LYNNWOOD, Wash. — Police Officer Mark Brinkman is an expert in spotting people driving under the influence. In fact, he's so good, while most police arrest 20 drunk drivers a year, a few years back he arrested 100. And then the next year he caught 200. He may be the best buzz-killer in the land.
"The rumor among the officers was that he would crack his window about an inch open, and he claimed that he could smell the drunk drivers driving past us," says former Junior Sheriff Josh Hines. "And a car would go past us and he would just whip a U-turn and nine times out of 10 it was a drunk driver."
"At least I said I could smell it, and I turned around and stopped the car, and sure enough, they were DUIs," says Brinkman.
Now, we usually don't report stories about police who do their jobs well. The bad ones get most of the coverage. However, in this case there is a story behind the story.
Sixteen years ago Brinkman saw two teenagers run a stop sign, and he let it slide. Minutes later, on a rural road, the teenage driver — drunk — flipped the car, and soon the passenger lay dying in Brinkman's arms.
"So I went home that night with this girl's blood on my uniform, knowing later that had I stopped her, I would have arrested the driver for a DUI and that girl would have lived and graduated from high school and had a life," says Brinkman. "I don't know [if it's] so much as guilt. It's just the one thing in my 20 years of law enforcement that still sticks with me, something that is just kind of always there."
Up to 20,000 Americans die every year at the hands of drunk drivers, more than all crimes combined. That's a fact lost on most whom Brinkman books each night.
"The world will be a better place for eight hours with me in here, let me tell you," said one of Brinkman's suspects who recently spent some time in jail.
"Actually, it will probably be 44 hours by the time you get out of here," said Brinkman.
For four years now, Brinkman has arrested more DUIs than any officer in the state and probably the nation. He's received awards, been asked to speak, and trains other officers. A one-man street sweeper, inspired not by the hundreds of thousands who die, but by one he held in his arms.
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