11/13/2007Oregon: Officer Caught Arresting Sober Motorists for DUI
An award-winning police officer in Corvallis, Oregon quits after investigation looks into his arrest of sober motorist for DUI.
A sober man wants justice after he was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) by one of the most productive Corvallis, Oregon police officers. Brian J. Noakes that he was considering filing suit for false arrest, as reported by the Corvallis Gazette-Times newspaper.
On May 11, Noakes had gone to a bar to pick up his wife and friends. While parked, his wife sent him a text message that they had moved to a bar a block away, so Noakes drove a bit closer to the second bar, stopping his car in a store parking lot. When Noakes left the car, Officer Dave Cox, who had been staking out area bars, confronted him. Cox suggested that Noakes' driving such a short distance was suspicious.
Cox wrote in his report that the motorist had "bloodshot and glassy" eyes and that his tongue had a "light green coating." The motorist had a cold and was chewing gum. The motorist blew 0.0 on a breathalyzer test and a drug test confirmed that his system was clean, aside from a trace amount of codeine from cold medicine taken the previous day. Although Noakes was not charged with a DUI offense, the arrest will stay on his record.
"An arrest for traffic is not expungeable," Corvallis defense attorney Jennifer Nash told the Corvallis Gazette-Times newspaper. "So when innocent people are arrested there is actual damage."
Noakes was not the only sober motorist arrested by Cox in May. At least six of 27 motorists arrested by Cox for DUI that month passed drug testing and registered blood alcohol levels below the legal limit. Nonetheless, twenty-two of the arrest reports contained passages essentially identical to those in Noakes' report describing "bloodshot and glassy" eyes and other alleged indicators of intoxication.
California defense attorney Lawrence Taylor calls says this "Xeroxing" of arrest reports is common.
"The (prewritten) report tells the officer what he should have seen -- not what he actually saw," Taylor wrote. "And as any honest cop will tell you, drunk driving cases rarely follow such a neat, pre-described script. But it is convenient. And avoids messy complications -- like the actual facts."
Corvallis police put Cox on paid leave on September 14 and he resigned November 1. Sergeant Jim Crain was put on leave October 18. Cox made 27 of the 35 DUI arrests for Corvallis in May and was named DUII Enforcement Officer of the Year in 2003.
"I believe this is part of a larger problem with the Corvallis police," Dr Adam Schultz, a resident, wrote in a letter to the mayor. "Is it not true that the police officers attempt to maximize their performance-related pay reviews, and that the number of citations is a key metric? Isn't this the perfect condition for a conflict-of-interest, i.e. rather than measuring performance through improvement in road safety, instead doesn't this encourage spurious citations?"
Correction: An earlier version of the article incorrectly identified the motorist involved in the DUI incident as David E. Picray. Picray had also filed suit against the Corvallis Police Department.