So one summer night about 1AM or thereabouts, I’m driving along, minding my own business, when I see an SUV go by in the other direction with four teens in it. Of course these are white kids from the ‘burbs, so they don’t have a clue about playing it cool. Instead, they treat me to a fantastic display of the “Oh shit—we’re busted!” look as we pass each other.
Now I don’t know what these idiots are up to but I know that there’s something going on, so I bang a U-turn and go after the SUV. Fortunately the driver has decided to make it easy for me by rabbiting up to the next cross-street and then pulling into a subdivision and quickly dousing the lights. Granted, I had lost sight of the vehicle for a second or two while turning around, but this trick is so predictable that when I didn’t see the SUV on the road, I just knew where I’d find it. Sure enough—As I rounded the first right-turn corner, there it was, making like a parked and unoccupied.
I pulled up behind it and activated all of my lights. Marking out with the stop, I used my PA to tell them to sit up and raise their hands so that I could make sure that no one was holding anything dangerous. I also told the driver to lower all of the windows then turn the engine off. Then I walked up to see him.
As I approached and looked into the back seat at the two scared high-school boys sitting there, the smell of beer was almost strong enough to wrinkle my shirt. I asked the visibly nervous driver for his license and registration, then I asked him where the beer was.
All four immediately started to deny having any beer at all.
Come on, guys…Do I really look that stupid?
Back-up arrives and I step all four of them out and seat them on the curb. Sure enough, there are partially-full beer cans under both front seats. Beer is also sloshing around on the floorboards, the result of four panicked kids trying to shove opened beer cans under seats that aren’t high enough to allow beer cans to be shoved under them vertically.
The SUV belongs to the parents of the driver. It’s not even three weeks old. It probably still had that “new car” scent to it a few minutes ago. Now it’s going to have a “stale beer” smell.
I give each kid a breath test on my portable breath tester. All four have consumed alcohol and each gets cited for underage consumption. And now comes the fun part…calling four sets of parents at one in the morning to tell them to come get their kids.
One boy begged me not to call his father, an Army Major on the nearby post. He said that his dad had promised to send him to military school if he messed up one more time, and he really, really didn’t want to have to go to military school. Of course I didn’t believe him, but even if I had, I wouldn’t have cared. I started calling and in short order, four very unhappy parents were on the way to the scene of my traffic stop.
Typically when this sort of thing happens, the parents are often madder at me than at their precious little darlings, so I was expecting to get some attitude from a couple of them. However the Major arrived first.
I explained to him what had happened, and showed him the beer. He looked into the SUV and saw all of the spilled beer that was quickly reeking it up. Then he turned and began to dress down all four of the boys in a manner worthy of a Drill Sergeant. He went on and on about stupidity and thoughtlessness and the risks to their future, then he excoriated them for wrecking the interior of the SUV. They wouldn’t even make eye contact with him as he went on and on, pacing back and forth in front of them.
As the other parents arrived in short order, he joined me as I told them what had been going on, and he apologized to each of them for his son’s role. He also requested that the other parents wait around for a few minutes, and when the owners of the SUV showed up, the Major made each boy apologize to them for dumping the beer all over the floor carpeting. I was really liking this guy. Why can’t more parents be like him?
Finally, after the other boys were sent home with their parents and their juvenile court appearance tickets, the Major put his son in his own car, then apologized to me for all of the trouble. I told him that it was just my job and that it wasn’t a problem for me. I then told him that his son had claimed that the Major was going to send him to military school if I’d called him. I’d expected the Major to get a chuckle out of that, but he looked at me with a serious expression on his face and said that he had told his boy that, and that he’d meant it. Apparently this wasn’t the boy’s first screw up and as a result of this incident, the boy was going to spend his upcoming junior year and probably his senior year at a nearby military prep school where he could get a bit more structure away from his bad-influence friends.
I cleared the scene thinking that if every parent cared as much as this one did, my job and that of most other cops would be a lot easier.
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