Calif. officer known for DUI arrests retires
Officer arrested about 2,000 drunk drivers in his 30-year career
By Sophia Kazmi
Contra Costa Times
LIVERMORE — When he was a young patrol officer, Wes Morgan performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation on a teenager who was involved in a DUI-related crash.
He couldn't save her. As he watched the 15-year-old die, he thought to himself that this crash could have been avoided. This girl should be alive.
Many years later, Morgan uses that story to explain his passion for getting drunken drivers off the road and preventing people from driving under the influence.
In more than 30 years with the Livermore Police Department, from which he retired May 27, he arrested about 2,000 drunken drivers and helped kick-start the city's Every 15 Minutes program, which educates local high school students in a dramatic fashion about the dangers of impaired driving.
"I hope there are people that are out there alive because of something I did," said Morgan, 51.
He will be missed not only by the department, but by other organizations with which he's worked, such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
"It really puts a smile on my face to talk about him," said Natasha Thomas, program coordinator for MADD Bay Area. "He gets that one man or woman off the road, he's saving someone's life. He's basically saved 2,000 lives, in our eyes."
People have asked how he made so many arrests. He said he often pulled people over for a broken taillight or other violation and discovered in the process that they were under the influence.
Growing up, all Morgan wanted was to be a police officer in Livermore his family has been in the area since the 1860s, and he is a descendant of the family for which Morgan Territory is named. He became a police cadet when he was 18 and a sworn officer at 20. He laughed about how he had to arrest folks at bars that he wasn't legally allowed to enter because he was underage.
After a local measure passed in the late 1980s to fund the city's first two traffic officers, Morgan applied for the job, and in 1990 became one of the first dedicated traffic officers in Livermore. The position was funded for three years, but a supervisor told Morgan at the time that if he did a really good job, the position might last five.
Three turned into five and then 20, as Morgan watched the traffic division grow into a unit of about a dozen people. He said he loved the challenge that came with investigating and reconstructing collisions. He's investigated thousands of collisions in his career.
For an officer to stay so long within one division is a little unusual for the department, said Police Chief Steve Sweeney, but Morgan was a natural fit. He had such a passion for the job that it made sense to higher-ups to keep him there.
Morgan may be the face of Livermore's DUI enforcement, but he was also known within the department for being a good influence on other officers and having positive attitude, Sweeney said.
"I've never seen him unhappy," said Sweeney, who has known Morgan for 26 years. "We have a tough job. Everybody has their dark day. I've never seen him have a dark day."
Morgan's positive attitude isn't just for the job, Sweeney said. It's also for his community. People cited or arrested by Morgan have later called or written about how he treated them with respect, Sweeney said.
After 33 years with the department, Morgan decided it was time to turn in his uniform. In the future, he said he would like to be involved with DUI awareness and perhaps be an expert court witness in traffic collision cases. He also would like to help new officers and pass on his passion for the job to them.
For now, he plans to spend more time with his wife and adult son. His family put up with many holidays without him, he said, so he owes them.
"I led a gifted career. "... I couldn't be more thankful for the opportunity I had," Morgan said.
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