This story was written by Kendall Lucas, a sophomore. It is a part of a series of stories written by the sophomores for their Democratic Roots class about moral dilemmas members of our community have gone through.
When making a traffic stop, police officers have the final say. What happens when a fellow officer is telling you to make an exception? That’s what JC, a police officer who works in the state of Vermont, had to determine.
“I was working the night shift and I stopped a car for speeding.” JC approached the car like he would any other, and as soon as he walked to the window, the individual identified himself as an off duty police officer from another state. After saying that he was a police officer he asked JC to let him off with a warning. “ [At] that time I noticed he smelled of alcohol.”
JC asked him if he had been drinking. John (the driver) replied yes, but had stopped before driving. This immediately raised a red flag with JC because, “where he was coming from was 6-7 hours away with no traffic”. JC knew for the car to smell as much as it did John must have been drinking in Vermont.
John was coming to Vermont to go to Sugarbush with his friends for the weekend to go skiing. “I asked him if he would step out of the car to do some field sobriety exercises. He said it wasn’t necessary, and that he was good and he would just go to his place and sleep it off”, upon asking again, John stepped out of the car.
John failed the Road Side Sobriety tests, and JC had to take him back to the station. JC ended up processing him for a DUI (driving under the influence). While at the station John began to make comments that left JC second guessing his decision. He said, “back where he was from, the officer would have just given him a ride home or not processed him and let him go.” JC told him that in Vermont they do things according to the book no matter if you are a law enforcement officer or not.
JC had a hard time with making the decision because no one likes getting a fellow police officer in trouble. JC said he “ knew that John would have to report it to his supervisors and that he could be fired for it, or at least suspended.”
After JC finished processing John, he asked who he should call. Later that night John’s friends showed up to pick him up. JC said, “when his friends came to the station they said thank you he has had a long history of drinking while driving.” They thanked JC many times and told JC that they were not upset with him, “…there wasn’t any ill will, and that if I were to go to their state just let them know and they would take care of me… It was very awkward for me, he ended up being close to 1.5x the legal limit so it wasn’t just one or two beers like he said.”
Police officers getting pulled over for DUI’s is extremely rare, from the start of 2020 to June of 2021 there were only two instances where police officers were pulled over for driving under the influence in Vermont. One of these situations was handled a few years ago by the officer JC sat next to in the academy. He let the police officer go and was later fired.
JC is still currently a police officer in the state of Vermont, and remembers this day like it was yesterday. This interaction impacted JC in many ways. Even though it would impact this officer forever, he knows he did the right thing.