And We’re Off And Running
(part 1 of 3)
By Gerry Goldshine
To coin the venerable Sergeant Joe Friday, “It was Saturday night. I was working the Swing Swift out of Traffic Division. My boss was Sgt. Dave. It was approximately 0145 hours, near the end of watch. It had been a quiet night.” Okay, enough of the homage but that’s what happens when it’s been an unusually boring watch and you can see the finish line; you get a little loopy. Sgt. Dave had just gone out with a possibly intoxicated male subject in the parking lot of a business on the fringe of the main downtown area. I was nearby and responded for backup, knowing the unpredictable nature of drunks, especially at that hour. As it turned out, he was an amicable inebriant who had a much soberer friend willing to take him home. Standing there talking, we all suddenly heard the sound of tires squealing and unmistakable roar of an engine under heavy acceleration. We no sooner turned in the direction of where the sound was coming when a tan car went flying by us, doing 45-50 miles per hour – in a 25 mile per hour zone. Sgt. Dave gave me a wry grin and simply said, “Go get him, Ger!”
I climbed into my patrol car, rather unenthused about the prospects of ever being able to catch the tan car, never mind the fact my brain had so recently shifted into the “I want to go home on time” mode. I pulled out onto Petaluma Boulevard North and traffic was very light which made it easy to spot the ne’er-do-well. My doubts were confirmed; they had well over a half mile lead on me which was increasing by the second. My foot pushed the accelerator to the floor and the sound of the big Ford V-8 police package engine roaring to life got my predatory juices flowing. Just as the rational part of my brain was starting to tell me that I was embarking on a futile quest, I looked on in astonishment up ahead as the tan car suddenly braked hard for a red light.
Now, by “braking hard”, I mean his brakes locked the wheels up so that his vehicle, with its back end shimmying side to side, was quickly shrouded in churning blue clouds of burnt rubber. My internal “DWI” detector immediately went off; from my training and experience, I knew that anyone operating a car in the reckless manner that this yutz had, was more than likely under the influence of some intoxicant. No longer was this just about a speeding ticket. Stopping this person from driving as soon as I could, before they crashed and possibly caused injury to themselves or others, was now a priority. Fortune favored the bold that night for the traffic light stayed red long enough for me to catch up to and pull in right behind my target vehicle.
I notified dispatch that I was going to be making a traffic stop on a tan Toyota Whatyacallit. I hadn’t yet turned on my emergency lights when the driver finally noticed me in his rear view mirror. I watched as he shifted position, sitting straighter in his seat; all his attention was now intently focused on my reflected visage. At the same time, his passenger turned in his seat to look intently at me. The driver apparently said something to his rider, who violently shook his head. Then the signal turned green but the tan car didn’t move an inch. As Princess Leia said to Han Solo, I had a bad feeling about this. I didn’t need to be a Jedi Knight to know what was going to happen next. I snugged up my seatbelt, closed my windows and turned up the radio, mentally cursing Sgt. Dave’s “Go get him, Ger”.
A second later, I shook my head in resignation as the car ahead abruptly took off, its back tires squealing as they sought the proper coefficient of friction against the asphalt roadway throwing up a blue haze of burnt rubber while the back end fish-tailed crazily. The driver rapidly accelerated through the intersection. A surge of adrenaline shot through me and I flipped on all the emergency lights along with the siren; we were off and running. As we sped past the police station, I notified dispatch that I was northbound, now in pursuit of a possible DWI.
So much for me going home on time.