Who is the Criminal?

I was the law enforcement operations officer on a large eastern U.S. Army base, and it was part of my job to review all cases and ensure the blotters we accurate.  Cases involving officers were of interest since we knew we would be getting a lot of questions for the division command group.

On a not so typical night, one of our patrols stopped a Captain on what initially was a routine traffic stop.  The Captain was active duty and assigned to the infantry division headquarters.  Far from routine, however, was that the Captain was obviously under the influence of alcohol.  I did a phone review of the procedures that night when the apprehension occurred, but it was not until the morning when I reviewed the case file.

One thing an active duty army officer knows is that if they are apprehended for DUI, their career in the military is pretty much over.  This fact did not escape our inebriated Captain as he tried to separate the apprehending MP from his sidearm so he could kill himself as he repeatedly said out loud that his life was over. As was procedure, one Department of Defense (DOD) shift supervisor was called in to administer the breath analyzer.  Everything appeared to be in order as far as the case went (a 0.14 reading) and an appropriate initial stop.

But there buried at the back of the case file was what appeared to be a duplicate printed reading from the machine.  Not totally unusual to see a duplicate, but I pulled it out to check it and it didn’t match the reading on the original attached to the case! I went straight to the desk area in the room where the machine is safely locked away and started reviewing the history.  There wasn’t just one additional reading but multiple readings all within minutes of each other the night before.

This story could go on forever, but an internal investigation revealed the DOD shift supervisor felt bad for the subject and had him rinse his mouth several times and retake the analysis.  The reading attached to the final case was the lowest he could get to.  In the end, the Captain pleaded to a lesser charge and the DOD supervisor was fired (criminal charges withheld).

Lesson for Investigators:  Read every scrap of paper or electronic intelligence, don’t assume anything.

Lesson for Processing Officers:  You can’t get personally involved! Lesson for Military Officers (or anyone else):  Why drink and drive!