The driver was high on marijuana, but hadn’t been drinking.
When Orange PD Officer Tyler Raabe arrested him last year on suspicion of driving under the influence, the motorist was confused.
“Hey,” he told Raabe. “You can’t arrest me, because I haven’t been drinking. Don’t you know that marijuana is legal in the state now?”
That memorable DUI arrest was one of 127 Raabe made last year for the Orange PD, a total that earned him a Century Award at a recent Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) ceremony.
Educating people is a big part of Raabe’s job whenever he pulls someone over on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
“Alcohol is legal, too, but you’re not allowed to drive drunk,” Raabe told the driver. “It’s the same with marijuana.”
Raabe was among more than 100 law enforcement personnel honored Wed., April 10, at the 2019 MADD Southern California Law Enforcement & Prosecutor Luncheon, held at Los Coyotes Country Club in Buena Park.
The former cadet at the Tustin PD has been an OPD officer for four years.
Raabe’s DUI arrest total is even more impressive considering that he only served for five months as the OPD’s DUI enforcement officer last year. The other seven months he was on general patrol, going after bad guys of all ilk.
“DUI is a preventable crime,” Raabe says. “If we can educate people better, I think drivers will be more likely to be held accountable for their actions, and fewer (will drive impaired).”
Although highway deaths caused by drunk driving crashes have been cut in half nationwide since 1988, “this success has created a misconception that drunk driving is no longer a major issue,” said Cristi Walker, a senior program specialist for MADD Southern California in San Diego who served as emcee at the April 10 event.
“However, as we all know, this is not the case,” Walker said.
Drunk-driving crashes remain a major cause of death and injuries on America’s highways, with over 10,000 fatalities and 290,000 injuries annually.
The top DUI arresting officer in Orange County in 2018 was Officer Grant Hasselback of the Huntington Beach PD, with 370 DUI arrests.
Deuce Awards were given to officers and deputies with 25-49 arrests.
MADD Awards were bestowed on those with 50-99 arrests.
And Century Awards were given to those with 100 or more DUI arrests.
Prosecutors also were honored at the ceremony. The 2018 Prosecutor of the Year awards went to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecution (TSRP) Team. The three honorees on the team were Hoon Chang, deputy district attorney; Dalia Wahab, deputy district attorney; and Eric Franke, DA investigator.
“(This is) an opportunity for us to really show how much we care about law enforcement and prosecutors,” Patricia Rillera, MADD California state executive director, said in opening remarks.
Said Walker: “In this room, we are among hardworking men and women of law enforcement who work diligently to remove impaired drivers from our streets, prosecutors who work hard to hold those offenders accountable for their actions, and community heroes who are consistently trying to make our community a safer place.”
Walker said MADD’s goal is to change the “apathetic culture” surrounding drinking and driving.
MADD provides numerous services to Southern California residents, including servicing victims and families of drunk and drugged driving crashes at no cost, lobbying to support stronger drunk driving laws, and delivering underage drinking prevention strategies to thousands of underage youth and parents.
In 2019, MADD will be adding death notification training to its services.
The non-profit also offers court-mandated victim impact panels for DUI offenders to help them recognize and internalize how their choice to abuse driving under the influence harms their community.
“MADD’s mission and focus has not wavered over the years,” Walker said. “These tragic deaths and injuries continue to drive our efforts to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of this violent crime, and prevent underage drinking.
During the MADD ceremony, a moment of silence was held for California Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Licon, who was killed April 6, 2019 by a suspected impaired driver following a traffic stop in Lake Elsinore.
The 27-year CHP veteran is survived by a wife and two children.
“No job is more dangerous or more thankless than an officer on duty,” Walker said.
Victim speaker Nadine Dorado, a MADD Southern California volunteer, suffered a crushed spine, injured neck, and other life-threatening injuries when she was involved in a four-vehicle car crash caused by a drunk driver on April 30, 2017.
“All I could think of was, ‘This is it. My life is over,’’’ Dorado said.
Emergency spine surgery saved her life – and mobility.
“Even after all the surgeries I’ve had and all the treatments I’ve received, I’m saddened to see that my life will never ever be the same since the crash,” Dorado said. “I was fortunate enough to become a part of (MADD), which has truly helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Raabe was the OPD’s top arresting officer last year.
Other OPD officers recognized at the MADD event were Deuce Award winners Bryce Nielsen (37), Benjamin Gilchrist (30), Eric Velazquez (30), Daniel O’Neil Tennant (29), Manuel Landeros (29), Cameron Houlston (27), and Carlos Gutierrez (25).
Officer Colten Ivans won a MADD Award, with 73 arrests.
Last year, Raabe made his DUI arrests while working the Wednesday-through- Saturday shift from 6 p.m. to 4 a.m.
He said his goal in 2019 is to make 200 arrests.
As of this week, he’s only one arrest behind the pace to hit that goal. One arrest per shift, he said, would yield 208 arrests for the year.
“It’s a hard job to do, and I couldn’t do it without the help of my coworkers and supervisors,” Raabe said. “I am humbled to win this award, and I appreciate MADD taking the time to recognize all the hard work that goes into these cases.”