Matthew Koerber | MADD DUI Officer of the YearJuly 4, 2009 1 Comment
If you’re out driving drunk, there’s a good chance you’ll meet up with San Diego police Officer Matthew Koerber.
Koerber arrested 320 drunken-driving suspects last year — the most DUI arrests in the county and second-most in the state. We recently spoke with San Diego’s 2008 DUI Officer of the Year about what he looks for in targeting drunken drivers, what life is like on the department’s DUI unit and why his job is so important.
QUESTION: How were you able to arrest so many drunken drivers last year?
ANSWER: Everywhere in the city on any given night of the week has a busy area. You just have to find that busy area, and I can do that.
I have the Intoxilyzer breath machine mounted in the trunk of my car, which made the turnaround time for me getting prisoners processed quicker. And the quicker I can get prisoners processed, the quicker I can get back on the street and find another drunk driver. I also started doing little things to streamline arrests, like carrying all booking paperwork and property bags in the car with me.
With so many arrests, you must spend a lot of time in court.
I’m in court consistently — on average twice a week. Some weeks I’m in court every day. But that’s overall, not just DUI cases.
What are you looking for when trying to find DUI drivers?
I look for the obvious things, like everyone would think about when looking for drunk drivers: unsafe lane changes, wide turns, unsafe speeds, whether too fast or too slow. … Those are the easy ones; those are usually the high blood-alcohol levels. I pride myself in finding the ones that are right at .08 or .09 (percent). Those are the ones that the average patrol officer misses.
Are there specific areas you patrol?
Around midnight, I’ll specifically put myself in an area where I know people are drinking. I go to the Gaslamp and I go to Pacific Beach, and I put myself on roadways that lead to major freeways. … I just watch drivers leaving, and any vehicle-code violation that warrants a traffic stop, I make a traffic stop. That can be as minor as a license-plate light out, a headlight out, no front license plate, no seat belt.
Do people lie to you often about how much they’ve had to drink?
Everyone says two drinks. … I find most people are not honest about how much they’ve had to drink.
Any ridiculous arrest stories?
I’ve had DUI drivers flag me down and ask for directions. I’ve had them ask where’s a good place to park, where’s a good place to eat.
One guy I pulled over in Torrey Pines the same day I got my (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) award at the Del Mar Hilton. While I was evaluating him for DUI, he turned and said, “Hey, I’m staying at the Del Mar Hilton and I was watching that DUI award, and weren’t you on stage getting that award?”
Have you ever had any personal experience with DUI?
I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve personally not been a victim of DUI. But what I have come to realize as a police officer is that nothing causes more death, more property destruction, more hardship in the community than drunk drivers. On average, 17,000 people die every year in our country from DUI.
I figure if I took 320 drivers off the road last year alone that were impaired, quite possibly I saved one life, and I’m sure I saved a lot more. At times, it’s very thankless. Very few people thank me for putting them into jail; some people have. A lot of people blame me for their mistake.
Source: Kristina Davis. The San Diego Union – Tribune. San Diego, Calif.: Jul 4, 2009. pg. CZ.1Drunk Drivers