Ferndale police chief defends decision to let officer's mother go after she blew twice legal limit

Chief Collins says he knew he was giving her to responsible family member

FERNDALE, Mich. – Ferndale police Chief Timothy Collins is defending his action of not ticketing a driver who blew twice the legal limit. 

The chief said the fact that the woman's son was a police officer did not play into his decision. Other factors led to the decision, he said. 

The arrest was captured on video, and it took the Local 4 Defenders some effort to obtain that video. At first the Ferndale Police Department said the video did not exist. A Freedom of Information Act request was denied by the department. However, after persistence from the Defenders, the chief said he found the video in question. 

Watch the video here: 

This video shows a traffic stop back in April of 2016. Chief Collins pulled over a 70-year-old woman after she rolled past a stop sign. The driver shared some information with him:

"My son is a police officer," she said. 

Collins: "OK. Where does he work?"

Woman: "9th Precinct."

She was referring to the Detroit Police Department's 9th Precinct. A different Ferndale officer then conducted sobriety tests. The woman failed reciting the alphabet. She also made mistakes counting backwards and a Breathalyzer test revealed she was driving while intoxicated with a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit. 

She wasn't ticketed. Instead, Ferndale police tried to track down her son, who she said was a Detroit police officer. 

"Is your son currently a police officer?" the officers asked her. 

"Yeah, in the 9th Precinct," she said. 

"Come over here and have a seat in my car, because the least we are going to do is give you a ride or have you picked up, OK? So come on with me," the officer can be heard saying on the video. 

The woman then sat in a police car and waited to see what would happen next after she failed multiple sobriety tests. Here's what the police chief said:

"I hope you realize the break you are getting. This is a $10,000 break," he said. "I'm giving you a $10,000 gift."

The 70-year-old woman who blew twice the legal limit thanks the chief and is let go. Her police officer son is contacted and told to come pick up his mother. 

Chief Collins defended his decision saying not all drunk drivers are ticketed and officers can use discretion. 

"Her record did not indicate that she had any priors or this type of nature. Her son says she doesn't have a drinking problem. She is coming back from a funeral. I felt this was one time where I could give someone a break, turn her over to a responsible person and then impound her car," the chief said. 

Did it matter that her son was a Detroit police officer?

"I think it did to the extent that I knew I had somebody responsible I could turn her over to," said Collins. 

If the chief is OK letting a mother of a police officer off after failing a Breathalyzer, then some in his department are wondering why the chief recently suspended one of his own officers for giving a break to a Roseville police officer suspected of drunk driving. The Roseville officer was given a courtesy ride to the station. 

"We take drunk driving very seriously," Chief Collins said at the time. "We say one message and it doesn't look like we're meeting what we're saying. That's an embarrassment to the police department."

Collins said the officer made a poor decision to offer such a courtesy ride, and he doesn't find his letting the Detroit police officer's mother go to be a similar situation "whatsoever."

"We are not disputing that what I am trying to say is that the circumstances -- whether or not she was drunk or not -- was not the reason I let her go. That's the case, that we need to have discretion in this job, but blanket giving a break because you're a police officer in a drunk driving case is not something that can sustain itself going forward," he said. 

But again, did the chief give the woman a break in part because her son was a police officer and he could put her in his custody?

"If you want to characterize it that way Ms. Drew, that's fine. What i'm saying is the fact that I knew that I had -- because her son was a police officer -- I know all that tells me is I have a responsible person that I can hopefully rely on that are giving me information, they know what the system is and that you can come in and get your mom," he said. 

The Defenders obtained a copy of the case report. It shows the officer's mother was given a Breathalyzer test but it does not list the results. A spokesperson for the Ferndale Police Department said since they knew they were not going to prosecute they didn't list her portable breath test (PBT) results. But the audio from the arrest video clearly states she blew twice the legal limit. 

About the Author:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.