BUCKEYE LAKE – Police Officer Bryan French has been suspended without pay for two days and has a permanent writeup on his record for allowing a suspected impaired driver to drive home while he followed May 26.
“He let her drive about a block or so,” said Buckeye Lake Police Chief James Hanzey. “It was a bad call. I have no defense on that. It was very bad judgment.”
Hanzey said OVI charges were dropped against the driver, Carol Clark, because the arrest was handled improperly, but charges remain against a passenger in the vehicle, who possessed marijuana.
Clark also claims that the male officer was witness and present in the restroom when she had to provide a urine sample, although Hanzey said that while a female officer should have been witness, the male officer was in another room while Clark was providing the sample.
Hanzey said while not having a female officer present as a witness was also poor judgment, he said the department had no formal policy regarding obtaining bodily fluid samples. “We do now,” he said.
Hanzey said the officer pulled over Clark near the Leisure Village trailer park, which was a short distance from Clark’s destination. Clark failed field sobriety tests, but begged not to have her vehicle impounded. Two passengers in the car were also intoxicated. French then agreed to follow Clark to her destination, and then transport her to BAC testing.
Hanzey said the officer was not trained to administer a BAC test so Clark was transported to the Hebron Police Department. However, Clark was not able to complete the BAC, or breath test.
“It takes a lot of breath,” said Hebron Police Lt. Larry Brooks, who was not on duty at the time. For whatever reason, he said, Clark didn’t provide a valid BAC sample. Brooks said there was only one male on duty at the Hebron department and no female present to administer a urine test.
Hebron’s incident report states that French said he was taking Clark to Heath for a urine test. Heath has a female dispatcher that can witness urine samples. A Health Police Department records clerk told The Beacon that there is no record of French bringing Clark to Heath on May 26.
Hanzey said when Clark and the officer returned to the Buckeye Lake department, the officer allowed Clark to provide a urine sample while he was in another room. Hanzey said the officer’s side of the story is that he inadvertently witnessed Clark in the bathroom because he believed she was finished before she really was. However, Clark maintains that French was in the bathroom with her.
Hanzey said at that point in time, the Buckeye Lake Police Department did not have a policy regarding collecting urine samples, so technically no policies were violated, although the officer didn’t show proper judgment. Hanzey said the Buckeye Lake department now has a clear policy.
Hanzey said he consulted with Buckeye Lake Mayor Rick Baker who agreed the disciplinary actions against French were fair.