A glut of police witnesses 8 from metro make one arrest

 

If police taught "piggybacking" at the academy, the officers who jumped on board Roberto Terga's DUI case could write an impressive training manual.

"As far as I could see, two officers were necessary for that arrest, " Metro-Dade Police Director Carlos Alvarez said.

It took eight.

The time was 4:02 a.m., the date Dec. 7, 1996, the location Okeechobee Road and Southeast Ninth Avenue. Officer Peter Hernandez saw Terga run a stop sign and then a red light.

Terga couldn't produce a driver's license. He also had the telltale odor of alcohol, reddened eyes and slurred speech.

Terga stumbled out of his white Ford Econoline and bluntly asked Hernandez to cut him a break.

"You're Cuban, just like me, " Terga said. "I am trying to get home. My wife [is] waiting."

Officers drop by

But Hernandez ran Terga through a standard battery of coordination tests informally called "roadsides." At least two more cops -- first Sgt. Thomas Blake and then Officer Ben Ross -- dropped by to watch, even though it takes only one person to administer the sobriety exams.

The officer toll was up to three -- and counting.

Later, Blake made $115.80 in overtime for going to court. As a sergeant, he is supposed to supervise, not make arrests.

But Blake said he stopped at the scene and watched the roadsides because Hernandez was alone with Terga, at first, and needed backup.

Also, "I thought it was important to witness, because it corroborates the original officer, " Blake said in an interview. He said it was one of the very rare instances where he has had anything to do with a DUI case.

After Terga failed the roadsides, Hernandez drove him to the Doral station and asked him to take a breath-alcohol test. A fourth officer, Jacinto Corzo, witnessed the request at 4:47 a.m.

Terga's response: "You know I won't do any of these tests -- are you crazy?"

'Piggybacking' grows

At that point, Hernandez had handled all of the essential tasks of a DUI arrest. He and Corzo could have handled all of the remaining paperwork, but they didn't. During the next 25 minutes, the "piggybacking" took on a life of its own:

* Officer No. 5: At 5:11 a.m., Officer Pablo Lima signed an affidavit swearing that Terga refused to submit to breath, urine or blood tests. * Officer No. 6: About the same time, Sgt. Gregory Beenken -- the second sergeant in the case -- signed a second, similar affidavit. * Officer No. 7: At 5:12 a.m., Officer Sherry Rorabaugh witnessed the reading of Terga's Miranda rights. She later earned $70.63 in court overtime for providing her signature. And the officer count wasn't finished yet.

On the back of the arrest form, where the officers involved in a case are listed, Hernandez added an eighth name, Officer B. Fung Fen Chung, and circled the "witness" box.

From the paperwork, it appears Fung did nothing more than "witness" his colleagues as they worked. For that, he later earned $39.92 in court overtime.

The case was resolved with a plea bargain. Total overtime paid: $321.68.

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