On the Job: Sleepy Oak Bay stays alive at night

Reporter takes Friday night ride-along with Oak Bay Police

Taking impaired drivers off the road is a priority for Const. Mike Klein-Beekman and his fellow Oak Bay officers.

Time after time, Const. Mike Klein-Beekman does the cop version of a gangsta lean.

It usually involves a driver holding the wheel in his left hand while leaning toward the passenger; Klein-Beekman’s version includes an incline toward the driver from the open window. If it feels like his nose is in your window, that’s because it is.

On this dark fall evening, a three-hour mental health call usurped an early portion of the Oak Bay Police Department night shift.

Already shorthanded due to illness, an officer seconded to the regional Integrated Roadside Safety Unit takes a shift to ensure three are on duty in the community. In the time spent on the mental health call – a young woman and her family in need of help as she battled a manic bout – other calls continue to come in.

Oak Bay police are mandated to be trained in some special and varied circumstances, such as mental health or domestic abuse calls. The specialized training is generally fulfilled with online courses.

A shotgun rattles in the holder between the seats, due to a missing rubber stopper. They use beanbag shells, Klein-Beekman explains later. They’re an excellent, less forceful option for use on, for example, mental health calls.

Shortly after 22:30 hours, or 10:30 p.m., we pull over the first driver of the evening, nabbed for failing to signal a turn onto Foul Bay Road.

The young driver pulls her vehicle full of passengers onto the shoulder and after the officer approaches for his first ‘cop lean’ of the night, the mandated green N pops up in the back window even as peers start to pile out and walk. N, or Novice, drivers are held to more restrictions than the average class 5 driver.

Instead of hammering her with a host of tickets for various infractions, Klein-Beekman opts for a couple of tickets and a talk.

It’s the first of many traffic stops of the night. He stops a driver only if there’s a reason, most commonly a headlight or license plate light out.

And while he’s got you stopped, he leans in for a good whiff. On this night a trio of drivers take the roadside screening. All three pass and he congratulates them for “doing the right thing.”

Klein-Beekman is a five-year member of Alexa’s Team, named for four-year-old Alexa Middelaer, killed by a drunk driver in 2008. He’s among the 246 officers from across B.C. named to the 2015 Alexa’s Team. The recognized officers all took a minimum 12 impaired drivers off the road in the previous year through a criminal code investigation or an administrative 90-day immediate roadside prohibition.

“It’s a good motivator, (Alexa) and all those other people who have been affected,” he said, noting he’s met Alexa’s parents a number of times.

Alexa was the same age as his oldest son so perhaps it hits home more so than for some officers. But mostly his passion to stop drunk driving boils down to “impaired drivers kill people.”

Klein-Beekman continues with his theme of education over fines as he stops three different cyclists within 10 minutes.

He stops them for the unfortunate common concerns – no helmet and/or lights. He reiterates the message each time, the fine for lights or no helmet are both relative to the cost of purchasing lights or helmet.

Klein-Beekman hands out no tickets, again opting for education.

“Can you just walk your bike so I don’t have to write you a ticket?,” he asks, allowing each to travel home safely and hoping they hear his message.

A couple more later in the evening face a similar fate.

“Did you know it’s a ticket to ride with no hands?” he shouts across through the passenger window to one cyclist stopped winging down the Cadboro Bay Road hill near Bowker Road. I didn’t; neither did the cyclist.

In the early hours of Saturday, The small army of three officers face down tipsy, friendly folk streaming out of a house and congregating in a Henderson driveway – creating a potentially louder situation than the party indoors did. Officers make little jaunts to ensure safety of inebriated party-goers as they wandered down the street to await cabs, buses and other rides.

A hail from Saanich Police Department sends us on a speedy code three (lights and sirens) trip just beyond Oak Bay borders to set up containment for a University of Victoria call. Though it lasted only moments as a Saanich police canine unearthed an assault suspect, it highlights that night shift in Oak Bay isn’t all traffic stops and cyclists.