The OC Watchdog Blog, part of the Orange County Register, has an interesting story – about the police officer that got three DUIs, and is still on the police payroll!Ã‚Â As an Orange County DUI Lawyer, it pains me to see how the police have a double standard when it comes to their own.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no secret that some cops have a problem with alcohol.Ã‚Â ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a stressful occupation, the hours are long, and the job wreaks havoc with home life.Ã‚Â As well, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s easy for cops toÃ‚Â get hurt on the job Ã¢â‚¬â€ making addiction to prescription painkillers another problem.
All that said, we were taken aback by the tales of officersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ DUIÃ‚Â that came flooding in after we wrote last weekÃ‚Â about an Orange County SheriffÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s deputy who was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence after crashing twice in less than 35 minutes.Ã‚Â (Cops from his own department had let him drive away after the first accident.)
That was bad, but this might be worse:
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the story of anÃ‚Â Anaheim cop who hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t been to work since late 2008,Ã‚Â is still on the departmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s payroll, and notched his third DUI arrest in less than a year March 2.
The Watchdog pulled the records and confirmedÃ‚Â thatÃ‚Â Officer Kevin Noel Schlueter, 37, was arrestedÃ‚Â on suspicion of driving under the influence after crashing a 2010 Jeep Liberty into four parked cars Ã¢â‚¬â€œ on his very own street in Costa Mesa, in the middle of the afternoon.
The crashes ripped the right wheel off the axle of SchlueterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Liberty, according to Costa Mesa police Lt. Rob Sharpnack. The Liberty also suffered rear bumper damage, Sharpnack said.
Costa Mesa police officers arrested Schlueter on suspicion of driving under the influence and took him to the hospital to be treated for minor injuries, Sharpnack said. He gave a blood sample, but the resultsÃ‚Â arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t back yet.
ThatÃ‚Â DUI arrest was strike three forÃ‚Â Schlueter, a 13-year veteran of the Anaheim Police Department.Ã‚Â ButÃ‚Â cops play by different rules, as we shall see, and three strikes donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always mean youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re out.
SchlueterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s troubled times behind the wheel appear to have startedÃ‚Â on March 18, 2009 when Schlueter was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol after nearlyÃ‚Â slamming into a CHP squad car.Ã‚Â SeveralÃ‚Â drivers hadÃ‚Â called 911 to report a possible DUI driver at the wheel of a Silver Chevy Tahoe on the 405 freeway that night, said CHP Officer Ray Payton.
Dispatchers sent a CHP officer ahead of the possible drunken driver weaving in the slow lane to wait for him to drive by, according to the report.Ã‚Â The Tahoe did indeed drive by Ã¢â‚¬â€œ careening onto the right shoulder of the freeway and coming within a foot of hitting the waiting CHP squad car, the report said.
The officer watched as the Tahoe weaved from side to side, nearly colliding with a Range Rover. The CHP officer pulled the Tahoe over and after doing field sobriety tests on the driver, later identified as Schlueter, arrested him on suspicion of driving under the influence.
Alcohol was ruled out, Payton said, but drugs, which can include prescription drugs, were not. Someone came to pick up Schlueter at the CHP office. Prosecutors filed one misdemeanor count of driving under the influence. Schlueter pleaded not guilty.
While waiting for the wheels of justice to turn, Schlueter was arrested twice more.
Officers responding to aÃ‚Â single-car wreck in Huntington Beach the night of Jan. 21Ã‚Â arrested Schlueter on suspicion of driving under the influence, said Lt. Russell Reinhart of Huntington Beach. Prosecutors have not yet filed charges against Schuleter in the Huntington Beach case, but detectives there say they have a court date with Schlueter March 26.
Then on March 2 came the Costa Mesa wreck, at 1:42 p.m. on SchlueterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s own street.
Schlueter has been on leave since November 2008, for what exactly Anaheim officials arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t saying.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Anaheim police spokesman Sgt. Rick Martinez characterized it as Ã¢â‚¬Å“a variety of reasons,Ã¢â‚¬ÂÃ‚Â but saidÃ‚Â that personnel rules prohibit him from giving specifics.
SchlueterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s leave had been unpaidÃ‚Â at first. But then in November 2009, months after SchlueterÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s first DUI arrest Anaheim officials put him on paid administrative leave and he started earning a paycheck again.
Again, Anaheim officials arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t saying why.
UPDATE: After this column was published, Anaheim PD called and asked us to include this statement: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Anaheim Police Department is cooperating with the OC District AttorneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s office in its prosecution of these cases and we have contacted the Department of Motor Vehicles regarding the officerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s future driving privileges. We are also expediting our internal investigation into this matter in order to reach a decision concerning the officerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s employment as soon as possible. Ã¢â‚¬Â
Schlueter declined to comment through his attorney Joseph P. Smith. None of his cases have been adjudicated.
We put aÃ‚Â call in to a residential treatment facility in Palm Springs that deals withÃ‚Â copsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ addictions to alcohol and painkillers to get some perspective on what seems a pretty big problem.
Dr. Krista Gilbert of MichaelÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s House, told us that in her 15 years in dealing with police officers she has learned Ã¢â‚¬Å“one of the things that is reinforced in departments is that if you cry, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a sissy. They arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t getting the support or validation to deal with the extreme situations and intense situations they see and are living through on a daily basis.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Its vicarious trauma that they are dealing with,Ã¢â‚¬Â Gilbert said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You put up a good show, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a good soldier and you do your job no matter what.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Self-medication with alcohol or prescription medications can also beÃ‚Â a way ofÃ‚Â covering up other issues like depression or extreme anxiety, Gilbert said.Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“A lot of time we find people saying, Ã¢â‚¬ËœIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m doing self-careÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.This is for me.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Ã¢â‚¬Â
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good perspective on the personal problems that some cops face.
Still, it seems to us at The Watchdog that after a peace officer gets three DUI strikes, he or sheÃ‚Â ought to be out.
WeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll keep an eye on this case and let you know whatÃ‚Â happens.