While police officers are typically on the lawful side of most DUI arrests, the men in blue are not immune to the hazards of drinking and driving.
Two recent incidents highlight the sobering fact that arrests for drunk driving can happen to anyone, regardless of their standing in the community.
First, in Portland, Ore., an off-duty police officer was arrested for allegedly driving under the influence after a local sheriff’s deputy discovered him sleeping in his car on the side of an Oregon highway.
According to the Houston Chronicle, the officer, Randy Vanderhoof, has worked with the Portland Police Department’s K-9 unit for several years, and is a 19-year veteran of the police force.
After the arrest, Portland Police Chief Michael Reese emphasized that his department holds every citizen accountable to the law, regardless of their rank.
Reese also observed that officers face unique professional stresses, and said that they sometimes resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms. Reese claimed that Vanderhoof would have access to whatever counseling he needed after the incident.
While the arrest of a police officer is always a bit surprising, this incident also raises an important issue with respect to driving under the influence.
In most states, people can be charged with a DUI even if they are not actually driving. In many areas, if someone is intoxicated and is merely sitting in the driver’s seat without going anywhere, that person may still be arrested for a DUI.
With that in mind, the Houston Chronicle, which seems particularly concerned with the criminal fate of police officers across the country, also reported on another similar incident.
According to the newspaper, a police captain in Hastings, Neb., also recently suffered the embarrassment of a DUI arrest.
Sources indicate that 43-year-old Gene Boner rolled his pickup late at night while driving in Hastings. When police responded to the scene, they arrested Boner on suspicion of drunk driving. Fortunately, Boner was not injured in the incident.
After his arrest, the police captain was taken to a county jail, where he stayed for a few minutes before being released on bond.
Local police officials said they have placed Boner on administrative leave and that an internal investigation will determine the officer’s future role with the police department.
The arrests of police officers for unpopular criminal offenses sometimes raise a bit of celebratory gloating from members of the public.
However, the recent incidents in Nebraska and Oregon show just how dangerous drunk driving can be. In addition, they reveal that no one is immune from the potential legal consequences of driving while intoxicated.
If veteran police officers sleeping on the side of the highway can be arrested for a DUI, everyone who gets behind the wheel with alcohol in their system is running the risk of a possible arrest.