While most people are enjoying their weekend nights out on the town or cozying up indoors, Officer Nick Nicholas is patrolling the streets of Seal Beach, where he has become the Seal Beach Police Department’s most effective weapon in catching drunk drivers.
In 2011, Nicholas logged 113 DUI arrests, the 12 highest total in all of Orange County. His dedication to keeping the community safe from drunk drivers earned him the prestigious Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) award for outstanding contribution in DUI investigations this week. This award is reserved for officers, district attorneys, and investigators who have made significant impacts against drunk driving.
But the reason Nicholas formed a penchant for DUI investigations was not because he wanted to gain recognition nor to catch folks in a bind.
“I get a huge amount of satisfaction from this work, and I have seen the effect [driving] has when someone has one too many cocktails,” said Nicholas. Over the years, he has witnessed horrific crash scenes first hand.
For incident that affected him was a crash involving a woman and her daughter as they were driving along Seal Beach Boulevard and Westminster Avenue on their way to a family event. A drunk driver hit them, and both were severely injured, ruining a special family event.
Nicholas has seen innocent drivers get hurt, and he’s seen drunk drivers crash full on into telephone poles. The most telling experience he had with those under the influence, however, was with men and women bearing the same uniform as him.
At the Cavenaugh and Associates training, a DUI seminar for members in law enforcement, Nicholas and fellow police officers participated in a wet lab experiment. Half the officers drank alcohol at a steady pace while the other half performed a variety of tests on them.
“These were police officers, who knew they were not good to drive after they had reached a certain point of consumption,” he said. “However, after a few more drinks, they thought they could handle the wheel.”
It was this defining moment when Officer Nicholas realized that even police officers could make a mistake that could potentially hurt themselves and others. And so, without fail, this night owl reports for duty every weekend, not to search for drunk drivers, but rather, put an end to it.