HPD officer recorded 166 DUI arrests in '09
By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer
Honolulu police officer Chad Giesseman suspects that it's both the location and hours that he works that have led him to become the leader in drunken driving arrests in Hawai'i during 2009.
He works the 7 p.m. to 10 a.m. shift smack dab in the middle of the Ke'eaumoku and Kapi'olani district, where the density of hostess bars, karaoke bars, striptease bars and you-name-it bars is the highest of any area in the state.
Giesseman made 166 arrests of suspected drunken drivers last year, more than twice the number of the two other officers who tied for second place, each with 81 arrests.
He was one of a group of police officers, deputy prosecutors and high school students honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving at a luncheon last week for their efforts in combating driving under the influence in Hawai'i.
Giesseman, a Honolulu Police Department officer for the past 14 years, knows all the telltale signs of someone who drives after drinking too much.
"The classic ones include driving without their headlights on, turning into or driving the wrong way on a one-way street, turning left or right on red where turns are prohibited — we see those kinds of things almost every night," he said.
In one of the more memorable cases, a driver in the wrong lanes of Kapi'olani Boulevard was headed straight at him when Giesseman veered to the side and let the driver pass.
Then Giesseman made a quick U-turn and caught up with the other car.
"He was only going about 5 mph, but his car was going up over the curb and driving on the sidewalk."
Giesseman radioed for help and worked with another officer to box in the wayward driver and bring him to a stop.
"I couldn't believe it; he blew a .333 (during an alcohol breath test) and spent the next three hours in the hospital emergency room having IV fluids pumped in to reduce the dehydration."
In Hawai'i, drivers are considered under the influence when their "blood alcohol concentration" hits .08.
A BAC of .15 and above will bring about charges of driving while highly intoxicated.
Giesseman experimented on himself at home, and drank to the point he felt it would probably be unsafe for him to drive.
"I was right, I blew a .09, so I can understand that .08 will get drivers in trouble," Giesseman said. "But I can't understand how someone with a BAC of .333 is even conscious enough to drive."
Giesseman has heard all the excuses from drivers over the limit.
" 'I gotta use the bathroom' is at the top of the list, followed right behind by 'family emergency,' " he said.
Giesseman tries to show compassion for drivers who claim family emergencies and will call their homes to see if there is a problem.
"I try to show compassion and take them seriously," he said. "I had a case once where there really was a family emergency, the guy's wife was having trouble breathing and I talked to the paramedics who were at his house.
"I suspected he was over the limit, but I didn't run him through the test. I didn't want to make matters worse for him. But I told him not to drive — take a cab to his house or the hospital."
But the chances of a repeat offender catching a break from Giesseman are just about nil, he said.
About 30 percent of the arrests he makes nowadays are women.
"They tend to be a bit more emotional, the men a bit more belligerent," Giesseman said.
Of his 166 arrests last year, about 20 resulted from traffic accidents, most of them fender-benders.
"We were lucky, though, because none of those 166 arrests involved a fatality," Giesseman said. "We like to think that it's because we're able to pull drivers over and arrest them before they have a chance to kill themselves or somebody else."
Giesseman credits his supervisor, an HPD sergeant, for his work ethic.
"He's a supervisor, but he was still able to make more than 80 DUI arrests last year," Giesseman said. "I feel I have to outshine him."
A husband and father of two sons, Giesseman said it is not uncommon for him to work 40 hours a week making DUI and other arrests and then spend about 30 hours a week testifying against the drivers he arrested.
He gets paid overtime for the court appearances, but it is still a grind.
The payoff, he said, is "getting drivers with the .15, .16 or .17 BACs off the road before they can hurt themselves or innocent people."