The white BMW was swerving in the lane.
Heading away on a recent Friday night from a concentration of bars in downtown Orange, the motorist was a no-brainer stop for Orange PD Officer Tyler Raabe, who specializes in catching impaired drivers.
Last year, Raabe made 127 DUI arrests as the OPD’s only full-time DUI enforcement officer – and he only was on that specialized assignment for five months in 2018.
This year, as of July 27, and still in that role, Raabe has arrested 112 drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol – or both.
He’s well on his way to surpassing the 200 DUI arrest mark this year. If Raabe averages one DUI arrest per shift, he’ll hit 208 for 2019.
Raabe’s total of 127 DUI arrests in 2018 earned him a Century Award at a Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) ceremony in April. He had the most DUI arrests of any other OPD officer last year, and was among the top DUI-arresting law enforcement officers in Orange County.
On that recent Friday, at about 10:15 p.m., Raabe pulled over the driver of the white BMW.
Turns out the driver wasn’t drunk, but rather was just trying to keep a box of pizza from slipping and sliding around and turning into a gooey mess.
You never know – which is why the OPD has designated a patrol officer to focus solely on busting impaired drivers.
It’s all about saving lives and preventing injuries.
“I like this job because it feels like a game to me,” says Raabe, who loves chess and other games of strategy. “There are lots of rules for me to follow. And they (motorists) have to follow the law. But when they break the rules, I arrest them.”
Raabe’s shift that Friday night began at 6. He started it by finishing one of two DUI reports from the graveyard shift the night before.
His first arrest on the day’s previous shift came at around 1:45 a.m. after he spotted a man driving erratically after leaving Paul’s Cocktails, a staple on Chapman Avenue in Old Towne Orange.
The man blew a .09 – just above the legal limit.
The driver’s girlfriend appeared to be sober enough to drive. Raabe asked her why she didn’t drive.
She didn’t really give him a clear answer.
Which is common.
When one is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, logic and reason typically fly out the window.
“Especially now with Uber and Lyft,” Raabe says, “(impaired driving) is so preventable. And it amazes me what some (impaired) drivers say.
“One of the questions I’ll ask them is, ‘In your current condition, would you drive a 5-year-old child in your vehicle? A lot of them will say no. And then I’ll ask, ‘Why? Why wouldn’t you drive a child?’
“And then they’ll tell me, ‘Well, it’s unsafe because I’ve been drinking.’ So then my follow-up question is, ‘Do you think it’s safe to drive yourself?’ And they’ll say, ‘Well, I’m just going home.’’’
Shortly after the arrest of the .09 driver, Raabe handcuffed a habitual drug and alcohol abuser who, after weaving down Glassell Street, crashed into a house near Holy Family Cathedral Catholic Church.
Raabe recognized the driver from earlier that night. At around 11 p.m., while parked near Paul’s Cocktails, Raabe noticed the man stumbling as he stepped outside the bar.
Raabe believes that driver noticed when he left the scene to make the first DUI arrest, and decided to get in his car when he felt he wouldn’t be caught.
Bad choice, dude.
“Didn’t you see me down there before you decided to drive?” Raabe asked the driver.
“Yeah, I saw you,” the driver replied.
The man busted his ribs and had cuts on his head, but otherwise was OK. No one inside the house was injured.
The man told Raabe he’s a longtime addict of both booze and drugs and that he lives in a sober living home. He said he got drunk celebrating the birth of his daughter’s first child.
“He was very, very, very intoxicated,” says Raabe, an OPD officer for four years who previously was a cadet at the Tustin PD. “He has a lengthy history of contact with our department.”
The man blew a .16.
Raabe typically will park his marked patrol vehicle outside or near popular watering holes and restaurants in Orange.
“If I see somebody stumbling and then get into a car, I want to stop them before they crash and hurt somebody,” Raabe says. “I park visibly. I don’t try to hide. I’m trying to let people know, ‘Hey, look, if you’re going to decide to drive and you’re impaired, you’re going to be held accountable for that.”
Raabe sees himself as an asset to his fellow patrol officers by allowing them to be free to roll to other calls for service.
“I’m a firm believer in my responsibility to deter drunk driving and enforce laws in our city,” says Raabe, a field sobriety instructor and Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) who in December will take a course to become a DRE instructor.
“But I’m also here to assist my partners, who are a valuable asset,” he adds. “I could never do this job without them.”
Raabe currently works the graveyard shift Wednesday through Saturday.
“I love this,” he says of his assignment. “As much as you put into this is what you get out of it. A lot of things in life are like that.”