altarcation with the man, while I did not. It wasn't me; it was God who set that up.

I got another story about why God loves cops, too...but I'm not going to tell that one tonight.

Lord, have mercy, not just on the drunks, but on the cops who have to deal with them, and on the rookies who have FTO's who like to fight.

That's another story, too.


Ray from MN said...

I thought that public intoxication in Minnesota has been a crime for something like 30 years.

Good story, Adoro!

Adoro Te Devote said...

Nah, you can't just arrest someone for overindulging. Bars would have to close!

The "public intoxication" charge is actually "disorderly conduct". I never charged anyone with disorderly conduct who WASN'T intoxicated, although it's possible.

Melody said...

God and your guardian angel were definitely looking out for you. But you helped the situation by keeping a cool head and not over-reacting. Good cop story!

Adoro te Devote said...

Cool head? Nah, I just didn't know any better. But I do believe my Guaradian Angel was a strong presence when I was on the Job.

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Great story, example of sidewalk counseling and illustration of what our cops face each day.

I will pray for that man at Adoration today.

Maureen said...

No, you read the situation as it existed, not as you expected it to be. It wasn't that you didn't know any better; you didn't know any worse.

It's also possible, that since you were used to dealing with large, easily frightened animals, you unconsciously adopted a soothing but commanding attitude. When somebody's impaired, talking to their lizard brain with your actions and tone of voice sometimes is more effective than talking to their normal brain, that's not working so well.