Doctor by Day, DUI Cop by Night

If you’ve had too much to drink, Barry Schleider has one goal: To get you off the road.

By Marc S. Posner
Daily Pilot
Twenty-plus years later, I still remember details of the night I spent on patrol with Dr. Schleider. The stories he recounted come to mind frequently, and his cautions are never far, either. This is still one of my favorite reads.

Schleider, a doctor by day and a Costa Mesa reserve police officer by night, is one of the county’s top drunken driving enforcers and has dedicated his moonlighting police career to getting so-called deuces off the road.

In the last reporting year — from July, 1993 through July, 1994 — they numbered 124.

For that feat he was honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving officials, who inducted Schleider into their “Century Club” for the third time.

In the coming year, Schleider hopes to double his pleasure — aiming for a double century pin that’s being awarded for the first time. Only three officers in all of Orange County had 200 or more arrests last year.

But Schleider is in an elite class: He was the top DUI cop in what a MADD spokesman called the county’s top department when Schleider was given his last award in September.

And if he can add another 90 arrests to the 162 he hit earlier this week, Schleider figures he’ll have more than anyone else in the county when the MADD reporting period ends next summer.

It’s something he wants to do to honor his father, who died four years ago. Although his father’s death had nothing to do with drinking or driving, Schleider was searching for something to ease his own pain.

At the time, Schleider was being trained on how to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol.

That’s where he found his answer.

“I was incapacitated,” Schleider said. “I decided I was going to dedicate something very meaningful to my dad, Sam Schleider. He’s in my mind 365 days a year regardless. But, at the time I needed something to focus on other than the grief.

“When I got cut loose (from training), I decided I’d become a deuce monster,” he said. “Some guys bowl. Some guys play softball. I arrest deuces.”

Schleider, who’s quick to grab other officers’ paperwork so they can get back on patrol, has earned the respect of his peers, who helped land him co-reserve officer of the year honors in the department this year.

The concept behind Schleider’s job is to have an officer investigate all potential drunken drivers so patrol officers can return to their regular assignments after making a traffic stop.

“I feel as a reserve officer, you should augment the regular forces out there,” Schleider said, while writing the bulk of a report for a DUI arrest that was initiated by a colleague. “He writes me a little supplemental report as to why he stopped (the suspect) and he gets to stay on patrol.”

Schleider’s fellow officers appear to appreciate his efforts.

Those he arrested had a different view.

Lilly — who became career arrest 521 and the 143rd for Schleider since July — accused Schleider of being humorless when he responded to a possible DUI call on Bear Street earlier this month.

Despite her best effort, Lilly couldn’t make Schleider laugh at any of the myriad of things she found funny during her field sobriety test and her booking.

The process often left her angry with the officer because he refused to believe her assertion that she was OK to drive and because he insisted on arresting her because he believed she wasn’t.

Schleider also had no interest in the party she had attended with her mother at the home of a friend who had built an ice rink in the driveway; he found no sorrow in Lilly’s claim that she and the friend would lose their access to a Lear jet that the friend’s husband leases.

From Schleider’s viewpoint, there was nothing comical about the crime Lilly was accused of committing.

Nor was he amused that paramedics were required to treat Lilly’s elderly mother, who was in the front seat Lilly’s Mercedes when another officer stopped her because he’d seen her swerving so widely that she was endangering other drivers on the two-lane stretch of road near South Coast Plaza.

“It’s comforting,” Schleider said of taking drunk drivers off the road. “It’s just a good arrest. I never feel bad about an arrest.”

Bernard, one of six people Schleider put behind bars on this particular mid-December Wednesday night, learned that lesson while he was just blocks from home.

“Do you really hate me enough to do this to me right around the corner?” he asked when he found out that in Schleider’s eyes he’d failed the field sobriety test.

“It’s always me,” Schleider said.

As he completes a thick stack of paperwork that eats up more time than the actual arrest, Schleider constantly jokes with his partner, Floyd Waldron.

“I call it a term paper,” he said of the report.

Reminded that Lilly believes he has no sense of humor, he holds up a pink Department of Motor Vehicles slip that’s part of the arrest packet.

“Here’s what’s left of her license,” he said of the woman whose blood-alcohol level registered at .15/.14 on a breathalyzer test. The legal limit is .08.

He continues the banter by recounting arrests he’s made that have funny tales about them.

As Schleider literally was placing handcuffs on one man’s wrists, he asked the officer: “So, what kind of work do you do?”

A Pakistani immigrant — riding in the back of Schleider’s patrol car after being arrested — was so overjoyed that he had an opportunity to spend time with police officers like those he’d seen on the television program “Cops,” that he burst into a thickly accented version of the show’s theme song: “What ya’ gonna’ do when they come for you? Bad boys, bad boys.”

Another tale involved a defense lawyer who tried to tear apart Schleider’s investigation by focusing on the defendant’s bum knee.

Schleider testified that he’d taken the ailment into account while administering the field sobriety test and added that the man had failed anyway.

“Oh, I see, Officer Schleider. And you would have some sort of medical background, some type of expertise in this area?” Schleider recalled the attorney saying.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” Schleider replied. “State license number…”

“We’ve done this before, haven’t we,” responded the embarrassed lawyer, who suddenly recalled his defensive tactic being foiled by Schleider in a previous trial.

It reminds that Schleider has a life away from the Costa Mesa Police Department, where he works some 50 hours per week, he said.

For 15 years, he’s had a chiropractic practice in Lakewood. He’s married and has three children: Vanessa, 15; Brian, 11; and Heather, 5.

Schleider estimates that 70% of all crimes committed in the city have some tie to alcohol or drugs. One jailer put that number above 80%.

It’s a problem that Schleider sees a simple solution too, but one he realizes isn’t realistic: “Prohibition.”

“What’s the answer?” he asked rhetorically. “This side of prohibition, it’s making the establishments take responsibility.”

Mounting breathalyzer machines by the exit might not be a bad idea, he said. And he’d like to mandatory jail sentence — even one as short as a week — for first-time offenders.

Is it possible to go out for a drink and not leave the bar or restaurant legally drunk?

“Obviously you could do that,” said Schleider, who once made 13 DUI arrests in a single shift during a Thanksgiving weekend. “There’s nothing that says you can’t.”

Still, it’s not likely that most patrons would pass the legal test, he said. In the time it takes him to complete one DUI arrest, Schleider figures 20 drivers, who are legally drunk, hit the road.

“I’m very disappointed in the human race.”