I was going to talk today about the decrease in officer deaths across the nation in this last year. I guess I will leave that for another day. It seems like the whole world knows my son was arrested for his second DWI. If I was not Sheriff it would not be a big news story. At least not one that would make all three TV stations and two days of coverage in one local paper and coverage in the other local paper. My official comment "I'm disappointed in my sons recent arrest" really does not tell the inner turmoil and pain my wife and I feel. I have seen alcoholism since I was a young child. I have seen the worst of what DWI does to peoples lives as a cop since 1988. I have seen the domestic violence, I have seen people die with cirrhosis of the liver as young as 40 and I have lifted their bodies soaked with blood filled vomit into body bags. Worst of all I have been to crash after crash with DWI drivers and innocent victims dying on our streets and highways.
Imagine fighting DWI all these years and seeing your own son arrested for his second DWI. Imagine your son is in the hospital after a suspected DWI related accident, all you know is he has a head injury and at first you are told it should be minor and then you learn he may be admitted to the hospital because doctors are unsure. Because I am Sheriff I tell my wife we can't go to the hospital. My appearance there could be taken as an influence against the officers there to arrest my son. We have to avoid any appearance of influencing the outcome of the arrest. Therefor we don't call anyone for information, we wait. I did not call the state police for information because I did not want anyone saying I called them in an attempt to influence the handling of the case. Any other parent could call the police to find out what was happening with their son, I could not. The hospital had only one nurse on duty for the whole emergency room so when I called just to find out if he was ok it was fruitless.
While I am waiting I can't help but think about what got us to this point. My children have always had extra pressure because of my career. When my son was in high school I was a Juvenile Detective assigned to the Gang Unit. I had to do a lot of work at the high schools during this time when Juvenile Gang activity was at an all time high. My son got a lot of hell from other kids about his "Narc Dad". I always told my kids about how bad it would be if my kids were in trouble. My son struggled through High School but graduated anyway. He could not wait to get out of the house when he turned 18. Was I too hard on him or was he tired of living under my shadow? My whole family has to face life in the public eye. Both my kids had to hear lies, rumors, and some downright awful things said about me over the years. When our family had good times or bad times it was always under the public eye. Even before I was sheriff, when I was a union president my kids would read about and hear about controversy's at my job in the papers and from other kids whose parents were cops who disagreed with decisions I made in the union.
I knew what I was signing up for when I took or ran for each position. My family was just along for the ride. They wanted to support me but did they really know what they were getting into? Early in the morning after my sons accident I called the hospital again to see if he had been released, no the nurse said, a doctor had not been found to see him. Apparently the hospital was short on doctors as well as nurses this morning. The nurse also said the cops had left. The cops had left? This usually means the suspect, my son, was worse than I thought. Many times in a misdemeanor arrest, if the person is going to be in the hospital for a while they leave them there and summons them into court on a later date. Officers can not be tied up waiting in a hospital for a person to be released. Only in felony arrests do officers stay with the patient until they are released. This is standard practice but I knew that if this was the case with my son that it could become a problem. Some people would not believe this was standard practice. Here I was thinking about the politics of the situation.
As my wife and I drove to the hospital praying that he was going to be ok I decided I needed to be a dad first. Stop thinking about my career and think about my son. He has been in counseling for alcohol treatment for about three weeks now. He has really been depressed lately having a hard time making ends meet and providing for his two year old child. No excuses though, no one should Ever, Ever Drink and Drive. Now we are arranging for inpatient treatment if our insurance provider decides through an assessment that he qualifies. My wife and I prepare to try and help him with his bills if he goes into rehab for weeks. He wonders if he will still have a job when he gets out. I guess all parents think their kids are good kids, and deep down I know my son is one of the most caring, loving persons I know. I know he is hurting and we need to do all we can to cure him from the disease that seems to have crept into all our lives. My wife and I thank god no one else was hurt and that my sons life was spared. I am prepared for criticism and press articles about whether or not my son received special treatment. The truth is I know he did not and you know what, ........ I'm a dad first.