Sorry for the absence--training and year-end leave got in the way.
But I'm back, with this neat tale of one who almost got away.
Yesterday, one of my guys gets dispatched to a 1-car non-injury crash right out of roll call. Since he forgot to take the rookie that I’d placed with him for the day, I corralled the rook, tossed him into my cruiser, and took him up to the crash scene.
When I got up there, it was just my guy and two cars—the one wrapped around a utility pole, and another one that was just there for some reason. I was starting to get irked right out of the gate. I like my crash scenes run a certain way, and uninvolved bystanders are never included, family and friends of the involved parties in particular.
I walk up to my guy—a fairly new officer himself. He told me that the female driver was claiming that as she was descending the highway on-ramp, a car that was ahead of her made a sudden u-turn and came back up the ramp at her, forcing her to swerve to avoid it. In the process, she claimed, she struck a utility pole. But one look at the skid marks and the damage to the car told me that her story was crap.
“Whose car is this?” I ask, pointing to the uncrashed one.
“Oh, that’s the boyfriend of the woman who crashed,” he replies.
“And he’s here why, exactly?”
“I dunno. When I got here he was here waiting with her.”
“Get rid of him,” I said. I could already tell from the scene that this was likely going to involve more investigation and I don’t need boyfriends or anyone else dipping in from the sidelines.
Then I approached the woman standing next to the crashed car. I asked her if she was ok, and she replied that she was. I saw that she was smoking a cigarette, and noticed that she kept her cell phone in front of her face. “I’m on hold with my insurance company,” she explained.
Uh-huh. “Well how about if you call them back in a few minutes? We’ve got to get a few things wrapped up here so we can get you and this car out of here.” She smiled, and hung up the phone, just the perfect picture of cooperation. “Here, it’s awfully cold out here. Why don’t you come back and have a seat in the back of my officer’s cruiser for a bit, just to get you out of the weather.” She smiled again and followed me back to the responding officer’s car. I asked her to put the cigarette out, the put her in and closed the door. Then I went back to talk to my officer.
“What do you have?” I asked him. “She drinking?”
“Oh, no, Sarge,” he replied. “I checked but I couldn’t smell anything on her.”
“Of course not,” I told him. “Not with her out in the open air, smoking that cigarette to mask her breath, and covering her mouth with that phone. Now why don’t you go talk to her again now that she’s had a minute or two to sit in that closed car and see what you think.”
“I’d already seen her eyes and I knew. But now I wanted my new officer and the even newer rookie to pick up on it, and hopefully realize what mistakes had already been made here. Sure enough, when they came back after talking to her in the closed car, without the cigarette or the phone in front of her mouth, they'd been able to smell the tell-tale odor or alcoholic beverages and they told me that they wanted to do field-sobriety on her.
“Yeah, I kind of figured that you would. Now do you see why I wanted her boyfriend out of here?” They nodded, knowing that had he still been here, he’d have been one more variable, and might possibly have interfered with the process. Talking a person into performing the tests could be tricky enough without having someone else standing on the sidelines telling them not to do it or otherwise butting in.
Predictably, she failed. Big time. And she got locked up, so we had a happy ending to the tale.
And as she was being searched and put into the car, her boyfriend returned. As expected, he saw her being placed under arrest and started to front up, showing her that he was her alpha male. But once I pulled him aside, explained the situation to him, and asked him if he wanted to go with her for interfering, he looked over to see if she could see us, and when he realized that she could not, he shrugged and told us that he’d come get her later when we released her. He walked off, and I then explained to the rookie how much easier these things tend to work when you get the guy out of eye-and ear-shot of the girl. All-in-all, it was a good learning opportunity for both of them and hopefully they take a few things away from it.
Realistically, my guy had already ruled out DUI in his own mind despite it being a single-vehicle crash early on a Saturday morning just a short distance away from the bar area. He was so caught up trying to be all “Officer Friendly” to this poor girl that he was even buying her tale of woe about how the crash happened despite the skid marks which clearly showed that she’d fish-tailed from road shoulder to road shoulder twice before hitting the steel pole hard enough dent it severely while destroying the front of her car. Yet when asked her speed, she’d just batted her eyes and said “no more than 10-15 mph…”
But she was pretty, and he’s way too naïve and trusting at this stage in his career, so he'd disregarded all the clues that didn't confoem to her story and she almost got away with it.
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